World champion Kirsten Wild says she can’t wait to hit the Gent Six Day track tonight as she looks to end a successful season on a high.
Wild, who will wear the rainbow jersey at ‘t Kuipke after success in the Madison and Omnium in Poland earlier this year, is up against a talent-packed field including home favourites Lotte Kopecky and Jolien D’Hoore.
And Wild, who won the Madison with Dutch teammate Amy Pieters at the 2017 Gent Six, is expecting a tough ride in front of a fanatical crowd when the women’s event gets underway just before midnight.
Speaking to Allez! Allez! CC as she prepared for tonight’s opening points race, she said: “It will be a hard battle between the Belgian riders Jolien D’Hoore and Lotte Kopecky and me I hope so we will have to see. It’s a strong field, especially at the top so I’m expecting it to be tough. We’ll have to see how it ends!
“Unfortunately, there is no Madison this year. It’s the decision of the race organisation but I still think it’s a good programme.Embed from Getty Images
“The atmosphere is always very good. It’s a bit different for the people on the inside of the track, they go for the party, and those on the outside of the track go to watch the racing. It’s a good feel, there’s a good mix between sport and entertainment and you can choose what you want. We’re the link in between!
“In the middle you almost can’t feel the race but it’s one of the best six days to race.
“It’s a bit difficult to fit all the six-day events in during a season when we have the Olympics because the World Cup events are more important because of the points but I think the six-days are perfect to get some rhythm and do some experiments and race without too much pressure.
“The good thing about riding in Belgium is the people are really enthusiastic. On the road, at the cyclocross events but also on the track as well, they’re famous for it. It’s always a super atmosphere.”Embed from Getty Images
Wild expects that atmosphere to be extra special with rainbow jersey on her shoulders.
She said: “It’s always nice to race in the rainbow jersey but especially at an event like the Six Day in Gent. It’s one of the older six-day races and you feel the epic feeling from the crowd when you have the rainbow jersey on.
“Everybody knows how special it is to have the rainbow jersey and that’s what you feel when you race in it.”
It’s been a season to remember on the track for Wild.
As well as the rainbow jerseys in Pruszków, she also picked up two gold medals at the European track championships in Apeldoorn in her home country in the Omnium and the elimination race.
Success wasn’t just confined to the track either. Wild also picked up some big victories on the road, most notably during the Spring Classics season when she won at the one-day Three Days of De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem.Embed from Getty Images
She’s expecting to follow a similar programme next year as she readies herself for the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
“You always want to have a good season and I’ve had some good seasons before but this was definitely one of those better seasons,” she said.
“I will start with some track but then some road stuff with De Panne and Gent-Wevelgem and the Belgian and Dutch races like I did this year and then a little break before full gas to the Olympics on the track.
“Everyone wants to win which makes it difficult. I try to approach it with the mindset that no-one has anything, we all want to get the gold medal and we all want to win. There’s not a person to beat because if you race like that then you can only lose.”
As Wild admits, competition for the medals in Tokyo is going to be high, not just among the competing nations but among the Dutch squad themselves.Embed from Getty Images
Dutch women have dominated both on the road and the track over the last few years with medals and rainbow jerseys galore across both all disciplines of the sport.
Wild, Pieters and been the mainstay when it comes to the track while Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen have been swapping positions on the road podiums.
So, what is the secret of the Dutch success?
Wild laughs: “There is something in the water I think. That must be the secret!
“I think it’s also that we have a good group of riders who are really strong but also maybe the structure of the federation and that cycling is in our DNA.
“You start cycling when you are four years old, you go to school on the bike so the bike is really part of our system so maybe that’s why we’re so good.”