As rivalries go on the six day circuit, few came bigger and better than when Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish went mano a mano with Belgian pair Moreno de Pauw and Kenny de Ketele at Six Day London in 2016.
Heading into the week, the racing was already enriched with narrative: de Pauw and de Ketele were looking to defend their London title won the previous year, whilst Cavendish and Wiggins were freshly crowned Madison world champions on the same track.
And, to further stir the pot, Wiggins had hinted that it would be his last race on British soil before retirement later that year.
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The scene was set, then, for an epic: home favourites facing up against a dominant Six Day force, with the added incentive for Wiggins of claiming one final victory in front of a London crowd.
All that was needed was for the racing to live up to the billing.
As expected, the two favourites burst out of the blocks in an attempt to stamp their authority on the standings.
De Pauw and de Ketele were victorious in the Team Elimination on day one, and in three of the competition’s first four races, both duos notched up top-three finishes.
It was day two that the Belgians began to build up a lead on their rivals, however, with wins in the Madison and the team elimination races, putting them atop the overall standings at close of play with a 19-point cushion.
It was a similar story on days three and four, as the Brits lost further ground on the reigning champions, failing to finish ahead of them when there were points to be gained.
With a 23-point deficit to make up heading into day five, Cavendish and Wiggins had to make their move.
The game-plan was perfect: making full use of their dominance in the Madison, the pair recorded a crushing victory in the event, picking up a solo lap on the field to leapfrog de Pauw and de Ketele in the overall standings.
All was looking rosy for the Brits with the final day looming – they looked to have timed their attack to perfection, whilst their rivals were seemingly fading.
One final push
Despite a five-point advantage over Cavendish and Wiggins, de Pauw and de Ketele faced an uphill battle to win back the lap gained by the Brits.
And things were looking even more unlikely for the Belgian pair after an early exit in the elimination race, whilst their rivals claimed first in the derny.
With all resting on the final Madison, the brief was clear: a lap for de Pauw and de Ketele would mean overall victory, whilst Cavendish and Wiggins merely had to keep the Belgians in sight – and they looked well set to do so with just 30 circuits remaining.
But the Belgians plunged the depths, and somehow found one last energy reserve – a 20-lap break saw them connect with the bunch with 10 circuits remaining and an improbable last-minute triumph in sight.
The pair held strong to claim the overall title and a series victory from the jaws of defeat to defend their title in the most unlikely fashion.
And for Wiggins, a final London race was tinged with disappointment, but certainly redeemed by the thrilling nature of the head-to-head rivalry.