Sir Bradley Wiggins missed out on a fairytale end to his racing career on British soil as he and Mark Cavendish were pipped to the Six Day London title by Belgians Kenny de Ketele and Moreno de Pauw.
The Belgians overhauled their illustrious British rivals with a lap in the closing stages of the final Madison chase, and took the sprint to the line to take the victory on points.
De Ketele and de Pauw, winners of multiple Six Day titles across Europe in recent years, led the competition from midway through the second day until midway through the fifth.
But an enthralling Madison victory for Cavendish and Wiggins on Day Five meant they leapfrogged the Belgians heading into the final day.
However, a powerful final-day performance meant de Ketele and de Pauw denied the Brits a win in front of the home crowd at the Lee Valley VeloPark velodrome.
Defeat left Cavendish and Wiggins downbeat, but respectful of their opponents.
The event is scheduled to be Wiggins final race on British soil, with just one more opportunity for him to get a final win before retirement, at another Six Day, in Belgium.
“I’m disappointed but, at the same time, pleased it’s over,” said the seven-time world track champion. “It’s no mean feat losing to those guys. They’re real specialists at this. They nearly won the world’s off of us back in March, they took a lap right at the end similar to that.”
And Cavendish, who missed Six Day London last year when recovering through injury, said he could look back on the event with pride.
“It’s been brilliant,” said the reigning Madison world champion. “Crowds have been phenomenal every night that’s what it’s about.
“The noise, which was just like when we won the World Championships back in March. We fought and we’re happy we could be in this position/
We didn’t know how we’d be, so to be fighting for the win was incredible.
“We’re majorly disappointed that we didn’t just win that after all the people who turned out for it, but to lose to Kenny and Moreno it’s not like we haven’t lost to the best Six Day riders in the world, we’re world champions and we got to ride in front of our home crowd, so we’re happy with that.”
The win for the Belgians leaves them riding high in the Six Day Series standings as they head for the second round, in Amsterdam, in December.
And after the win, de Ketele was left in no doubt about where this victory stands in their palmares.
“With all respect to everybody, this victory is the biggest Six Day victory by far, it’s amazing,” said the 31-year-old from Oudenaarde.
“The last sprint was just a mental thing, the gap was already big enough on points, it was all about gaining that lap back.
“Honestly I think we were a bit lucky, but it’s amazing.”
After an early exit in the elimination race, fourth in the Derny Final - which was won in style by Cavendish and Wiggins - the Belgians went all out for the win in the final hour-long Madison chase.
Entering the race a lap down but a point ahead, two teams were level heading into the final 40 laps, with de Ketele and de Pauw launching the race-winning solo attack in the final 30 circuits, making the junction with just ten to go.
“It was so hard, it was the hardest 20 laps of our careers, said the 25-year-old from Sint-Nicklas. “We knew it would be difficult to gain a lap but we had to because we were a lap behind.
“So we were easy on our efforts in the elimination and Derny to save energy, then in the final chase we went all-or-nothing with 30 laps to go.
“We quickly got half a lap, then it was just the last mental part to get the half a lap, then with ten laps to go we did it.”
The night’s racing did see some British success, with Chris Latham and Andy Tennant taking the team elimination race, while Marc Hester won the Longest Lap race.
Australia's Cameron Meyer and Callum Scotson finished in third place, one lap down on the leading pairs, with British duos Chris Latham and Andy Tennant, and Ollie Wood and Jon Dibben, in tenth and 11th places, respectively.
Get discounted sports tickets, enter competitions, see exclusive content and much more at Team GB Club.