Race Preview: Gent Wevelgem

Written by: Niels Goudriaan
Posted 1 month ago

With the spring Classics season in full swing, all eyes are turning to Gent-Wevelgem Women this Sunday. As one of the most prestigious races on the cycling calendar, this Belgian event is known for its steep climbs and unpredictable weather conditions. With riders jostling for position and fighting against the elements, Gent-Wevelgem promises to be a thrilling and chaotic race from start to finish. The route, stretching from Ypres to Wevelgem, will test the endurance and skill of all riders in the peloton as they navigate through the historic Belgian countryside. With a strong field of competitors, Gent-Wevelgem is sure to deliver an hard day of cycling.

You can follow the race from the start at 13:15 CET right through to the finish around 17:45 CET with our live tracker and race updates in our app for Android or iPhone!

The Historic Importance of Gent Wevelgem

Gent Wevelgem holds a important spot in the spring classic races, not just as an important race in the classics season but also as a reminder of the world’s turbulent history. This race, while showcasing sportmanship, also traverses through landscapes steeped in the solemn memories of the First World War, making it a unique fixture in the cycling calendar. The addition of the infamous Kemmelberg, a hill with a touching past of wartime conflict, adds a layer of historical gravity to the race. Riders not only battle the challenging terrain and their competitors but also navigate a course that is a living monument to those who fell in the Great War. The presence of the ossuary at the Kemmelberg, containing the remains of soldiers, underscores the race’s connection to the past, making Gent Wevelgem a race that commemorates resilience, both in sport and in the spirit of humanity. This blend of competitive cycling and historical homage sets Gent Wevelgem apart, making it a race that is about much more than just the speed and strategy of its contenders.

What happened last year?

Last year’s edition of Gent-Wevelgem was marked by challenging weather conditions, resulting in slippery roads and numerous crashes that tested the riders’ resilience and skill. The race unfolded dramatically as the peloton approached the notorious Kemmelberg climb. Lotte Kopecky, Kasia Niewiadoma, and Anna Henderson pushed the pace, quickly forming a lead trio. Their effort on the ascent fragmented the peloton, and by the time they descended, their group expanded to include 9 additional riders. However, the defining moment came on the second pass over the Baneberg when Marlen Reusser launched a surprising solo attack. Her incredible pace distanced her from a 20-rider chase group, securing a substantial lead. Despite Shari Bossuyt’s attempt to bridge the gap, the chasing group struggled with coordination, allowing Reusser to maintain her lead and solo to a triumphant victory. Behind her, Megan Jastrab and Maike van der Duin completed the podium.

The Parcours

The course for the Gent Wevelgem Women’s edition, spanning 171.2km, presents a challenge for the riders. It’s not just the distance that tests the riders but the strategically placed obstacles along the way, including the notorious cobbled sectors and the infamous Kemmelberg climb. These cobbled sections, notorious for their difficulty, can disrupt the peloton and create significant gaps between riders. The Kemmelberg, with its steep gradients and historical significance, often proves to be a decisive point in the race, where the strongest contenders can make their move and break away from the pack. Alongside these physical challenges, riders must also navigate tactical battles within the peloton, with team strategies playing a crucial role in securing a victory. The weather conditions, often unpredictable in this region, can further complicate the race, turning the cobbles slippery and the winds into formidable opponents. The route demands not only physical strength and endurance but also tactical acumen and team coordination, making the Gent Wevelgem an ultimate test of cycling prowess.

 

Key Contenders for This Year’s Title

As we turn our attention to the key contenders for this year’s Gent-Wevelgem title, Lotte Kopecky from Sdworx- Protime stands out as the top favorite. Her team, known for its depth and strategic cleaverness, has an ace up its sleeve with the inclusion of Lorena Wiebes, making them a duo to watch closely. Their combined strength and tactical intelligence present a significant challenge to their rivals, setting the stage for an electrifying contest. But don’t forget last years winner Marlen Reusser. Her knowledge of the parcours and strong legs makes her a favorite for the win as well.

Among the competitors aiming to disrupt Sdworx – Protime’s ambitions and build momentum for the upcoming Tour of Flanders are riders from Lidl-Trek, with Elisa Balsamo, in particular, riding a wave of confidence after her recent victories at Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Brugge-De Panne. Balsamo’s current form and her team’s support make her a prime candidate for the top spot at Gent-Wevelgem.

At Team Movistar, all eyes are on Emma Norsgaard, whose performances in the early season have marked her as a rider to watch. Norsgaard has shown promising form, highlighted by her impressive results at the UAE Tour, Omloop van het Hageland, and Nokere Koerse. Her skill in navigating breakaways and bunch sprints makes her a favorite as well.

Maike van der Duin, the rising star from Canyon-SRAM is also on our watch list. After securing impressive third-place finishes at both the Ronde van Drenthe and last year’s Gent-Wevelgem, Van der Duin enters as her team’s foremost contender for victory. However, the team also boasts a secret weapon in Chloe Dygert, the world champion time triallist, making her return to road racing after a hiatus. Despite her absence from competition, Dygert’s exceptional strength could emerge as a dark horse in this race.

At Team DSM Firmenich PostNL it’s Charlotte Kool who will be backed by a strong team, including Franziska Koch, Pfeiffer Georgi, and Rachele Barbieri, Kool is poised to capitalize on this collective strength. Georgi, renowned for her versatility, capable of either spearheading a breakaway or amplifying the team’s lead-out efforts. Despite a delayed season start due to illness, Kool has swiftly regained momentum, demonstrated by her impressive performances in early spring races and a close second at Brugge-De Panne.

The weather

The weather forecast is as predictable as the race itself. With a 40% change on rain in the afternoon, it will be guessing what the wet conditions will mean for the finale of the race. Around 15:00, when the race is almost 2 hours old, and climbing starts, rain showers are expected. With wind of 20 km/h with gusts of 60km/h coming from the West, North West towards the turning point at Veurne could result in echelons towards the Kemmelberg. On the Kemmelberg however, the wind is not as strong in force but has gusts of 40km/h and it has a chang of direction of West, South West.

Exciting weather conditions always results at an exciting race!

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