Following hot on the heels of Peter Sagan’s win at E3 Harelbeke is Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem. It’s one of the cobbled classics more conducive to sprint finishes, meaning the Slovakian heads in with a great chance of defending his crown and stringing back-to-back wins together.
- The race is 233km long, and doesn’t actually start in Gent, but the nearby town of Deinze.
- It may be Belgium that is most famous for its brutal climbs, but this race actually crosses into France to ascend Mont Cassel – or, as the Flemish would call it, the Casselberg – which is climbed twice. It’s one of nine tough climbs on the parcours, with many cobbled.
- However, the last hellingen comes with over 30km still to race, with sprinters looking to take advantage of the flat, wide finish.
- The penultimate Kemmelberg – eerily the location of a World War I battleground – is often decisive, coming 4km before the final ascent of the Monteberg.
- No rider has won this race more than three times, with Eddy Merckx, Mario Cipollini and Tom Boonen among those currently holding the joint-most titles.
- Although the race has been traditionally dominated by Belgians, 14 other nationalities have won the race.
- Barry Hoban is to date the only Briton to have won the race, doing so back in 1974. Before he took glory it had only ever been won by two foreigners; Switzerland’s Rolf Graf (1954) and cycling legend Jacques Anquetil (1964).
- A women’s Gent-Wevelgem has been staged since 2012, with Lizzie Armitstead and Kirsten Wild the only winners to date.
Who to watch
The pre-race favourite is last year’s winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who heads in having won E3 Harelbeke on Friday. He now seems to be hitting impressive form, and over this kind of sprinter’s cobbled classic, there’s no one better.
There are question marks over whether three-time winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) will start after injuring his thumb at E3 Harelbeke, but if he does he should be in the running. His teammate Zdenek Stybar has shown well in the classics so far this season, though it’s plausible that these parcours are a little too easy for the former cyclocrosser.
If it does come down to a bunch sprint, then German duo John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and on-form Italian Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) should be in the mix. Greipel showed well over the hilly sections of Milan-San Remo, so could well stick in the front group here. One man who looked even better at Milan-San Remo is the winner, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). He’s still an outsider, but as a classics specialist with a handy sprint, an opportunistic win isn’t out of the question.
The parcours probably isn’t quite tough enough for Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Greg van Avermaet (BMC) or Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), but they should be there or thereabouts come the finish.
Sky Sports will be showing highlights of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday night. For other race coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website