Gent-Wevelgem 2019 went right down to the wire this year – no long solo breakaways as in previous years, but one big bunch sprint, with Alexander Kristoff the strongest at the end of a fatiguing race. The Norwegian launched early and while other more fancied names found themselves either out of position or without that final kick into the headwind, he held his power to sail clear over the line for a victory that took many by surprise. It was classic Kristoff! John Degenkolb and Oliver Naesen joined him on the podium for second and third respectively.
Ahhh Gent-Wevelgem – that gloriously chaotic race a week before the Tour of Flanders did not disappoint. From the hoolie-doolie of a start with Jumbo-Visma breaking the peloton’s will in the howling wind, the action on the Kemmelberg, right to the every-man-for-himself last 15km where riders wrung the last drop of energy from burning lungs and legs. It was a hard race from windy start to the wild finish.
Rider of the Race
I have candidates. Who wasn’t delighted to see John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) back on a podium, especially after it looked to be all over when he dropped out of the leading group on the Kemmelberg? In fact, I have to say the team was impressive today. They put four riders in the early Supergroup and when Edward Theuns was reeled in, that still left Jasper Stuyven and Mads Pedersen to play their cards before The Mighty Degs found his legs. Much better racing from the Trekkies this week – are they getting it together just before Ronde/Roubaix?!
Then there’s that beast of a ride by Zdenek Stybar. The winner of Omloop Het Nieusblad and E3 Harelebeke this season took his own chance in a breakaway move, but when that was caught he hit the front time and time again to work for Quick Step’s only option for a shot at a win with Elia Viviani.
Then there is Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert for chasing every attack down. I think the Tour of Flanders with the bergs closer to the finish will suit him better. He’s on fire.
And of course the victorious Viking is in there for attacking over the Kemmelberg to keep himself in with a chance and for sheer darn power when it counted at the finish line.
I was a bit scared because last year I was dropped on the Kemmel and I didn’t want that to happen again. It was actually a smart move there to anticipate there, to make sure I was in the front because you never know how the race will turn if a few more guys follow Van Aert and Stybar over the climb.
Or as Velocast John puts it…
However, my pick for the VeloVoices Rider of the Race goes to Luke Rowe.Embed from Getty Images
The Welsh workhorse, so often crucial to Team Sky’s stage racing glory, was superb today. He made the 20-man Supergroup early in the race but dropped back. However, Rowe wasn’t done. With Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Mike Teunnissen (Jumbo-Visma), Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) still out in front and the gravel Plugstreets behind them, Luke launched a solo effort to bridge the 45secs across to them. The five held off a Quickstepper-driven chase group until 20km to go, and even then Mr Rowe wasn’t finished! As the others were assimilated, and knowing there was not one blue-and-black-clad rider in the chasing pack (where were they?), he battled on alone. Because, why make it easy? Because you have nothing to lose! It’s the kind of classics riding we salute!
Brave, bold breakaways
There were breaks a-plenty and as usual, Twitter captured it all. Our musical-themed breaks ranging from the Supergroup of 20 belting out an early tempo to the Fab Four of Teunnissen, Theuns, Trentin and Sagan (answers on a postcard for guessing who the cool dude on bass would be?). This was followed by a quintet:
Aside from Rowe and Van Aert, there were flashes of solo brilliance and the Twitter fans especially enjoyed the Mathieu van der Poel (Correndon-Circus) and Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) interludes. In all seriousness, nyvelocity is not wrong.
However, my favourite break attempt was definitely the cyclocross-themed Stybar, Van Aert with a side of Kristoff
Seven Races in one day
It’s a busy day for the Gent-Wevelgem race organisers and I love that they have a joint podium for all the race winners.
And yes they are both daughters of former Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt.
Final resultsEmbed from Getty Images
1 Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) 5:26:08
2 John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) same time
3 Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t
4 Mathieu van der Poel (Correndon-Circus) s/t
5 Danny Van Poppel (Jumbo-Visma ) s/t
6 Adrien Petit (Direct Energie) s/t
7 Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) s/t
8 Rudiger Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe) s/t
9 Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) s/t
10 Jens Debusschere (Katusha-Alpecin) s/t
For full review of the race, go to Cycling News.