Gent Wevelgem | 250km through the Flanders wind

 

You survived the sprints at the Primavera, Milan-San Remo, in Italy. Now you slip your bike into its bike blanket and make the trip to Belgium for the Gent to Wevelgem race on the 31st of March. Gent-Wevelgem is known as one of the Flemish Classics. Founded in 1934 it is celebrating 81 years of cycling history.

Gent-Wevelgem is usually about a 250 kilometer race favoring sprinters. This, over what is challenging and technical terrain, is a feat of endurance, at pace by the some of the most elite cyclists in the world. The first 100 kilometers of the race route travel through the wind driven flats and straightaway of West Flanders to the North Sea Coast. (see the route) High winds along with rain are major factors in determining the success of race contenders. Then the riders turn south to find the Kemmelberg.

Where dreams go to die

The hill where ambition goes from first to nowhere. Credit: http://bit.ly/2NY5Ctc

The hill where ambition goes from first to nowhere. Credit: http://bit.ly/2NY5Ctc

The Kemmelberg is a cobblestone climb grade that is traveled twice near about 35 kilometers before the finish line. With gradients approaching 23 percent the climb is brutal. Add pace, then add frequently terrible weather, throw in a serious amount of competition. The descent is steep and treacherous and considered to be one of the most difficult aspects of any of the Spring Classics. This descent is the climatic center of the race which has handed out many infamous crashes including Jimmy Casper, a French rider, who suffered facial and body fractures in 2007.

In 2017 the race route was changed to add 3 “Plugstreets”, these are gravel roads located at the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing monument. These 3 Plugstreets are inserted between the two climbs of the Kemmelberg.

The unpredictability of the terrain of the bergs between the Kemmelberg and the race finish line in Wevelgem tends to disperse the peloton and upset lead chases.

Gent-Wevelgem-In Flanders Fields became the official name of the race in 2015. It was named this in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of World War I, as this region was at the heart of the war.

Belgian racers have won this race 49 times just watch if a Belgian makes a break for the lead this time. The start line should be packed with the likes of Van Avermet, Van Aert and Lampaert. We’ll see if they can stick with tradition and take the Sagan crown.

Six riders have stepped to the top of the podium three times.

  • Robert Van Eenaeme, 1936, 1937, and 1945

  • Rik Van Looy, 1956, 1957, and 1962

  • Eddy Merckx, 1967, 1970 and 1973

  • Mario Cipollini, 1992, 1993 and 2002

  • Tom Boonen, 2004, 2011, and 2012

  • Peter Sagan, 2013, 2016 and 2018

Peter Sagan is expected to compete again in 2019. Will this be his year to be the first four time winner of Gent-Wevelgem?

Before witnessing first-hand, the grit and determination of your favorite riders and their teammates, why not take on the ride yourself with the amateur edition taking place the day before?

Slip your favorite ride from its bike blanket, get your classics tires out and get ready for the wind - there’s no hiding.

Read more about this years edition

 
Matt Franks