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Race Preview - The 72nd Gent-Wevelgem
By Giles Belbin
Date: 3/25/2010
Race Preview - The 72nd Gent-Wevelgem

Courtesy 2010 Gent-Wevelgem

The 72nd edition of Gent-Wevelgem sees a new spot in the calendar for the revamped semi-classic. Usually taking place mid-week, sandwiched between the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, this year the organisers have taken the bold step of moving the race to the Sunday before the Ronde, meaning cycling fans will be treated to a major one-day classic every weekend from the 20th March and Milan-San Remo until the end of April when the Spring Classic season climaxes with Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

Race Parcours

Copyright 2010 Gent-Wevelgem

The move, which sees the race kick off the Flemish week of spring classics, is an attempt by the race organisers to grow the status of the race and coincides with a change in parcours as the organisers seek to make the race more attractive to riders with eyes on the Ronde seven days later.

In years gone by Gent-Wevelgem has had a route of a touch over 200kms, of late featuring two ascents of the Monteberg and Kemmelberg climbs. Late last year the organisers announced there was to be a dramatic change to the route, with no fewer than 16 climbs of eight 'bergs featuring as the riders complete two laps of a hilly circuit, before tackling the final 35km stretch into Wevelgem. At the same time the organisers announced that the length of the race was also to be radically revised, to over 250kms.

As race day has grown closer, the organisers have subsequently revised the route again. The 8 'bergs and 16 ascents remain but the length of the race has been cut from the originally intended 250kms to 219kms after consultations with both the UCI and the organisers of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Despite the length of the race now being only marginally longer than in previous years, the remaining presence of the 16 climbs means that the character of the race known as the "sprinter's classic" has been changed markedly.

From the start in the town of Deinze, the race takes the riders east, on a wind-bashed route towards the Channel, before turning south just shy of the coastline, near Veurne. From there it is a run south to Poperinge before the riders head on to the first of two laps of a hilly circuit featuring those eight climbs, 16 ascents in all.

First up is the Scherpenberg, coming after 105kms of racing. The race then crosses into France and some 10kms later the riders ascend the Mont des Cats, topping out at 150 metres. From here the climbs come thick and fast, with six to tackle in just 16kms of riding, including ascents of the Berthen, Mont Noir, Baneberg and Rode Berg before the riders reach the Monteberg.

Coming after 140kms of riding first time around, the Monteberg is a one kilometre climb, averaging 7.3% but featuring a maximum, leg-softening gradient of 11%. Coming swiftly after the 6 previouls climbs it will further sap the riders strengths. Then, just a couple of kilometres later, it's the turn of the Kemmelberg.

The Kemmelberg is notorious and will again be the crucial hill in this year's race. Both climbing and descending this famous icon of Gent-Wevelgem can be race-defining. In 2007 there was carnage as riders were caught up in two high speed crashes coming off the Kemmelberg. Tyler Farrar, then of Cofidis, broke his kneecap and Jimmy Casper required surgery. There were calls for the the Kemmelberg to be dropped from the route with critics claiming the descent was just too dangerous for modern-day racing. The end result was that the Kemmelberg stayed in, but now uses an alternative road to come off the hill, taking the riders down a narrow but paved road instead of the cobbles used before.

The second and final ascent of the Kemmelberg comes some 35kms before the finish in Wevelgem. Despite the the distance to the finish it is often a definitive climb. Last year's winner, Edvald Boasson Hagen, then of Team Columbia, attacked on the Kemmelberg to bridge the gap to the then lone leader Aleksandr Kuschynski. The two of them stayed away and fought out the finish alone. This year, coming as it does after 15 previous climbs, the peloton is likely to be even more torn apart by the time the race gets to the climb second time around. It is likely to be more important than ever. In short, to be in with a shout of winning the race, you will need to be near to the front over this famous climb.

From the foot of the Kemmelberg it is a flat 35kms to the finish in Wevelgem. Despite the distance it is unlikely the bunch will regroup significantly, meaning that whilst the "sprinter's classic" may well end in a dash to the line, it is likely to be contested by a handful of riders rather than being a full bunch sprint.

Last year's Gent - Wevelgem Podium
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Race Favourites

Team Sky's sensation, Edvald Boasson Hagen, rose to prominence with his win in last year's race and he will be hoping to defend his title. An achilles injury affected his ride in last weekend's Milan -San Remo, but both rider and team seem confident he will be fit enough to contest the race. A hillier race may suit the Norwegian even more than last year's route. If he is on the start line in Deinze, he will surely be one to look out for.

2009 winner Edvald Boasson Hagen atacks on the Kemmelberg
Photo © 2009 Fotoreporter Sirotti

Last week's Milan - San Remo winner, Rabobank's Oscar Freire, is clearly in form and will be looking to take his second major win in a little over a week. The 2008 winner was also on the podium in 2007 and so has great pedigree in the race. He can climb well enough so that the hillier profile of this year's edition should not unduly concern him.

Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert will also be looking to take his Milan-San Remo form into the race. A top ten finish for the Belgian in the season's first Spring Classic was a strong performance from last year's Tour of Lombardy winner. Again, a rider that can use a climb as a springboard to attack, Gilbert is a rider who can perform well in a sprint involving a small breakaway group, a talent that could very well stand him in good stead for this year's race.

Lampre's Alessandro Pettacchi, Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, Liquigas' Daniele Bennati and HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish are all riders that could feature strongly here. Pettacchi, Bennati and Cancellara all had strong rides in Milan -San Remo, with Petacchi and Bennati placing top five and Cancellara top twenty. Cavendish has had a slower start to the season than perhaps we've been used to, reflecting his dental troubles but also perhaps different targets for the 2010 season. In the past though he has talked of this race as being one of his goals, and with a recent win in Stage 2 of Volta a Catalunya confirming a return to form, perhaps this might be his year.

Finally, don't discount Quick Step's Tom Boonen, who this week confirmed a change of mind and will now be riding, although his eyes are probably more on the prizes on offer in one or two weeks time or even Juan Antonio Flecha, who placed second in 2005 but is enjoying a resurgence in 2010, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and placing top twenty in Milan-San Remo with his new team Sky.

The 72nd Gent-Wevelgem Provisional Start List.

Sky Pro Cycling
DS Ljungqvist, Markus
1 Boasson Hagen, Edvald
2 Barry, Michael
3 Arvesen, Kurt-Asle
4 Flecha Giannoni, Juan...
5 Hayman, Mathew
6 Henderson, Gregory
7 Sutton, Chris
8 Thomas, Geraint

Omega Pharma - Lotto
DS Frison, Herman
11 Blythe, Adam
12 Dehaes, Kenny
13 Delage, Mickael
14 Gilbert, Phillippe
15 Kaisen, Olivier
16 Lang, Sebastian
17 Roelandts, Jurgen
18 Van Avermaet, Greg

Quick Step
DS Peeters, Wilfried
21 Chavanel, Sylvain
22 Devenyns, Dries
23 Deweert, Kevin
24 Hovelijnck, Kurt
25 Maes, Nikolas
26 Pineau, Jerome
27 Tosatto, Matteo
28 Weylandt, Wouter
xx Boonen, Tom

Ag2R - La Mondiale
DS Jurdie, Julien
31 Elmiger, Martin
32 Goddaert, Kristof
33 Hinault, Sébastien
34 Mandri, René
35 Mondory, Lloyd
36 Ravard, Anthony
37 Rousseau, Nicolas
38 Smukulis, Gatis

DS Lapage, Laurenzo
41 Bazayev, Assan
42 Davis, Allan
43 Dmitriyev, Valeriy
44 Gasparotto, Enrico
45 Grivko, Andriy
46 Iglinskiy, Maxim
47 Iglinskiy, Valentin
48 Selvaggi, Mirko

Caisse d´Epargne
DS Stephens, Neil
51 Coyot, Arnaud
52 Drujon, Mathieu
53 Faria Da Costa, Rui A...
54 Kiryienka, Vasil
55 Lastras Garcia, Pablo
56 Madrazo Ruiz, Angel
57 Plaza Molina, Ruben
58 Rojas, José Joaquín

Euskaltel - Euskadi
DS Larrazabal, Josu
61 Aramendia Lorente, Ja...
62 Fernandez, Koldo
63 Isasi Flores, Inaki
64 Izaguirre, Gorka
65 Pérez Lezáun, Alan
66 Perez Moreno, Ruben
67 Sicard, Romain
68 Urtasun Perez, Pablo

DS Nardello, Daniele
71 Brandle, Matthias
72 Capelli, Ermanno
73 Celis Zabala, Vidal
74 Faiers, Thomas
75 Felline, Fabio
76 Gianetti, Noe
77 Merlo, Michele
78 Walker, Johnnie

Francaise des Jeux
DS Madiot, Marc
81 Bonnaire, Olivier
82 Chavanel, Sébastien
83 Geslin, Anthony
84 Guesdon, Frederic
85 Hutarovich, Yauheni
86 Ladagnous, Matthieu
87 Offredo, Johann

Lampre - Farnese V...
DS Bontempi, Fabrizio
91 Balloni, Alfredo
92 Bernucci, Lorenzo
93 Buts, Vitaliy
94 Da Dalto, Mauro
95 Hondo, Danilo
96 Lorenzetto, Mirco
97 Petacchi, Alessandro
98 Sapa, Marcin

Liquigas - Doimo
DS Mariuzzo, Dario
101 Bennati, Daniele
102 Chicchi, Francesco
103 Dall Antonia, Tiziano
104 Kuschynski, Aleksandr
105 Oss, Daniel
106 Quinziato, Manuel
107 Sabatini, Fabio
108 Willems, Frederik

DS Verhoeven, Nico
111 Brown, Graeme
112 Flens, Rick
113 Freire Gomez, Oscar
114 Leezer, Tom
115 Posthuma, Joost
116 Stamsnijder, Tom
117 Tjallingii, Maarten
118 Van Emden, Jos

Team HTC-Columbia
DS Peiper, Allan
121 Bak, Lars Ytting
122 Cavendish, Mark
123 Dockx, Gert
124 Eisel, Bernhard
125 Goss, Matthew
126 Reynes Mimo, Vicente
127 Roulston, Hayden
128 Sieberg, Marcel

DS White, Matthew
131 Dean, Julian
132 Duggan, Timothy
133 Farrar, Tyler
134 Hunter, Robert
135 Maaskant, Martijn
136 Tuft, Svein
137 Van Summeren, Johan
138 Wilson, Matthew

Team Katusha
DS Leysen, Bart
141 Galimzyanov, Denis
142 Ignatiev, Mikhail
143 Ivanov, Sergei
144 Khalilov, Mikhaylo
145 McEwen, Robbie
146 Trusov, Nikolai
147 Vandenbergh, Stijn
148 Vantomme, Maxime

Team Milram
DS -
151 De Vocht, Wim
152 Eichler, Markus
153 Fothen, Thomas
154 Knaven, Servais
155 Knees, Christian
156 Sentjens, Roy
157 Terpstra, Niki
158 Wrolich, Peter

Team Radioshack
DS Demol, Dirk
161 Beppu, Fumiyuki
162 Irizar Aranburu, Markel
163 Lequatre, Geoffroy
164 Li, Fuyu
165 Muravyev, Dimitri
166 Rast, Gregory
167 Rosseler, Sebastien
168 Vaitkus, Tomas

Team Saxo Bank
DS Schmidt, Torsten
171 Breschel, Matti
172 Cancellara, Fabian
173 Cooke, Baden
174 Hoj, Frank
175 Klemme, Dominik
176 Klostergaard, Kasper
177 Lund, Anders
178 O`Grady, Stuart

Acqua & Sapone - C...
DS Cenghialta, Bruno
181 Andriotto, Dario
182 Di Paolo, Francesco
183 Donati, Alessandro
184 Fantini, Alessandro
185 Honig, Reinier
186 Masciarelli, Andrea
187 Palumbo, Giuseppe
188 Paolini, Luca

Cervélo TestTeam
DS Zemke, Jens
191 Bos, Theo
192 Hammond, Roger
193 Haussler, Heinrich
194 Hunt, Jeremy
195 Klier, Andreas
196 Lancaster, Brett
197 Reimer, Martin
198 Rollin, Dominique

BMC Racing Team
DS Baldato, Fabio
201 Ballan, Alessandro
202 Burghardt, Marcus
203 Hincapie, George
204 Kristoff, Alexander
205 Murphy, John
206 Schaer, Michael
207 Stewart, Jackson
208 Wyss, Danilo

DS Vancoillie, Claude
211 Amorison, Frederic
212 Boucher, David
213 Caethoven, Steven
214 Dekkers, Hans
215 Dockx, Bart
216 Neirynck, Kevin
217 Planckaert, Baptiste
218 Ricci Poggi, Martial

Skil - Shimano
DS Kemna, Rudie
221 Curvers, Roy
222 De Kort, Koen
223 Docker, Mitchell
224 Houanard, Steve
225 Van Hummel, Kenny
226 Veelers, Tom
227 Vissers, Job
228 Wagner, Robert

Topsport Vlaandere...
DS Planckaert, Walter
231 Coenen, Johan
232 De Gendt, Thomas
233 Joseph, Gregory
234 Lodewyck, Klaas
235 Steurs, Geert
236 Van Vooren, Steven
237 Vanmarcke, Sep
238 Vanspeybrouck, Pieter

Vacansoleil Pro Cy...
DS Vanderschueren, Hi...
241 Feillu, Romain
242 Groen van, Arnoud
243 Hoogerland, Johnny
244 Marcato, Marco
245 Ongarato, Alberto
246 Pronk, Matthé
247 Van Leijen, Joost
248 Veuchelen, Frederik
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