It’s not yet even the New Year, but the wheels are already in motion for the debut of the spring classics season in 2014.
Race officials in Belgium have confirmed routes for both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (March 1) and Gent-Wevelgem (March 30).
There are no major reworkings of the respective routes for 2014, with Gent-Wevelgem featuring nine climbs, and Omloop, the traditional opener of the Belgian calendar, seeing 10 climbs, highlighted by the return of the feared and popular Muur-Kapelmuur.
At 233 kilometers, Gent-Wevelgem will pay homage to the victims of World War I in the centenary of its beginning. The route starts in Deinze and ends in Vanackerestraat, taking in several WWI cemeteries along the way, including a monument to the “fallen soldier” at Diksmuide. Belgium suffered nearly 60,000 killed in action during the conflict.
The 76th edition of Wevelgem will see its trademark cobbled climb, the Kemmelberg, back as its main protagonist. In total, there are nine climbs, with two passages of the Kemmelberg (the first at 154km and the second and final climb of the race at 193km).
Last year’s winner, Peter Sagan (Cannondale), will be likely return in what will be a decisive classics campaign for the Slovakian still looking for his first monument.
The big news for the 69th edition of the Omloop (formerly called Het Volk) will be the return of the Kapelmuur following a three-year absence.
The famous cobbled climb, also known as the Mur de Grammont, was once the centerpiece of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), but officials removed it for road works and have not reinserted it following controversial changes to the Flanders route.
Race organizers said that fans would be able to line the climb, sure to draw huge crowds for the Belgian season opener. A women’s edition, introduced in 2008, will also be back.
Cold weather is sure to be another protagonist in the tradition kick start to the Belgian racing calendar.