Gent-Wevelgem ticker: Van Aert needs miles, Merlier for Quick-Step, Ewan, De Lie lead Lotto
Here's all the news ahead of E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem.
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Wout van Aert: ‘I still haven’t raced much’
Wout van Aert confirmed he will race Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday in a final-hour quest to hone his form.
With some of his top Tour of Flanders riders skipping Gent-Wevelgem, including Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogačar, Van Aert said he’s still topping up his form.
“I still haven’t raced much this year,” Van Aert said. “It’s a race I really like and the distance is good to put into the legs ahead of De Ronde. There’s still a week to recover and I think the race will help me later in the classics.”
Hot off victory at E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Van Aert won Gent-Wevelgem in 2021, and will lead a strong Jumbo-Visma squad that also includes Christophe Laporte and young sprinter Olav Kooij.
Tim Merlier back for Soudal Quick-Step
Tim Merlier will be expected to give the beleaguered Soudal Quick-Step a lift in Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.
With five wins so far, the Belgian champion Merlier returns to racing in Gent-Wevelgem alongside Kasper Asgreen, Tim Declercq, European champion Fabio Jakobsen, Yves Lampaert, Florian Sénéchal and experienced leadout man Bert Van Lerberghe.
“Looking at the weather – just 5 degrees Celsius and rain – you just know it will be a very hard, and at the same time, memorable edition of Gent-Wevelgem, one that the riders won’t forget anytime soon,” said sport director Tom Steels. “In Tim, Fabio and Bert we have a couple of fresh guys who can go for it, but also Kasper, Yves and Florian give us options. As always, the crucial point will be the Kemmelberg, and only after the last time there we’ll know how the cards will be played.”
Gent-Wevelgem timetable set
Officials confirmed the timetable and expected finishing times of the men’s and women’s races Sunday. All times are CET:
9:00: Elite Men start presentation at the Grote Markt in Ypres
10:50: Start Elite Men under the Menin Gate
12:10: Elite Women start presentation at the Grote Markt in Ypres
13:50: Start Elite Women under the Menin Gate
16:48: Earliest anticipated finish Elite Men in Wevelgem
18:04: Earliest anticipated finish Elite Women in Wevelgem
Caleb Ewan, Arnaud De Lie give Lotto-Dstny two cards for Gent-Wevelgem
Caleb Ewan and Arnaud De Lie will share the captain’s armband Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem. The two speedsters lead a Lotto team that also includes Florian Vermeersch, Brent Van Moer, Frederik Frison, Jasper De Buyst and Cedric Beullens.
Ewan, who has a handful of marquee one-days on his palmarès already, doesn’t see his 21-year-old teammate De Lie as a threat.
“I don’t think we’re rivals,” Ewan said. “It even gives me some peace of mind. I’m not the only leader so we share the pressure a bit. We’re two totally different kinds of sprinters and the only ambition is to win with the team on Sunday, it doesn’t matter which of the seven riders it is.”
De Lie saw his monument debut at Milan-San Remo derailed by a sickness that left him swinging in the heat of the action.
“Now, I’m back to a good level,” De Lie said Friday “I’m looking forward to race again. It will probably be a really hard race, but I love that. I really hope to play my part in delivering a strong team performance.”
Magnus Sheffield, Tom Pidcock to miss E3 Saxo Bank Classic
Filippo Ganna will headline the Ineos Grenadiers at the E3 Saxo Bank Classic, while Magnus Sheffield is set to miss the race.
Ineos Grenadiers didn’t list a reason for Sheffield’s exclusion from their roster as it unveiled its seven-man squad. Strade Bianche winner Tom Pidcock will also miss the race as he continues to recover from a concussion he picked up at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Ganna is making just his third appearance at the race, having started it in 2018 and 2019. While he’s never put in a standout performance at E3, he is coming into the race off the back of an impressive second place at Milan-San Remo.
Back to Belgium 🙌🙌🙌 ⬜️🇧🇪⬜️🇧🇪⬜️
See you on Friday, #E3SaxoClassic! pic.twitter.com/FOAB1BCIke
— INEOS Grenadiers (@INEOSGrenadiers) March 22, 2023
Tadej Pogačar ‘excited’ for E3 debut
Tadej Pogačar is poised for his debut at Friday’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic as he continues on his spring classics campaign.
UAE Team Emirates officials confirmed lineups for E3 as well as Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.
“After Paris-Nice we are full of confidence as a team and feel ready to take on the classics,” Pogačar said. “It’s my first time at E3 so it’s a new experience and a new challenge. I’m excited for it — the atmosphere in Belgium during these weeks is something special and the passion the people have for cycling is really beautiful. I have great memories from this period last season and hungry to race here again.”
Greg Van Avermaet uncertain after flu
Greg Van Avermaet says he’s unsure what to expect this weekend at E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem.
A winner of both races in 2017 was forced out of Milan-San Remo and only returned to training Monday.
“I had a case of the flu that prevented me from racing at Milan-San Remo. It’s really irritating because I had been training well for months and I had felt good at Tirreno-Adriatico,” Van Avermaet said.
“I returned to training on Monday, and I rode two and a half hours Tuesday, but I really don’t know how it will go this weekend. E3 and Gent-Wevelgem are races that I really like, and I’ve won them both.
“They are the most difficult Flandrien races after De Ronde.”
🇧🇪 @GregVanAvermaet #AG2RCITROËNTEAM #RoulonsAutrement #RideDifferently pic.twitter.com/9tNtVAoBy8
— AG2R CITROËN TEAM (@AG2RCITROENTEAM) March 22, 2023
Peter Sagan confirmed for final E3
Peter Sagan will race his final E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday. Total Energies released its roster with Sagan set for his farewell appearance.
This will be his 10th appearance. He won in 2014, and finished second in 2013 and 2016. Also racing is Daniel Oss, who was in a long breakaway in 2022.
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🎲 À vous de jouer : https://t.co/3b1xBv50Dz#AllezTotalEnergies #E3SaxoClassic pic.twitter.com/sEukWDT1CT
— Team TotalEnergies (@TeamTotalEnrg) March 21, 2023
Gent-Wevelgem releases start lists for men’s and women’s races
Start lists are out for both the men’s and women’s Gent-Wevelgem this weekend.
One big name missing from the elite men’s race: Mathieu van der Poel.
A big winner at Milan-San Remo on Saturday, Van der Poel is racing E3 Saxo Bank Classic on Friday, and will bypass on Gent-Wevelgem before putting everything into a Tour of Flanders defense and Paris-Roubaix.
Van der Poel hasn’t raced Gent-Wevelgem since 2020, but there are plenty of big names lining up for both races.
Back for the first time since 2020 is Mark Cavendish, who will start for Astana-Qazaqstan in a race he’s never won.
Returning champions Biniam Girmay (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty) and Elisa Balsamo (Trek Segafredo) headline the start lists released by organizers.
Last year, Girmay made history in Wevelgem by becoming the first African rider ever to win a spring classic. Balsamo won last year in the rainbow stripes, and looks on fine form heading into this weekend’s big races.
Women’s start list:
Men’s start list: