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YPRES, Belgium (VN) —The cobbled classics keep coming thick and fast, with Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem next on the menu for the men’s and women’s peloton.
Tracking through exposed windswept plains, cobblestone sectors, steep climbs and gravel roads, the course has something for everyone.
At a marathon 249km for the men and 159km for the women, Gent-Wevelgem is one of the toughest days in the spring and a perfect tune-up for next weekend’s Tour of Flanders.
A typically grey, breezy Flandrien morning greeted the peloton in Ypres and suggested echelons could be on the cards should the wind gust harder up near the coast. It could make for a corn-popping feast of classics carnage.
VeloNews’ Sadhbh O’Shea was at the start line. Here’s what some of the top favorites said:
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)
[The stomach illnesses] hit me quite badly before Strade and it took me a long time to recover. I thought I was OK going into San Remo but obviously I wasn’t, with extra sugars and pressure on the stomach. I think there’s no magic to work in fixing it, but I think it should be ok. I was going very well before San Remo, and so I was a bit surprised and disappointed afterward.
Today is just about having fun, enjoying the race and getting stuck in and finishing with a good feeling. I feel like I’m pretty under-raced, so getting another race is ideal.
Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious)
I think the condition is good, of course Jumbo-Visma seems a bit further ahead, on a higher level, but I think it’s not impossible to try and beat them, next week in Flanders but also today. It’s a more open race today because there’s less hills, but we’ll see how it goes. I think we still need a hard race to drop the sprinters.
I don’t know if there’s enough wind for splits but once we hit the hills and gravel I expect it will be a hard race. We will see if the sprinters can get back on in the last 30km.
The conditions are perfect or racing. Maybe I wouldn’t mind a little bit more wind, we’ll see if it’s enough to split it.
Matteo Trentin (UAE Emirates)
We start from today to see how it can be for the next races, we’re more looking forward to the next ones. I’m curious to see how I will be today and from today, tomorrow, we’ll see.
Pogačar will join next week [at Tour of Flanders]. He has been competitive everywhere so I wouldn’t expect anything else next week. I expect Pogačar to be good, as always. Can he win? I don’t know. It will be fascinating to see something he cannot win.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
“There’s not a lot of wind, but that’s not necessary for something to happen in De Moeren. The hill zone is also a lot heavier than a couple of years ago. We’re a team that wants to make the race hard today.” (via race organizers – ed.)
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo)
“I didn’t have a good day on Friday. I’m hoping for a sprint in a smaller group today. That suits me.” (via race organizers – ed.)
Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo)
It’s amazing to be here. I won this (rainbow) jersey in Belgium so, for me, it’s special to race here. I’m very happy to be here.
I have some pressure, but the team is helping me in the best way and I think we find a good balance. It’s never easy but I try my best. I really like this race, it’s one of my favorite races on the calendar and I really want to try my best and go full gas to the end.
Ruby Roseman-Gannon (BikeExchange-Jayco)
Every race is a completely new experience. I’ve got a bit more confidence from the last few races and I know what I’m getting into but every race is really hard so it’s just challenging tactically, technically, and physically. I’m excited to give it everything I have.
I got a lot of FOMO watching Binda because it was my perfect kind of race. It was hard enough that it dropped a lot of sprinters and I thought maybe I could have been there. I’m hoping that today is similar. I don’t think it will be super windy but I think a bit of wind will make it a bit harder. I’ll just give it everything I’ve got.
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM)
I think the colder weather is ok. We’re not talking about a massive change, so as long as it’s not raining I think it will be ok. It will be hard because the course has been changed of course. I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to being back. Once you click in and get into the race mode you can focus and concentrate, it’s nice to just zone out.
The Kemmelberg will create some tension in the peloton. Of course, we can see that lots of teams have come here with the best sprinters, so it’s going to be interesting to see how everyone wants to ride this race. I feel like it’s going to be a very open race for everyone.