What's Cool In Road Cycling

The Action Of Gent Wevelgem

With the Gent-Wevelgem running on Sunday, we’ve scoured the archives for a look back at the best photos and video action this tough Belgian classic has offered us in recent years.

Since joining the ProTour calendar in 2010 and its subsequent change of days from Wednesday to Sunday this race has taken on more and more prestige.

The first man to take the ‘ProTour’ Gent Wevelgem was Bernhard Eisel in 2010 who got the better of a six man break, finishing ahead of a young Sep Vanmarcke riding for Topsport and Philippe Gilbert in Lotto colors.

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The six man break wasn’t what you’d expect from this so called ‘Sprinters’ Classic’ but as Ed pointed out in his excellent preview of the race on Tuesday – this is no ordinary sprinter’s race.

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In 2011 it Was Ian Stannard who almost upset the sprinters with a very impressive solo move but it was all brought back together for Belgium’s favorite son, Tom Boonen to take the race in what was a mass sprint ahead of Danielle Bennati, Tyler Farrar and André Greipel.

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It was the second of Tom’s three victories in this race but sadly he won’t be able to back up for a 4th win this year due to injury. His 3rd victory came in 2012 and was once again a mass sprint where he bested Peter Sagan and Matti Breschel. A great sprint by Boonen again but a terrible one by Movistar’s Rojas who crashed heavily in the final meters in what was some very poor riding as evidenced in the video below.

Somebody who could put their name in the record books as a multiple winner alongside the likes of Boonen, Cipollini and Merckx is last year’s winner and newly crowned Milan-Sanremo champ John Degenkolb who has the exact qualities that are needed in this race: strength, a strong sprint, excellent positioning and perhaps the most important of all – the ability to get over the climbs.

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As many a coach has said over the years – there’s no point being the quickest sprinter in the race if you’re not sprinting for first place and Degenkolb has the ability to be there at the end as he climbs these nasty bergs better than most sprinters.

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André Greipel has consistently got over the climbs in relatively good position but he hasn’t quite been able to snag the win here yet.

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And although Cav has never won this race either it’s certainly not from a lack of trying as highlighted here by this all out effort in 2013 to remain in contact with the front group.

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Now I described these bergs as ‘nasty’ but if you’re not racing over them they truly are beautiful – check out the Casselberg above for the scenery first on Sunday and then also to start paying attention as it comes around the halfway mark in the race and the action normally starts heating up around here.

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Before the action heats up though the sign on at Gent Wevelgem is a place for fun and games like here in 2013 with Philippe Gilbert’s interesting headwear but not quite as interesting as his Batman like teammate – Taylor Phinney, who unfortunately will not be competing in this year’s edition either.

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It is said that the bergs make the difference in this race but often it’s actually the approach to them that matters most as the often brutally cold weather with harsh winds takes it toll – in many ways on the peloton.

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Crashes are inevitable in this type of racing and many a favorite has been knocked out early by unfortunate circumstances or a moment of inattention.

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Even seemingly straight, wide ‘easy’ sections can be dangerous as demonstrated here with a stupid spectator at last year’s race who placed himself – and everyone else in a very dangerous position to try and get the perfect shot.

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Speaking of accident’s and Gent Wevelgem many people’s minds think of Jimmy Casper’s simply horrifying crash on the Kemmellberg descent in ’07.

Hopefully we’ll see nothing as bad as that on Sunday but smaller accidents as riders get tired and the pressure is on are certainly common.

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One man who generally avoids the accidents is 2013 winner Peter Sagan. His calm demeanour, sheer power and pure class showed through in this victory where he attacked the lead group and rode away solo for a superb win.

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He was the fastest man in the group and surely would have won the race in the sprint but he sensed that the moment was there and didn’t hesitate for a second to ride away and win where he finished with his famous wheelie.

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Check out the video below at 24m30s for a look at Peter Sagan, version 2013 – will he race like that again under the Tinkoff colors? Make sure to check out the race on Sunday to find out. TV guide info is at steephill.tv and a full race report, PeloPics and more will be on Pez on Sunday.

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