The name may suggest otherwise, but for over a decade Gent-Wevelgem hasn’t started in Ghent. The riders leave from Deinze, 20 kilometres southwest of Ghent, to traverse the flat fields of Flanders.
With 127 kilometres done the route crosses the border to France and then the first hills appear. In quick succession the riders crest Mont des Chats, Mont Kokereel, Vert Mont, Mont Noir, Mont Noir (again, this time from another side) and Le Ravensberg. Shortly the pack is back in Belgium with 156 kilometres done – or, with almost 100 kilometres left to race.
Back on Gent-Wevelgem’s home-soil, the Baneberg is the first hill. Or should we say ‘wall’? Only 300 metres but with ramps up to 20%. A little later the 3 kilometres Kemmelberg takes in a maximum grade of 17%. The riders continue and 4 kilometres down the road Monteberg accounts for a 1 kilometre ascent at 7%. Still 70 kilometres to go
After debuting last year, three ‘Plugstreets’ are once again included in Gent-Wevelgem. Basically, these are semi-paved roads with the first two strips slightly sloping in open plains. The last strip runs through the forest. The Plugstreets, with a total distance of 5.2 kilometres, follow in quick succession and after last one there are 54 kilometres and two hills left.
Both Baneberg and Kemmelberg have been climbed before and it’s after 212 kilometres in the saddle they reappear. Especially the Kemmelberg is impressive as the second ascent is on the western side, not only meaning cobbles but also a steepest sector of 23%. At the top the riders have 34 kilometres left to race on straight and often windy roads. There is one change of direction when the route moves through Ypers and leaves the place via the renowned Menin Gate Memorial. On a section of more than 20 kilometres of open road the route continues to the line in Wevelgem. Chasers will have a perfect target if there are any attackers on the road.
Not that this mattered last year. Following a pre-decisive move on the Kemmelberg Jens Keukeleire initiated a break shortly after Ypres. Greg Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra, Peter Sagan and Søren Kragh Andersen tracked him down, but when the two Belgians pushed Terpstra refused to come through after Sagan had taken a turn. They started looking at each other, while the (then) 22-year old Dane was too exhausted to chase. Keukeleire and Van Avermaet rode away and the race came down to a two-up sprint in Wevelgem with Van Avermaet turning out on top.
Gent-Wevelgem starts at 11:35 and the finish is expected around 17:45 – both local times (scheduled times).
Gent – Wevelgem 2018: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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