Gent-Wevelgem 2017 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Gent-Wevelgem 2017 Preview

By David Hunter

Gent-Wevelgem 249km

The third race in just a handful of days. Despite the easier looking profile, this can be the hardest race of the week.

The reason for the difficulty is the exposed roads used by the organisers. It doesn’t take much wind for the whole race to be blown apart. In terms of the climbs, we have two laps of the Baneberg and Kemmelberg, both climbs are under a kilometre long, but feature double digit gradients. On the Kemmelberg, the riders have to cope with the cobbles too.

This year, the organisers have decided to introduce some Plugstreets, or gravel roads to you and me. These sections appear around 190km into the race and certainly could shake things up a bit as the riders head for the last ascent of the Baneberg and Kemmelberg. They aren’t overly technical but include a lot of small stones. Puncture here and your race is over.

The space between the final climb and finishing line is perfect for the bunch to bring back a break, but that depends on how many riders are left in the peloton. One team will need at least three men to chase down any group that gets away. If two teams are wanting to create a sprint, that swings it in the favour of the quick men.

The other difficulty for most of the riders is the distance of 249km. After some recent hard racing, fatigue will be setting in and this is a very long day in the saddle.

Weather

A dry day with a moderate wind coming from the north-east. The direction of the wind is perfect for some echelons, but we’ll have to see what happens on the road, as the wind might not be strong enough. Of all the races in the region, the weather plays the biggest part in this one. If the wind blows, the break wins. If not, we should get a sprint.

Contenders

Alexander Kristoff – this is a race that should be good for him. He looked in okay form in E3, but this will be his real focus. The distance is good for him, but he needs teammates to help chase the break as we head for home. He is not explosive enough to go with the attacks on the Kemmelberg.

John Degenkolb – I will not repeat myself, just read what I’ve said for Kristoff. The same applies for the German.

Peter Sagan – experienced some bad luck in E3, but the race was already gone. Crucially, he was not willing to respond to the early move of the others. By the time he did decide to try and cover it, they had already disappeared up the road. They exposed his team and his poor tactics. This race is different, with the crucial section happening close to the finish. Sagan will attack on the Kemmelberg and he’ll get a gap. What happens behind, will determine if his move is successful. He will be hurting from E3, expect a big day from Sagan.

QuickStep – got their tactics right in DDV and E3, no shame to lose to Greg Van Avermaet. They go into this race with plenty of options, again, we shall see how they play their cards. They have Boonen, Gaviria, Trentin, Terpstra and Stybar. That is a strong hand, covering breakaways and a final sprint. Do they trust Gaviria to beat the others in a sprint? The answer to that question will dictate how QuickStep negotiate the race.

Greg Van Avermaet – really pleased to see him win in E3. To attack at the point took a lot of balls, something that the big riders often shy away from. He took a huge risk and got the big reward. Similar to Sagan, he will attack on the Kemmelberg, and then hope they can stay away. Clearly in great current form, he’ll have a large say in the outcome of this race.

Oli Naesen – I was delighted to see him continue his amazing progression in E3. This season he was 7th in Omloop, 8th in Kuurne, 6th in DDV and 3rd in E3. That is a stunning set of results for a rider just starting his second season in the world tour. After such a huge effort, we shall have to see how his legs respond.

Sonny Colbrelli – took an impressive 7th place in E3. The Italian is certainly showing some versatility, but he’ll have to rely on other teams bringing this race back together. Even if they do, I just can’t see him outsprinting the elite riders.

Arnaud Demare – sat out E3, that means he should be nice and fresh for this race. FDJ are a team that throw their whole weight behind their star, something that is a huge help. They will try and save as many riders as possible for the run for home. One thing is certain, the harder the race, the better Demare’s chances. He certainly has some hope of taking the win.

Dylan Groenewegen – still a bit young for this race. I don’t think he’ll like the Kemmelberg.

Edward Theuns – after jinxing him for DDV, I’d better watch what I say about him. He is hoping for a tough day, but riding in the same team as Degenkolb, he’ll probably be used as a willing worker. In that role, he’ll be very important for Trek. He’ll get his reward in De Panne!

Michael Matthews – still learning how to ride on the cobbles. Given his climbing ability, this race would be great for him, if the Kemmelberg was a smooth road. He will need a very good starting position on the climb, allowing him some sliding space. Like Kristoff and Degenkolb, he’ll need teammates to help bring the break back in.

Sacha Modolo – recent performances have hinted at some form. He has made initial selections in DDV and E3, not many riders can say that. The Italian is a solid sprinter, but has disappointed me recently. He has an outside chance of making the top 5.

Prediction Time

It’s all about the wind. If we get echelons and a reduced bunch heading for the final lap, the break will win. If a bigger bunch stays together, I think we’ll see cooperation from Katusha, Trek and FDJ to bring the attackers back.

In that scenario, I think we’ll see a win from Alexander Kristoff. I think he just has the edge on Degenkolb and Gaviria.

If the break wins, it’s another day for Sagan or Van Avermaet.


David Hunter

Follow us on @CiclismoInter

Join us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional

Copyright © 2012-2017 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved

close
Facebook IconTwitter IconMi BlogMi Blog

Discover more from Ciclismo Internacional

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading