Dubbed the ‘Sprinters’ Classic’ Gent-Wevelgem is one of the most hotly anticipated and important races in the Spring calendar. Over the past few years it has seen a number of changes affect its course, date and distance but the sight of the pro peloton riding over the Kemmelberg remains one of the most iconic snapshots of the spring.
In this gallery, Cyclingnews looks back at some of the most memorable moments from the last decade: from disqualifications to crashes, sprints to breakaways.
In the last few years the race has seen a number of course and date modifications but it remains a major target and highlight of the Spring. Last year Tom Boonen took his third career victory here, but after a less than optimal performance in the E3 Harelbeke, his name will not be at the top of the favourites' list. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will look to get revenge for being tightly marked in Friday's finale.
The race has seen some of the best Classics action in recent years. From George Hincapie wining a close sprint in 2001 to the memorable edition of 2002 when Mario Cipollini chased down a dangerous break – that included Hincapie – and won the sprint. That year Cipollini would win a far less entertaining Worlds but his ride in Gent-Wevelgem was a welcome reminder that he was more than just a sprinter reliant on his lead-out train.
A year later though and Cipollini was lacking form and fitness. After a crash and subsequent visit to the team car he threw two water bottles at race car when it attempted to pass him. Once over the finish line the world champion was rightly disqualified and fined the minuscule amount of 200 Swiss francs.
The following year in 2004 and the race saw Tom Boonen win the bunch sprint. Having been left frustrated the previous weekend in Flanders the Belgian made up for it with his first win in Wevelgem.
In 2005 the race saw controversy. Juan Antonio Flecha looked set to win the race with a bold attack but Nico Mattan had other ideas and set about chasing the Fassa rider. Only with the assistance of some dodgy drafting from race motorbikes was Mattan able to close the gap and overhaul the Argentine before the line.
Thor Hushovd took the sprint in 2006, and Marcus Burghardt won his first professional victory here in 2007 before Oscar Freire got revenge for Flecha's loss and became the first Spaniard to win in 2008. The following year, the young Edvald Boasson Hagen showed his burgeoning talent with a win from a two-man breakaway that went clear on the Kemmelberg.
The Kemmelberg proved decisive again in 2010, when a small group went clear and the sprint was won by Bernhard Eisel. A much larger group came together to the line in 2011, when Boonen took his second win. The sprint was a bit smaller last year, but Boonen kicked off his Classics season domination with a third win, this time over the emerging talent, Peter Sagan.