On Wednesday, the 67th edition of the semi-classic Gent-Wevelgem will be taking place right in between the two greatest of the spring classics: Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. The timing of the race means that practically all Classics riders participate - and most in excellent shape as well - but with somewhat varying ambitions.
Team CSC's Lars Michaelsen, winner of the event in 1995, will be doing the race for the last time. "I had some really great results early on in my career, and yes - I guess this race was my biggest along with the first stage of Vuelta a Espana in 1997. At the time, it felt natural for me to aim for a good result in Gent-Wevelgem: it suited me well, because I wasn't quite ready to battle it out with the big profiles in Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen," said Michaelsen, who was among the top-20 four times over the five years after his victory.
But since then, the Danish veteran has not had any major results in the race. "After a while my focus shifted, so I concentrated more or less 100 percent on Paris-Roubaix, where I think I've accomplished a lot even though it's a tougher race."
In spite of his crash on Sunday in "De Ronde", Michaelsen will be taking part in Gent-Wevelgem again this year, but he pointed to Stuart O'Grady as his team's biggest favourite, with Lampre's Daniele Bennati as the best bet overall.
"It's not until after the three big climbs that you're able to tell exactly who the favourites are. The trick is to have as many riders as possible up front on those climbs, and for those, who want to try and make it on their own, this is also the place to attack," commented CSC's sports director Scott Sunderland. "Stuart O'Grady will probably be up front at the finish and if we get Matti Breschel and Juan José Haedo up there with him, they'll also be in position for a bunch sprint - and 'JJ' has shown that he is in great shape at the moment with his victory in Rund um Köln," added the Australian, who is very much looking forward to the race with such a strong team.
"We have some strong riders in the line-up, but it's a very unpredictable race though. I think the peloton will be as nervous as we saw on Sunday in Ronde van Vlaanderen, because the weather reports say dry weather with no wind. This could very well mean a gathered peloton heading for a bunch sprint at the end," Sunderland explained.