By Gregor Brown in Gent
The 69th edition of the Gent-Wevelgem is bookended by two monuments, Ronde and Roubaix, but still contains its own beauty and status. Cross-winds, cobbles and the climbs, Monteberg and Kemmel, shape this Semi-Classic of Flanders.
The parcours stays true to tradition; starting in Deinze (at 11.30), just south of Gent, where the race used to start in the Citadelpark. The riders, after being swarmed by the Belgian fans, will roll towards the coast, in a westerly direction, and face their first obstacle.
Winds define Belgian cyclists and make them the 'hard-men' of cycling. Riders will likely encounter head and sidewinds as they travel to Oostende, and then down the coast to De Panne. We should see an escape edge off the front in the 55 kilometre run to the coast while behind some riders (many of the non-Belgians) will suffer as the chase will form into echelons.
Leaving the coast, from De Panne, there will be 115 kilometres remaining, including two runnings of the Monteberg (km 151 and 172) and Kemmelberg (km 153 and 174). These little brutes, cobbled on the up and downhill, are usually wet and always precarious.
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