A mix of cobbled classics specialists and sprinters lined up in Deinze on Sunday for the start of Gent-Wevelgem. With 14 climbs, including two ascents of the Kemmelberg, the hard men will have plenty of scope to force the issue and break up the race, while the flat run-in to Wevelgem gives the sprinters’ teams a chance to bring it all back together for a thrilling finish.
Weather conditions at the start were overcast but quite still, although the peloton is sure to encounter some wind as it heads towards the coast in the middle section of the race.
Among the fast men to watch out for are HTC-Highroad’s trio of Mark Cavendish, Mark Renshaw and Matt Goss, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo), Robbie McEwen (RadioShack), Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) and André Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) will form an interesting Italian threat, while home hopes include Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
Boonen and Gilbert were heartily cheered to the start in Deinze this morning. With Fabian Cancellara not in the race and the Tour of Flanders just a week away, the Belgian duo will doubtless be looking to make a statement in response to his crushing victory at the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke on Saturday.