By Gregor Brown in Gent
The Kemmelberg will keep on kicking in 2008 with its inclusion in the 70th Gent-Wevelgem despite multiple incidents last year. The race organiser has added a cobble section earlier in the race and modified the climb's approach to avoid the trouble seen when riders, including Frenchman Jimmy Casper, were injured on the high-speed descent.
The Classic – won last year by German Marcus Burghardt and including famous past winners such as Eddy Merckx and Rik Van Looy – will start in Deinze (just southwest of Gent) this Wednesday at 11:30 and travel to Wevelgem, covering 209 kilometres in its journey. It is in the finale that the Kemmelberg (south of Ieper) strikes two times – kilometre 148 and 172 – making the race a credible Classic and preventing what would otherwise be an all-out bunch sprint on the Vanackerestraat.
The first change comes with the introduction of the Steenstraat ('stone road' in English) at kilometre 49. It is a 2500-metre run that organisers hope will spread out the peloton for the latter portions of the race.
The parcours won't take in much of Belgium's coast like in 2007. Instead, it will head straight for De Panne, avoiding the southward run from Oostende. Once near De Panne, the route turns left for Belgium's southwest corner, past the feed-zone in Poperinge and onto the village of Kemmel (km 146 & 170) for the start of the Kemmelberg.
Check out the full preview of the next Belgian semi-classic.