Belgium’s annual festival of cycling moved on to Deinze on Sunday for the start of Gent-Wevelgem, where the sprinters will hope to be to the fore later this afternoon. After E3 Harelbeke saw a larger than anticipated group come to the finish together, however, the fast men may not have it all their own way over the 235km course.
That said, with the likes of Mark Cavendish (Sky), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i), Matt Goss (GreenEdge), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) all lining up, there will be no shortage of teams looking to keep things under control on the flat run-in to the finish in Wevelgem.
Defending champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won E3 Harelbeke on Friday, and looks to be in great form ahead of next week’s Tour of Flanders. Gent-Wevelgem is another important stage in his preparation for De Ronde, and he will once again clash swords with his eternal rival Fabian Cancellara, whose RadioShack-Nissan team also includes the dangerous Daniele Bennati.
Much attention will also be paid to the performance of Philippe Gilbert, who has struggled with illness in recent weeks. The Belgian champion does not fancy his chances on this course, but he will be looking for significant signs of improvement with the Tour of Flanders just one week away. For today, his BMC team’s efforts are likely to be focused on Greg Van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd.