Paolini wins Gent-Wevelgem

Chasers Terpstra second and Thomas third

Luca Paolini (Katusha) took a solo win at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday after rain and strong winds turned the race into a battle of survival, and a battle of the strongest Classic riders in the peloton.

The Italian veteran escaped from a breakaway just five kilometres from the finish and took the win 11 seconds ahead of chasers Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). They were part of the move of the day that gradually emerged as the wind took its toll on the race. Stijn Vandenbergh was also there for Etixx-Quickstep, along with Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo), Daniel Oss (BMC) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal). Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) made a brave solo stack for much of the final third of the race but was eventually caught with 17km to go.

Paolini had to fight to get back on after the second climb of the Kemmelberg but then outwitted his rivals to take the biggest win of his long career.

“This is a surprise but I’m so happy to have won,” Paolini said. “I don’t think I was the strongest but I played my cards. I knew they’d be waiting for the sprint and so I tried to get away with five kilometres to go.

“It was a very difficult day out there. I crashed twice and changed my bike. But I knew the route and know were to stay up front. After my bad luck I was lucky. It was so bad that we weren’t sure if we could carry on. But we're up in the north and this is real cycling. The strongest survived today.”

Paolini's teammate Alexander Kristoff took the bunch sprint for ninth place ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in 10th.

Luca Paolini (Katusha) tops the Gent-Wevelgem podium

How it happened

The 200 riders at the start line knew they were facing a long, tough and for some, a heroic battle in such terrible conditions.

After leaving start town Deinze in the rain, few riders were keen on getting in the early breakaway move while facing a headwind towards the coast in Adinkerke. Eventually seven brave riders went away, with Tim Kerkhof (Roompoot Oranje), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin), Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing) and Mirko Tedeschi (Southeast) looking for some early glory and a tactical move for their team leaders.

Despite the strong headwind the leaders covered 39 kilometres in the first hour that resulted in a lead of nearly nine minutes over the peloton. The peloton split even before turning back and riding through the famous Moeren flatlands, while the grey clouds turned the atmosphere into a grim scene. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre) was among the riders who quickly pulled out of the race. The Italian had been ill last week.

Once in the Moeren area, the wind started taking victims. Riders were blown off their bikes into the roadside grass or, like Gert Steegmans (Trek Factory Racing), into the ditch. One massive wind gust caused a big crash that forced several riders to pull out, including Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep) and Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal). Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) crashed and lost contact with the first part of the peloton. Many riders climbed off, leaving team vehicles and the broom wagon full.

Due to the gusts of wind, riders tried to stay safe while also trying to maintain some sort of speed. Echelons were formed although these could not be compared with the usual echelons. Riders were constantly balancing on their bike, leaning into the wind, trying not to be blown off the road. Many riders were using wheels with deep section rims and they were paying a high price for that. About 50 riders survived the chaos across the Moeren plain.

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More attacks and more crashes

The peloton then headed into France and the breakaway was soon caught by the first peloton. A second peloton bridged up and later also Cavendish reached the front of the race.

However on another long straight road, the Route de Denkerque, the peloton blew apart again. This time about 25 riders remained up front. Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) was among the riders who pulled out of the race. The ascents of the Casselberg were peanuts compared to the constant battle with the wind gusts. Between the two climbs Edvald Boasson-Hagen landed into the barriers on the market square of Cassel.

Heading to the third climb of the day, the Catsberg, there were still about 25 riders in front, including Sep Vanmarcke, Geraint Thomas, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan. A second group with Arnaud Démare, André Greipel, Matti Breschel and Greg Van Avermaet bridged up just before the Catsberg. While the peloton took a break, Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) launched a solo move and opened a one-minute lead on the peloton at the Catsberg.

A cease-fire followed, with Sep Vanmarcke changing bikes. Attempts to anticipate the attacks from Jens Keukeleire, Edward Theuns, Stijn Vandenbergh, Daniel Oss and Jurgen Roelandts were neutralized before the famous Kemmelberg. Then Roelandts attacked in the aftermath of the Kemmelberg – at nearly 80 kilometres from the finish - and quickly bridged up and overtook Tjallingii.

While riding into the crosswinds again, a group of 13 riders rode away from the peloton. While Stybar punctured, attacks were fired in front. Stijn Vandenbergh rode away and he was eventually joined by Oss, Thomas and later also Vanmarcke and Jens Debusschere. Somehow the five chasers were unable to close the gap on Roelandts. The pace in the peloton dropped back as there were no more teams keen to work.

Paolini launched a late counter-attack. Against the wind the experienced Italian rider managed to join the chase group before it was too late. A little later Thomas was spectacularly blown off the road, tumbling in the grass, barely avoiding falling into the ditch. The winner of the E3 Harelbeke was quickly back on his bike and re-joined the chase group but looked shaken. When the gap between the chase group and the peloton was fifty seconds, Nikki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) also made a successful solo attempt, creating a chase group of seven riders. From there the peloton threw in the towel and quickly lost several minutes. Roelandts kept the chase group at two minutes when reaching the Kemmelberg for the second time, at 38 kilometres from the finish.

The breakaway in Gent-Wevelgem

The final climb of the Kemmelberg

On the Kemmelberg for the final time, Vandenbergh set the pace in the chase group, with only Thomas holding his wheel. Vanmarcke and Terpstra quickly bridged up on the top of the steep cobbled climb with Oss, Debusschere and Paolini in trouble. Debusschere quickly returned solo, while Paolini needed much more time and Oss cracked. The fast pace set by Vandenbergh and the two final climbs of the day took its toll on leader Roelandts. After the final climb of the day, the Monteberg, the gap was back down to one minute with still thirty kilometres to cover towards the finish in Waregem.

As the road turned flat and the wind blew, Roelandts faded and the chasers upped their speed and began to hunt him down. His lead quickly fell and he was swept up with 17km to go and then cruelly spat out of the move as the attacks began.

Etixx-QuickStep had Terpstra and Vandenbergh and the latter seemed especially strong. However Terpstra surprised his rivals when he attacked immediately after a quick bike change and a chase through the cars. Paolini joined him, indicating he was a threat. However, Thomas also had something left and led the chase up to them, revealing that Vanmarcke and Debusschere were tired.

Thomas, Paolini, Terpstra and Vandenbergh came together with 10 kilometres to go and even Vanmarcke and Debusschere got back on too.

The race seemed set for a sprint but then Paolini tried with six kilometres to go. He was pulled back but noticed his rivals were tired and so went again, this time giving it everything. It was a make or break moment and Paolini broke his rivals. They eased up and moved across the road, looking for someone else to chase. That allowed Paolini to open a gap and take flight.

He opened a 10-second gap in the final kilometres as the other began to race for the podium places. By the time he reached the finish he had time to raise his arms in celebration and savour a great win after a great race. It really was a Gent-Wevelgem for the strongest and the 38 year-old Italian proved he was just that.

Luca Paolini (Katusha) is on his way to winning Gent-Wevelgem



Full Results 

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Luca Paolini (Ita) Team Katusha6:20:55 
2Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:11 
3Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky  
4Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:18 
5Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:00:26 
6Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:00:40 
7Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal0:01:51 
8Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing Team0:04:15 
9Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha0:06:54 
10Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo  
11Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
12Aleksei Tcatevich (Rus) Team Katusha  
13Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Movistar Team  
14Zico Waeytens (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin  
15Arnaud Demare (Fra)  
16Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team  
17Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18  
18Mathew Hayman (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
19Florian Senechal (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
20Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling  
21Björn Leukemans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
22Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Astana Pro Team  
23Eugert Zhupa (Alb) Southeast Pro Cycling  
24Grégory Rast (Swi) Trek Factory Racing  
25Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN - Qhubeka  
26Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
27Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
28Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx - Quick-Step  
29Christian Knees (Ger) Team Sky  
30Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  
31Manuel Quinziato (Ita) BMC Racing Team  
32Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
33Nikolas Maes (Bel) Etixx - Quick-Step  
34Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica GreenEdge0:07:00 
35Bram Tankink (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo0:07:03 
36Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
37Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:07:06 
38Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step  
39Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFJohn Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFNikias Arndt (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFBert De Backer (Bel) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFKoen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFRoy Curvers (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFRamon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFAlbert Timmer (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin  
DNFMark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFMartin Velits (Svk) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFLukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Etixx - Quick-Step  
DNFAndré Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
DNFLars Ytting Bak (Den) Lotto Soudal  
DNFStig Broeckx (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFPim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal  
DNFMarcel Sieberg (Ger) Lotto Soudal  
DNFDennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
DNFGediminas Bagdonas (Ltu) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFMaxime Daniel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFDamien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFAlexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFHugo Houle (Can) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFQuentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFSébastien Turgot (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFJohan Van Summeren (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale  
DNFArman Kamyshev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFBorut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team  
DNFDmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAndrea Guardini (Ita) Astana Pro Team  
DNFAlexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFRuslan Tleubayev (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
DNFMarcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team  
DNFSilvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFKlaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team  
DNFMichael Schär (Swi) BMC Racing Team  
DNFWilliam Bonnet (Fra)  
DNFDavid Boucher (Fra)  
DNFSébastien Chavanel (Fra)  
DNFMickael Delage (Fra)  
DNFMatthieu Ladagnous (Fra)  
DNFJohan Le Bon (Fra)  
DNFYoann Offredo (Fra)  
DNFHeinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling  
DNFDries Devenyns (Bel) IAM Cycling  
DNFMatthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling  
DNFReto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling  
DNFRoger Kluge (Ger) IAM Cycling  
DNFVicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) IAM Cycling  
DNFJonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling  
DNFFilippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFNiccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFDavide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFSacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFLuka Pibernik (Slo) Lampre-Merida  
DNFMaximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida  
DNFNelson Filipe Santos Simoes Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida  
DNFManuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida  
DNFDayer Uberney Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team  
DNFAlex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar Team  
DNFGorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJohn Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team  
DNFEnrique Sanz (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFFrancisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar Team  
DNFJasha Sütterlin (Ger) Movistar Team  
DNFAdam Blythe (GBr) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFMitchell Docker (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFLuke Durbridge (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFLeigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFJens Mouris (Ned) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFMagnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica GreenEdge  
DNFAlan Marangoni (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFJack Bauer (NZl) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFLasse Norman Hansen (Den) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFEdward King (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFKristijan Koren (Slo) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFKristoffer Skjerping (Nor) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFDylan Van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFRuben Zepuntke (Ger) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team  
DNFJacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Team Katusha  
DNFGatis Smukulis (Lat) Team Katusha  
DNFVladimir Isaychev (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFAlexander Porsev (Rus) Team Katusha  
DNFRudiger Selig (Ger) Team Katusha  
DNFRick Flens (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFThomas Leezer (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFBarry Markus (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFMaarten Wynants (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo  
DNFIan Stannard (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFBernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky  
DNFAndrew Fenn (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFLuke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFBradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky  
DNFElia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky  
DNFMaciej Bodnar (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFMatti Breschel (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFMichal Kolár (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFMichael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFMatteo Tosatto (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFNikolay Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFPavel Brutt (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo  
DNFJesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFGiacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFYaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFGert Steegmans (Bel) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFHayden Roulston (NZl) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFBoy Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFDanny Van Poppel (Ned) Trek Factory Racing  
DNFPieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFSander Helven (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFJarl Salomein (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFGijs Van Hoecke (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFStijn Steels (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise  
DNFSam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFBjorn Thurau (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFRalf Matzka (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFAndreas Schillinger (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFChristoph Pfingsten (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFMichael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFPaul Voss (Ger) Bora-Argon 18  
DNFNacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFJonas Ahlstrand (Swe) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFChristophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFCyril Lemoine (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFAdrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFDominique Rollin (Can) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFLouis Verhelst (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
DNFEdvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFTheo Bos (Ned) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFMatt Brammeier (Irl) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFTyler Farrar (USA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFKristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFJay Robert Thomson (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFReinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka  
DNFBerden De Vries (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFJohnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFRaymond Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFWesley Kreder (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFIvar Slik (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFSjoerd Van Ginneken (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFTim Kerkhof (Ned) Team Roompot  
DNFAlessandro Petacchi (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFRafael Andriato (Bra) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFAndrea Dal Col (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFMauro Finetto (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFGiuseppe Fonzi (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFMirko Tedeschi (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFJakub Mareczko (Ita) Southeast Pro Cycling  
DNFGiovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFJimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFYohann Gene (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFTony Hurel (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFMorgan Lamoisson (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFYannick Martinez (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFAlexandre Pichot (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFAngelo Tulik (Fra) Team EuTeam Roompotcar  
DNFSimone Antonini (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFRoy Jans (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFMirko Selvaggi (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFBoris Dron (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFTom Devriendt (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DNFFrederik Veuchelen (Bel) Wanty - Groupe Gobert  
DSQDylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team Roompot  

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