Marta Bastianelli has had a triumphant start to the 2019 season under the colours of her new team Virtu Cycling. The European champion has won Omloop van het Hageland and Ronde van Drenthe, and looks on track to win a second consecutive Gent-Wevelgem on March 31.
Gent-Wevelgem marks the fifth round of the Women's WorldTour. The series kicked off on March 9 at Strade Bianche, won by Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott). It then travelled to the Netherlands for Ronde van Drenthe this past weekend, where Bastianelli won a breakaway sprint ahead of Chantal Blaak (Boels Dolmans) and Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo).
Bastianelli now leads the Women's WorldTour individual classification with 300 points, after combining points earned from her victory at Ronde van Drenthe and fourth place at Strade Bianche. Van Vleuten is now sitting in second place with 200 points and Blaak is third with 185 points.
There are still two more rounds of the series before Gent-Wevelgem, however, with Trofeo Alfredo Binda on March 24 and Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne on March 28, and so the overall ranking is likely to change.
Organisers of Gent-Wevelgem announced the line-up of 24 teams that will be on the start line earlier this year, but they elaborated on the early start list this week. Bastianelli will have support from her Virtu Cycling teammate Christina Siggaard, but the Danish team will face the best teams in the world.
Boels Dolmans will line up with Blaak, who won the race in 2016, along with Amy Pieters. The provisional start list also includes new signing Jolien D’hoore, but the Belgian sprinter is recovering from a broken collarbone sustained at Drentse 8.
Other former Gent-Wevelgen winners expected to race include Lotta Lepistö (Trek-Segafredo), Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) and Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb).
CCC-Liv’s Marianne Vos will also be on the start line, as will her teammate Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio. British team Drops Cycling will be on the start line for their first Women’s WorldTour race of the season.