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Gallery: Gent-Wevelgem mayhem

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Łukasz Wiśniowski and Martin Velits (Etixx-Quick Step) hit the deck

Łukasz Wiśniowski and Martin Velits (Etixx-Quick Step) hit the deck (Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)
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Gert Steegmans (Trek) carrying his bike just moments before dropping it into the water

Gert Steegmans (Trek) carrying his bike just moments before dropping it into the water (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Michael Schär (BMC) helped out of the ditch he crashed into

Michael Schär (BMC) helped out of the ditch he crashed into (Image credit: Courtesy of Polartec-Kometa)
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Gert Steegmans can only watch his bike fall into the water after dropping it

Gert Steegmans can only watch his bike fall into the water after dropping it (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) almost fell into the water after crashing

Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) almost fell into the water after crashing (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Bikes were seen on road and on water today

Bikes were seen on road and on water today (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Dmitriy Gruzdev's bike floats on the water

Dmitriy Gruzdev's bike floats on the water (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The trees show just how strong the wind was blowing

The trees show just how strong the wind was blowing (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) hits the ground after being blown off his bike

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) hits the ground after being blown off his bike (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) just seconds before being blown off his bike

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) just seconds before being blown off his bike (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) tries to get to his foot out before hitting the deck

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) tries to get to his foot out before hitting the deck (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Matti Bresche's Tinkoff-Saxo teammates check on him after crashing

Matti Bresche's Tinkoff-Saxo teammates check on him after crashing (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) gets going again after crashing

Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) gets going again after crashing (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Gert Steegmans (Trek) after an impromptu swim

Gert Steegmans (Trek) after an impromptu swim (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) tried to get up after a heavy crash

Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) tried to get up after a heavy crash (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-Quick Step) after crashing

Lukasz Wisniowski (Etixx-Quick Step) after crashing (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The cross winds were some of the strongest the peloton has endured in recent years

The cross winds were some of the strongest the peloton has endured in recent years (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Michael Schär (BMC) crashes into a ditch

Michael Schär (BMC) crashes into a ditch (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) crashes hard

Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) crashes hard (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Gert Steegmans's Trek goes for a quick dip

Gert Steegmans's Trek goes for a quick dip (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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There was vicious cross winds creating chaos for the peloton today

There was vicious cross winds creating chaos for the peloton today (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Luca Paolini (Katusha) takes a solo win at Gent-Wevelgem

Luca Paolini (Katusha) takes a solo win at Gent-Wevelgem (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luca Paolini (Katusha) wins Gent-Wevelgem ahead of Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

Luca Paolini (Katusha) wins Gent-Wevelgem ahead of Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) (Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The 77th edition of Gent-Wevelgem was one of the wildest in recent years with winds up to 90km/h buffeting the peloton after the race started in cold and wet conditions. Only 39 riders finished the 240km race, won by Luca Paolini (Katusha), with the weather conditions and hard racing taking its toll on the riders. 160 riders finished with DNF against their names while Dylan Groenewegen (Team Roompot) registered the only DQS of the race.

The victims of the many crashes included Matti Breschel (Tinkoff-Saxo) who broke his nose in a crash, Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) hit a pole and broke his collarbone, Michael Schär (BMC) ended up in a ditch while Gert Steegmans (Trek) had a brief swim having been blown off the road.

Etixx-QuickStep duo Martin Velits and Lukasz Wisniowski also crashed during the race, causing them to withdraw. Post-race a broken right collarbone was confirmed for Velits while Wisniowski suffered an injured right knee.

Jack Bauer (Cannondale-Garmin) had a day to forget that involved a crash, and a mussette getting caught up in his rear wheel which saw the Kiwi throw his bike off the road into a ditch.

In the end, 38-year-old Paolini proved to be the master of the conditions, overcoming his bad misfortune for his first win since 2013.

"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 said.

Have a look through our gallery above and see the highlights of the race below. Don't forget to sign up to the Cyclingnews video channel by clicking here.