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Gent-Wevelgem to start in Ypres for next six years

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gent-Wevelgem will move its start way away from Gent from 2020, moving to Ypres in West Flanders, near the French border, for the next six years.

The spring classic, which was first run in 1934, has started in Deinze, 15km outside Gent, since 2004.

Ypres, which is situated some 70km west of Gent, has had a long association with the race, forming a point on the route between 1945 and 1991 and from 2013 to 2019.

It will now host the start, in its famous Grote Markt square, though the organisers insist the name and identity of the race will remain unchanged.

Gent-Wevelgem differs from other one-day races in the Flemish cycling fortnight in that it eschews the Flemish Ardennes. Instead, the race heads up towards the North Sea coast in the windswept north western corner of Belgium before heading down towards Ypres for the iconic climb of the Kemmelberg and the long run east to Wevelgem. In the last three editions, the race has featured gravel sectors, known as Plugstreets, around old WW1 battlegrounds south of Ypres.

"The Gent-Wevelgem route is a quartet. The endless plain of the Moeren, the merciless Kemmelberg, the historic Plugstreets, and that long straight stretch from Ypres to Wevelgem, all constantly skirting the front line from 100 years ago," read a statement from the race organisers Flanders Classics.

"Along the numerous cemeteries, in front of and through monuments, the race crosses the former war landscape, and it is not by accident that Ghent-Wevelgem carries the subtitle 'In Flanders Fields'.

"By bringing not only a passage, but also the start of its Men's Elite race to Ypres, the organisation strengthens its identity even more."

The partnership with Ypres will run for at least six years, from 2020 to 2025. Mayor Emmily Talpe explained that the discontinuation of the Great War Remembrance Race, which ran for just a single edition in 2018, made room in the finances to host the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

"We are very proud of this co-operation," she said. "The fact that such a major sporting event comes to Ypres is a big thing for our image. It puts Ypres on the international map again after the past WW1 commemoration period and the media attention for such a race is huge.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for us and, after the start of a stage of the Tour de France in 2014, it's another top-level sporting event that we welcome"

Gent-Wevelgem 2020 will take place on Sunday March 29, having moved from its Wednesday slot nine years ago.