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Headwind spoils attacks in women's Gent-Wevelgem

Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor) is in stellar form right now. After winning the sprint in De Panne on Thursday, she did the same in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Like in De Panne, Wild was piloted expertly by her teammate Lisa Brennauer in the final.

The WNT-Rotor lead-out had almost become undone at gent-Wevelgem, however, as Brennauer suffered misfortune in the final.

"Lisa punctured twice in the last 15 km, that made it really hard for her, so she didn't have the best legs anymore," said Wild after the race. "But she put me in the right position, and I just had to finish. I was surprised that it came back together to such a big group. After the climbs it was a small group, but no team really took the lead. My teammates kept me comfortable on the road and out of the wind, I could relax, and that is how I could win today."

Before the race, there were expectations of echelons in the crosswinds. One of the teams that tried this tactic were CCC-Liv.

"We wanted to make the race hard and not want to wait all day for a bunch sprint," said sports director Jeroen Blijlevens. "We positioned ourselves at the front already after 32 km to create echelons there. The peloton broke apart, but not entirely. In the final, we wanted to try again, and several other teams had the same plan."

Martin Vestby, sports director of Mitchelton-Scott, had also hoped for crosswinds, but was faced with a headwind that not only stopped any echelons from forming, but also spoiled any attacks.

"We were expecting wind in the final 20 kilometres, but it had turned a little bit, so we had too much headwind in the end for anyone to be able to split it. We tried a sneaky move at the end with Sarah Roy, but it did not come to anything unfortunately."

Another team that left its mark on the final was Doltcini-Van Eyck. The small Belgian team sent Daniela Reis and Jesse Vandenbulcke up the road in the last 30 km.

"We laid this tactic before the race," said sports director Marc Bracke. "Looking at the wind direction, I knew that there was a big chance of everything coming together after the climbs. We cannot attack on the climbs, so we waited, tried to race smart, and attacked in the final. First Daniela Reis attacked, then Jesse Vandenbulcke twice, but they were always brought back. In the end, we decided to go for the sprint and came 11th with Jesse. That was a nice result for us after the way we raced today."

Bracke admitted that the live TV broadcast was a direct reason for the team's aggressive tactic.

"Everybody knows that the last hours are live on TV," he said. "We want to promote women's cycling, and then we need to race and not sit in the bunch, wait, and be happy with place 40. If we cannot beat Wild or Bastianelli in the sprint, we have to do something else in the race. Our riders were really strong in the final today, I got a message from our sponsor who was proud to see the team on TV, making the race."

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Lukas Knöfler started working in cycling communications in 2013 and has seen the inside of the scene from many angles. Having worked as press officer for teams and races and written for several online and print publications, he has been Cyclingnews’ Women’s WorldTour correspondent since 2018.