The Belgian was the quickest in a small group that was nevertheless made up of quality sprinters, with Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos) taking second and Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) third.
The seven riders had all been part of a group of around 20 riders that broke clear in windy conditions during the first half of the race.
After working well together, that group was reduced to nine on the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, featuring Van Aert, Nizzolo, Trentin, Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Danny van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma).
The dangerous sprint of Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) was taken out of contention during the flat run-in to the finish, when he appeared to be struck by a bout of illness.
With Van Poppel also dropped, that left the seven remaining riders to contest the sprint at the finish, which, despite the calibre of sprinter in the group, was comfortably won by Van Aert by a bike-length.
Van Aert was pleased to make this early split, but expressed at the finish how much work was required to keep them from being caught.
"It was a sprint at high speed, we had a tailwind all the way back from the Kemmelberg and we were able to launch early enough. Everything went perfect and nobody came past.
“As it was only a group of about 20 guys, we still had to do a lot of turns. It was a whole day in the crosswinds, they never stopped actually. It was a massive effort, but definitely worth it.”
Although the likes of Deceuninck-QuickStep and AG2R Citroën made efforts to get back into contention throughout the day, their star riders like Zdenek Štybar, Yves Lampaert, Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen all never recovered after missing out on the initial split.
How it unfolded
The 83rd Gent-Wevelgem got under way without Trek-Segafredo and Bora-Hansgrohe, both of which had to pull out due to Covid-19 positives.
The 247km race began formulaically enough, with Stefan Bisseger, Jonas Rutsch (both EF Education Nippo), Yevgeniy Federov (Astana-Premier Tech), and Laurenz Rex (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) forming the first break of the day.
However, things burst into life when a strong cross-tail wind ripped the race to pieces, and 21 riders went clear from the rest of the peloton.
The group included Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal), Danny van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), Jack Bauer (BikeExchange), Luka Mezgec (BikeExchange), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Robert Stannard (BikeExchange), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Luis Mas (Movistar), Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos), Sven Erik Bystrøm (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), Michal Golas (Ineos), Timothy Dupont (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles), Jeremy Lecroq (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) and Cyril Lemoine (B&B Hotels).
They closed the seven-minute gap to the four earlier escapees, to form a new lead group of 25 riders.
The beginning of the climbs halfway into the race offered a springboard for riders in the second group to bridge up to the first, and on the Baneberg, Zdenek Stybar, Davide Ballerini (both Deceuninck-QuickStep), Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange) and Oscar Riesebeek (Alpecin-Fenix) attempted to do so.
After the first ascent of the Kemmelberg, Stybar, Durbridge and Riesebeek were joined by Yves Lampaert (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Søren Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix) and Oliver Naesen (AG2R Citroën), to form a new chasing group of seven riders.
These seven were caught by about a dozen more riders 76km from the finish, including Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën), and continued to get bigger as more riders such as John Degenkolb (Lotto Soudal) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) caught back on.
Despite its bigger size, these chasers began to lose ground on the leaders, with the deficit up to over one minute by the start of the Plugstreets.
The work from teams like AG2R Citroën, Qhubeka Assos and Groupama-FDJ shed many of the weaker riders from the chasing group on the approach to the second ascent of the Kemmelberg, but they were still unable to make any inroads to the lead group, which was working together cohesively.
On the Kemmelberg, the pace set by Van Aert reduced the lead group to just nine riders: Bennett, Matthews, Trentin, Colbrelli, Küng, Nizzolo, Van Poppel and Van Hooydonck. They pressed on, and by the time they returned to the Kemmelberg for the third and final ascent 36km from the finish, had a lead of one minute over the nearest chasing group.
Trentin set the pace on the Kemmelberg this time, but the nine-man group remained intact.
Bennett did especially well to keep up with these classics specialists on such a difficult climb, but the effort clearly took a lot out of him, and he was even caught on camera vomiting shortly after cresting it.
As they continued to work together, and the gap remained steady at around one minute, it became increasingly likely that the chasers behind were not going to catch them.
The first attack among the leaders came from Van Hooydonck with 16km to go. His acceleration had the effect of dropping Van Poppel and, crucial, Bennett, who was still struggling from whatever had ailed him earlier.
With so many strong sprinters among the remaining seven riders, there were no more attacks until 2km, when Küng made a move.
Küng was unable to get a gap, however, and had to resort instead to leading out the sprint. Van Aert passed him on the right-hand side 150 metres from the line, and no-one else could get near the Belgian as he sprinted to victory.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||5:45:11|
|2||Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Team Qhubeka Assos||0|
|3||Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0|
|4||Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious||0|
|5||Michael Matthews (Aus) Team BikeExchange||0|
|6||Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|7||Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:03|
|8||Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:52|
|9||Anthony Turgis (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:00:54|
|10||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:01:25|
|11||Jérémy Lecroq (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|12||Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|13||Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|14||Yves Lampaert (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|15||Jack Bauer (NZl) Team BikeExchange|
|16||Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team||0:01:27|
|17||Owain Doull (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:52|
|18||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spa) Movistar Team||0:01:56|
|19||Dries Van Gestel (Bel) Total Direct Energie||0:01:57|
|20||Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|21||Michal Golas (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers||0:02:00|
|22||Cyril Lemoine (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|23||Danny van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|24||Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar Team|
|25||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:02:04|
|26||Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Team Qhubeka Assos||0:02:22|
|27||John Degenkolb (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|28||Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates|
|29||Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious|
|30||Aimé De Gendt (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|31||Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|32||Robert Stannard (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|33||Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|34||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|35||Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team DSM||0:03:19|
|36||Frederik Frison (Bel) Lotto Soudal||0:04:18|
|37||Olivier Le Gac (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|38||Jasper Philipsen (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|39||Ryan Gibbons (RSA) UAE Team Emirates|
|40||Oscar Riesebeek (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix|
|41||Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|42||Timothy Dupont (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|43||Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix|
|44||Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|45||Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|46||Maarten Wynants (Bel) Jumbo-Visma|
|47||Timo Roosen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|48||Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Movistar Team|
|49||Brent Van Moer (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|50||Stefan Bissegger (Swi) EF Education-Nippo|
|51||Michael Mørkøv (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|52||Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|53||Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|54||Daniel McLay (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:04:34|
|55||Sam Bennett (Irl) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:04:40|
|56||Jonas Rutsch (Ger) EF Education-Nippo||0:08:36|
|57||Jens Debusschere (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|58||Adrien Petit (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:11:24|
|59||Niki Terpstra (Ned) Total Direct Energie|
|60||Milan Menten (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|61||Artyom Zakharov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|62||Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis|
|63||Thimo Willems (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|64||Juri Hollmann (Ger) Movistar Team|
|65||Boy van Poppel (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|66||Andreas Stokbro NIELSEN|
|67||Rick Zabel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation|
|68||Marcel Sieberg (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|69||Johan Jacobs (Swi) Movistar Team|
|70||Cedric Beullens (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|71||Emil Vinjebo (Den) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|72||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|73||Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Groupama-FDJ|
|74||Leonardo Basso (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers|
|75||Silvan Dillier (Swi) Alpecin-Fenix|
|76||Kenny Molly (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|77||Bert De Backer (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|78||Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis|
|79||Jos van Emden (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|80||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Ned) Jumbo-Visma|
|81||Nils Eekhoff (Ned) Team DSM|
|82||Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|83||Stijn Steels (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep|
|84||Jordi Warlop (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|85||Jonas Castrique (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|86||Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Cofidis|
|87||Benjamin Perry (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|88||Michael Schär (Swi) AG2R Citroën Team|
|89||Andrey Amador (CRc) Ineos Grenadiers|
|90||Robbe Ghys (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise||0:11:30|
|DNF||Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||André Greipel (Ger) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Loïc Vliegen (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Taco van der Hoorn (Ned) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux|
|DNF||Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma|
|DNF||Damien Touze (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Geoffrey Soupe (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|DNF||Roger Kluge (Ger) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Julien Duval (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Christophe Noppe (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Alexis Renard (Fra) Israel Start-up Nation|
|DNF||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal|
|DNF||Bram Welten (Ned) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team|
|DNF||Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Jasha Sütterlin (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Cees Bol (Ned) Team DSM|
|DNF||Marco Haller (Aut) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Aut) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Piet Allegaert (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Ivo Oliveira (Por) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNF||Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Casper Pedersen (Den) Team DSM|
|DNF||Daniel Arroyave Cañas (Col) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Julien Morice (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM|
|DNF||Kévin Geniets (Lux) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Groupama-FDJ|
|DNF||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers|
|DNF||Arne Marit (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Lindsay De Vylder (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise|
|DNF||Scott Thwaites (GBr) Alpecin-Fenix|
|DNF||Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Laurenz Rex (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Ludovic Robeet (Bel) Bingoal WB|
|DNF||Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) EF Education-Nippo|
|DNF||Jelle Wallays (Bel) Cofidis|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||Hugo Houle (Can) Astana-Premier Tech|
|DNF||André Carvalho (Por) Cofidis|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol) Team Qhubeka Assos|
|DNF||Niklas Märkl (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Jonathan Milan (Ita) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Alex Edmondson (Aus) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Clément Russo (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Nico Denz (Ger) Team DSM|
|DNF||Sebastian Mora Vedri (Spa) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Amaury Capiot (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Benjamin Declercq (Bel) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|DNF||Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Gabriel Cullaigh (GBr) Movistar Team|
|DNF||Amund Grøndahl Jansen (Nor) Team BikeExchange|
|DNF||Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious|
|DNF||Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team BikeExchange|
|DNS||Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Koen de Kort (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Quinn Simmons (USA) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Kiel Reijnen (USA) Trek-Segafredo|
|DNS||Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Daniel Oss (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
|DNS||Mikkel Bjerg (Den) UAE Team Emirates|
|DNS||Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe|
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