The 143km parcours held between Boezinge and Wevelgem is a little flatter than some of the other Classics on the calendar, but there are still five climbs including two tilts at the Kemmelberg. The cobbled climb is just under 40km from the finish and could play a role in the outcome of the race.
Gent-Wevelgem is tough to predict, however, and will largely depend on the final climbs and the weather, as is the same for many of the Classics. This race has previously finished with solo victories, breakaway sprints and bunch kicks.
Last year, Cervelo Bigla's Lotta Lepistö took one of her best career wins at Gent-Wevelgem, beating Jolien D'hoore and Coryn Rivera in a bunch sprint. Other past winners include Chantal Blaak, Floortje Mackaij and Lauren Hall.
In its earlier years, Gent-Wevelgem was considered a warm-up for the Tour of Flanders, and it probably always will be given that it has traditionally been held the week before the Ronde. But in its more recent years, and with its place on the Women's WorldTour, the race has grown in stature as one of the more prestigious events to win.
"It's always one week out from Ronde van Vlaanderen, and many riders will be using this race as part of their final preparations for the first Sunday in April. Gent-Wevelgem I would say is the 'easier' of the spring classics where either the wind or the Kemmelberg climb are the two hardest parts of the race," said one of Canyon-SRAM's classics specialist Elena Cecchini.
Cecchini has been hunting a victory on the Women's WorldTour this year but she will more than likely play a support role at Gent-Wevelgem as will be the team's designated leader. Barnes showed top form this early season after winning the overall title at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. She will also have support from Alexis Ryan, who was runner-up at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Ronde van Drenthe, and won Drentse 8. Trofeo Alfredo Binda winner Kasia Niewiadoma will not be participating as she turns her focus on the Ardennes Classics.
24 teams in action
There are 24 participating teams including Belgium's Lotto Soudal Ladies, Experza-Footlogix and Doltcini-Van Eyck Sports.
Belgium national champion, D'hoore will lead her Mitchelton-Scott team in what she hopes will end in a victory, after placing second last year. She recently won the Driedaagse De Panne, the fourth round of the Women's WorldTour, and is focused on Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders. The Australian outfit also includes time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten, Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt.
Lepistö returns with Cervelo-Bigla to defend her title with support from last year's Women's WorldTour youth winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig and Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.
It won't be an easy task as Boels-Dolmans lines out with world champion and former winner Blaak, along with Ronde van Drenthe (round two) winner Amy Pieters. Former world champion Amalie Dideriksen skipped Driedaagse De Panne on Thursday because she was ill but will return to the peloton to race Gent-Wevelgem. Anna van der Breggen won the opening round at Strade Bianche, but she will not be racing this weekend.
Ale Cipollini's Chloe Hosking has been so close to victory this Classics season: second at Driedaagse De Panne, second at Omloop van het Hageland, third places at Drentse 8 and Ronde van Drenthe, and fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. She has a strong team backing her efforts to get to the top step on the podium with Marta Bastianelli, who had early season success in Valencia, and Janneke Ensing, who won Le Samyn des Dames.
Rivera, who proved to be a threat in the one-day races last spring winning Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Tour of Flanders, will line out with Sunweb. She was third last year and has a shot at winning this time around. But like Canyon-SRAM and Boels Dolmans, the Dutch team have some other potential winners in Ellen van Dijk, Lucinda Brand and Leah Kirchmann.
Wiggle High5 will field a former winner in Kirsten Wild. She made her debut with the squad at Ronde van Drenthe just days after winning three world titles on the track and admitted that she isn't used to the long distances of the Classics yet. Given her powerful sprint, however, Wild is always a contender for victory.
The most prominent rider with an outside chance of winning Gent-Wevelgem is former multi-discipline world champion, Marianne Vos. Racing with her Waowdeals team, she showed promising form after placing fifth at the series' second round at Ronde van Drenthe and then went on to take third at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, the third round of the Women's WorldTour.
Team Virtu have proved to have a contender for the classics with Christina Siggaard, who took a surprise win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February. Look to her as a dark horse contender for the win in Wevelgem.
2018 Women's WorldTour standings after round 4
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM Racing||350||pts|
|2||Chloe Hosking (Aus) Ale Cipollini||275|
|3||Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||250|
|4||Jolien D'Hoore (Bel) Mitchelton Scott Women||230|
|5||Marianne Vos (Ned) Waowdeals Pro Cycling Team||210|
|6||Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||205|
|7||Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam||205|
|8||Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Wiggle High5||160|
|9||Amanda Spratt (Aus) Mitchelton Scott Women||160|
|10||Alexis Ryan (USA) Canyon-SRAM Racing||155|
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