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De Moeren, Ossuaire Kemmelberg add new dimension to Gent-Wevelgem Women – Preview

WEVELGEM BELGIUM MARCH 28 Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland and Team Canyon SRAM Racing during the 10th GentWevelgem In Flanders Fields 2021 Womens Elite a 1417km race from Ypres to Wevelgem Kemmelberg Ossuaire Cobblestones GWE21 GWEWomen FlandersClassic UCIWWT on March 28 2021 in Wevelgem Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) pushing the pace on the Kemmelberg in 2021, with an extra ascent to be added in 2022 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The women's peloton will race an enhanced route featuring De Moeren and the Ossuaire side of the Kemmelberg that add a new dimension to Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday in Belgium – the fifth round of the 2022 Women's WorldTour.

This year, the race is nearly 160km, 45km longer than the inaugural edition won by American Lauren Hall back in 2014, and roughly 20km longer than recent editions which makes it one of the longest races of the top-tier series.

What began as a 1.2-level event has become one of the Spring Classic greats thanks to the efforts of Flanders Classics. The addition of the De Moeren and the Ossuaire side of Kemmelberg on the second time up the climb are all part of its bold plan – Closing the Gap – to create visibility, parity, and change attitudes in pro racing.

The initiative will see all six men's and women's Spring Classics classed at the same level with live television and equal prize money by next year, and similar route features are part of that parcel.

The route begins in Ypres, and while it no longer includes the plugstreets, that pay homage to the victims of the First World War, the windswept De Moeren section could cause some separations in the peloton on the northbound roads toward the coast of the North Sea.

Upon the return southward, riders will race over the Kemmelberg, first from the Belvedere side, which was part of the race last year, and later from the more challenging Ossuaire side, new to the route. The Ossuaire side of the prized cobbled ascent, Kemmelberg, is the steepest and longest side and has a maximum gradient of 23 per cent. 

Thus, the new sequence of successive ascents begins at the 90km mark and include the Scherpenberg, Baneberg, Monteberg, Kemmelberg (Belvedere), and again over the Scherpenberg, Baneberg, and the new Kemmelberg (Ossuaire) before the 34km to the finish in Wevelgem.

In its eight editions, Gent-Wevelgem Women has become a race of attrition. These two new decisive sections will no doubt play into the race's outcome, offering new opportunities to create race separations and flashpoints for attacks.

The first three editions were roughly 115km in length and Hall, Floortje Mackaij and Chantal van den Broek-Blaak won solo.

The race jumped to up 146km when it was added to the Women's WorldTour in 2017 and, for the first time, it was won from a bunch sprint with Lotta Henttala taking victory. Marta Bastianelli also secured the win in a dash to the line in 2018, as did Kirsten Wild in 2019. In the last two editions, Jolien D'hoore and Marianne Vos won from much more selective group sprints in Wevelgem.

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Although the race traditionally caters to the faster, punchy sprinters, the more demanding climbs in the later stages could yield a smaller selection on the run-in to Wevelgem.

The race could become more open to a small breakaway or a solo attempt. Should a reduced group make it over the last ascent of the Ossuaire side of the Kemmelberg, the riders will undoubtedly have tired legs that could favour aggressive riders like Elisa Longo Borghini, Lisa Brennauer or Kasia Niewiadoma. However, the world's best sprinters like Elisa Balsamo and Marta Bastianelli should have little difficulty in cresting the short climbs and will likely be reserved for a potential bunch finish.

Join Cyclingnews for live coverage of the 2022 Spring Classics, including Gent-Wevelgem Women, and check-in after each race for our full report, results, gallery, news and features.

The contenders 

WEVELGEM BELGIUM MARCH 28 Arrival Marianne Vos of Netherlands and Team Jumbo Visma Celebration Lisa Brennauer of Germany and Ceratizit WNT Pro Cycling Team Lotte Kopecky of Belgium and Team Liv Racing during the 10th GentWevelgem In Flanders Fields 2021 Womens Elite a 1417km race from Ypres to Wevelgem GWE21 GWEWomen FlandersClassic UCIWWT on March 28 2021 in Wevelgem Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) takes victory in the sprint at the end of the  2021 Gent-Wevelgem (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Gent-Wevelgem is just the second race back this road season for Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma), having dropped into the peloton at Strade Bianche as her first race back after securing her eighth cyclo-cross world title. In recent years it has usually taken at least a couple of races for Vos to re-establish her winning ways at the start of a new road season but, ever present near the front, there is always the potential she could be set to find the top step sooner this season.

Vos did have a solid first hit out for seventh at Strade Bianche and she is of course coming off the base of a stunning cyclo-cross season. Another element working in her favour this year is new teammate Coryn Labecki, providing another potential contender for Jumbo-Visma as well as a powerful ally.

Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx) has twice finished second in this race and with the confidence from that winning duel with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) at Strade Bianche, plus the powerful team she has behind her, this is certainly a season where there is a strong possibility she could move up to the top step. Her form is still clearly good, with Kopecky looking powerful at Brugge-De Panne as she set about the work of neutralising an attack and leading out the sprint for teammate Lonneke Uneken. The Belgian champion said the mid-week race was confirmation that after the hard training of the last few weeks, the “legs are really good”.

“The Ronde remains my main goal, but if I get the chance to finally win Gent-Wevelgem, I will certainly not miss out on it,” said the Belgian champion. Of course, as is usually the case at SD Worx, there are also other options for the team including 2016 winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak, who only just missed out on the podium at Trofeo Alfredo Binda last weekend.

Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) enters the race with the Women’s WorldTour lead, two wins in a row on the results sheet and she’ll also have valued teammate Elisa Longo Borghini back to help support her on the climbs. The World Champion, who finished just off the podium at this event last year, hasn’t set a foot wrong this week.

She even managed to save the day for the team with an unexpected sprint win at Brugge-De Panne after the designated leader for the day, Chloe Hosking, got caught up behind a crash. It would be an impressive feat if she could again pour on the finishing speed and carry her run of success to a third victory.

For Movistar, Le Samyn des Dames winner Emma Noorsgaard will be lining up with Arlenis Sierra, who came fourth in the race back in 2018. BikeExchange-Jayco newcomer Ruby Roseman-Gannon will be leading the line-up for the team alongside Alex Manly, reuniting the pair which proved a powerful combination for the team throughout the Australian summer racing and into the start of the European season.

Grace Brown, Marta Cavalli and Clara Copponi could prove a formidable trio for FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, presenting a solid set of options across varying scenarios to deliver on the aggressive racing style the team favours. It’s a strong line-up for Canyon-SRAM with Soraya Paladin, who took third at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, joined by the attacking power of Kasia Niewiadoma, experience of Tiffany Cromwell and Alice Barnes, who was eighth at Brugge-De Panne this week. Niewiadoma, too, is likely to enjoy the extra run up the Kemmelberg, with the Canyon-SRAM rider pushing the pace up the cobbled climb alongside Trek-Segafredo's Longo Borghini last year.

Sofia Bertizzolo (UAE Team ADQ), another rider we saw on the Trofeo Alfredo podium, is also one to look out for but so is her teammate Marta Bastianelli. Bastianelli took third at Classic Brugge-De Panne on Thursday, won at Gent-Wevelgem in 2018 and has finished in the top five of the race in all but one of her five race starts. Plus the 34 year old has so often managed to be at the front when it counts this season, with three wins and another three podium places already added to her tally.

Another rider who has four times been in the top five at this race is Lisa Brennauer, and while its hard to judge what form the Ceratizit-WNT rider will be bringing into the race as it is her season debut, last year’s third-placed finisher certainly has the results on the board at this event. Last but certainly not least is Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM), always one of the most feared rivals when it comes down to a sprint. Wiebes may have been just beaten to the punch by Balsamo at Classic Brugge-De Panne but before that it was a three-race run of victories, so if she’s there in the bunch for a sprint at the end the 23 year-old rider will be in focus for the win.

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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.

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