Preview: Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields 2024 

Established in 2012, the women’s edition of Gent-Wevelgem takes place in the south-west of Belgium, taking in – as the name suggests – the wide open fields of West Flanders, along with some challenging cobbled climbs, before a long, flat run-in to the finish line in Wevelgem.

While the race is flat enough to potentially result in a bunch sprint – Elisa Balsamo won from a sprint in 2022 – there are also opportunities for breakaway attacks. The inaugural edition of the race was won by Lizzie Deignan (then Armitstead) from 40km out. Last year, Team SD Worx scored a victory following a long-range solo attack from Marlen Reusser, who won with over two and a half minutes on the rest of the bunch. With a back-loaded profile and the opportunity for echelons as the women traverse Flanders Fields, there are plenty of places to lose the race, as well as multiple opportunities to win it.

The 13th edition of Gent-Wevelgem takes place on Sunday 24 March 2024. It will be the 9th round of the 2024 Women’s World Tour.

 

The Route (Ypres-Wevelgem, 171km)

Contrary to the name, both the men’s and the women’s version of Gent-Wevelgem actually begin in Ypres, in the south-west of Belgium. The women begin the race with a long loop around Flanders Fields. Beginning in Ypres and travelling north, before heading west, then returning south again, the loop covers the open expanse of the fields of the south of Belgium and while the first 100km of the race are largely flat, the exposed nature of the roads may give rise to challenging riding conditions, if the crosswinds come out to play. Teams will need to stay alert for the possibility of echelons in the early to mid stages of the race, as any gaps that open up will be difficult to close down heading into the second phase of the race.

Moving into the much lumpier Heuveland after around 100km of racing, the peloton will cover a section of twisting parcours of around 30km, taking in a number of cobbles and climbs. The route takes two loops around the same circuit featuring a series of bergs, the most famous of these being the Kemmelberg. Just 700m in length, it’s the gradually increasing punishing gradient that makes the climb infamous – that and the fact that it is the highest point in West Flanders. With an average pitch of 10.4% but a maximum of 21%, the Kemmelberg provides a launchpad for the bold to punch their way away from the rest – though there’s still a long way go until the finish.

Following the second ascent of the Kemmelberg the race enters its final phase, heading away from the hills and east towards Wevelgem. The final 40km of the race are relatively flat.

 

Riders to Watch

It’s becoming a cliché, but it’s hard to look part Team SD Worx-ProTime when considering favourites for the race. While they do not bring defending champion in Marlen Reusser, they have named both World Champion Lotte Kopecky and top sprinter Lorena Wiebes on the team sheet, not to mention European champion Mischa Bredewold, meaning that it’s going to take something truly special to beat the Dutch powerhouse. Which of their riders they deploy depends upon the kind of race that unfolds, but needless to say it’s likely they will all play a role at the sharp end of proceedings.

If anyone has the resources to try and break them down, it will be Lidl-Trek. With Ellen van Dijk back in the peloton following her maternity leave, they have a rider capable of controlling the pace and limiting losses in potential crosswind situations. 2022 winner Elisa Balsamo is present for the team in the event of a bunch sprint, and 2023 Trofeo Alfredo Binda champion Shirin van Anrooij has proven she has the mettle to go the distance in a challenging one-day race. Add to this the experience and pedigree of Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan, and they could be the ones to meet the unstoppable force of SD Worx with a metaphorical immovable object.

Canyon//SRAM will have a strong all-round team as usual. They lead with American Chloe Dygert, who has had a relatively late start to her season, and young powerhouse Zoe Backstedt who will be hoping to make an impression on the classics in her first year with the team. UAE Team ADQ have punchy and sprint options in their side, with Chiara Consonni who has been riding well so far this season, and Silvia Persico, who has upset the favourites in the past with her explosive riding style. FDJ-SUEZ lead with Grace Brown and Team dsm-firmenich PostNL are another team who look formidable on paper, with both British champion and classics specialist Pfeiffer Georgi and sprinter Charlotte Kool among their number.

As far outsiders for the win, Lotto-DSTNY Ladies bring in form sprinter Thalita de Jong, and Liv Jayco Alula have options, with Australian champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon and fast women Letizia Paternoster. Visma-Lease A Bike will give a season debut to cyclocross World Champion Fem van Empel. The young Dutchwoman has a strong turn of pace and is one to watch when it comes to the classics. Speaking of off-road riders, Fenix-Deceuninck’s Puck Pieterse has proven herself a force to be reckoned with over the past few races, achieving a podium place in both the Ronde van Drenthe and Trofeo Alfredo Binda – the rest of the bunch would be rise not to overlook her.

 

Riders to watch

5-stars Lotte Kopecky, Lorena Wiebes, Elisa Balsamo

4-stars Elisa Longo Borghini, Chloe Dygert, Puck Pieterse

3-stars Mischa Bredewold, Grace Brown, Pfeiffer Georgi

2-stars Shirin van Anrooij, Lizzie Deignan, Chiara Consonni

1-star Thalita de Jong, Fem van Empel, Ariana Fidanza

 

Summary

When – Sunday 24 March 2024

Where – Belgium

What – One-day race

TV Coverage: Discovery+, Eurosport

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