Gent Wevelgem is a race synonymous with cycling with a history going back 80 years but its relationship with women’s cycling is still in its infancy. The first edition of the women’s Gent Wevelgem race was in 2012. 2014 will be the first year that the women’s race has a UCI classification. A fact that caused much consternation with the organisers of World Cup race, Trofeo Binda as both events take place on the same day. With the recent trend for men’s races adding a women’s editions of their races these disputes are likely to become a regular issue in the near future.
30th March 2014
Despite the race name, neither the men’s or women’s race start at or enter Gent. The women’s race doesn’t even get close to Gent, starting in Ieper, over 70 kilometres south-west of the city. The race weaves through the Flanders countryside in a haphazard fashion that races in the region often do.
The race features a number of climbs over ‘round’ hills of the region but it’s the infamous Kemmelberg that is the main feature of the race. The cobbled climb starts off shallow enough but the gradient touches almost 10% in the final kilometre. Yet the decent can be as much of a challenge as the climb with early sections with high-teen percentage gradients, excellent bike skills are essential to gain an advantage, especially in wet conditions.
Kemelberg is tackled twice in the women’s edition of Gent –Wevegem. The first time is early in the race at the 36km point followed quickly by Monteberg. The second time is in the final third, sandwiched between ascents of Baneberg and Monteberg, again. The final 40 kilometres are mostly flat to the finish, shared with the men’s race in Wevelgem.
A number of teams are fielding teams at both Trofeo Binda and Gent Wevelgem. Kirsten Wild will return with the Dutch national team as red-hot favourite to defend her title. Expect to see those with a greater aptitude for climbing to be in Italy and the more sprinty types to be appearing in Belgium.