“Belgium’s Holy Week has arrived. The time of the year where strong—and brave—riders win iconic races. Every rider dreams of that.” Elena Cecchini.
After yesterday’s Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne, Belgium’s cobbled classics escalate from Sunday’s Gent Wevelgem and Wednesday’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen, to the pinnacle, Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday 7 April.
Cecchini will line up in this weekend’s Women’s WorldTour Gent Wevelgem race alongside Alice Barnes, Hannah Barnes, Kasia Niewiadoma, Alexis Ryan and last year’s third placed Lisa Klein.
The 136.9km race takes in six climbs, including twice the cobbled slopes of the Kemmelberg, and several gravel road sectors, but Hannah Barnes anticipates an unpredictable race.
“The Kemmelberg is the main focus for a lot of riders but last year the cross winds in the final 15km was where the race was won and lost,” recalled Barnes.
“You have to stay concentrated throughout the race. The race has been won with a solo attack and it’s been won out of a bunch sprint. Even an all-round type of rider can do well on Sunday.”
After Barnes finished sixth in 2018 and the 25-year-old believes her team has a good chance of success.
“We are a determined group who can do well in all kinds of scenarios that may arise in this race. I believe that gives us an advantage. We all have one goal and will do everything we can to achieve that.”
Third in 2018 was Barnes’ teammate, Klein. The 22-year-old is the only CANYON//SRAM Racing rider who will line up in all four races: yesterday’s Driedaagse De Panne, Gent Wevelgem, Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Ronde Van Vlaanderen. After one podium, one DNF and two mid-field results in these same races last year, Klein isn’t deterred. There’s an air of confidence and focus from the German rider.
“My shape is much better compared to last year. The spring classics are my absolute favourite races and suited to my strengths. The character of these races with all the cobbles, steep and short climbs, it often requires a long and powerful sprint at the end of a tiresome race,” said Klein.
“I love Gent Wevelgem as a race. We already have a good tactic and I cannot wait to contribute to this plan with all the power I have. Road season is finally on!”
Elena Cecchini: “Gent Wevelgem is when Holy Week in Belgium really starts! It’s a nice race for me to get back into the swing of the classics style of racing since Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month.”
Alice Barnes: “It’s become tougher in the last years with added gravel sections and climbs. Add wind to the race and you just have to be ready for everything.”
Kasia Niewiadoma: “Gent Wevelgem is a great race to test your legs before Flanders!”
How to follow Gent Wevelgem
When: Sunday 31 March | start 10:10CET | finish 13:57CET
Where: 136.9km from Ieper to Wevelgem, Belgium
How: on Twitter with #UCIWWT and #GWEwomen. Livestream the full race on VRT, Sporza, FloBikes, IMG broadcasters, and without geo-blocking on Proximus Sports Facebook page.