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65th Gent-Wevelgem - 1.HC
Belgium, April 9, 2003
By Tim Maloney, European editor
With a new start in Deinze's Grote Markt for 2003, Gent-Wevelgem is a mid-week 204 km sprinter's classic, and always a great place for the speed merchants in the pro peloton to strut their stuff between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. And who better to strut to a possible 4th win but World Champ Mario Cipollini (Domina Cacanze-Elitron), who won last year in fine style from two Americans, Fred Rodriguez and 2001 winner George Hincapie.
But both Rodriguez and Hincapie will be absent this year (Rodriguez's Vini Caldirola-Sidermec team was not invited, and Hincapie is out of the 2003 classics with a respiratory virus), but that doesn't mean that Cipo will have a cakewalk to victory. 10 years ago, Cipo was looking for back to back wins in Gent-Wevelgem. Now with a decade on top as the world's number one sprinter, a powerful team behind him and the rainbow jersey on his back, it's hard not to see Cipo on top again in Gent-Wevelgem on Wednesday.
Runner up at Gent-Wevelgem in 2000 and third in 2001, Tour of Flanders winner Peter Van Petegem (Lotto-Domo) will not be racing Gent-Wevelgem this year, preferring to concentrate on next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. That will put Lotto-Domo's focus on Australian Robbie McEwen, as he's proven he's one of the few riders who can beat Mega Mario in a sprint. Two-time G-W winner Tom Steels (Landbouwkredeit-Colnago) used to be able to make the same claim. Steels skipped Flanders to be ready for the midweek classic and he's is looking for a breakthrough win this season. Fassa Bortolo's Alessandro Petacchi could also be a threat to Cipo. The other classy Tuscan sprinter wants to kick-start his season with a Belgian victory.
Other possible candidates for the winner's bouquet could be the always dangerous Oscar Freire (Rabobank), USPS-Berry Floor's Max van Heeswijk, Team CSC's Kickin' Kiwi Julian Dean, awesome Aussie Baden Cooke and Telekom's Erik Zabel.
With cool, sunny weather predicted and an easterly wind, the first half of Wednesday's Gent-Wevelgem will speed west through Johan Museeuw's home town of Gistel, out to the coast at Oostende, then south along the North Sea until De Panne after 90km, when the parcours will turn east. The strong wind will hit the riders on the left shoulder and doubtless provoke numerous echelons as the parcours twists and turns towards the finish in Wevelgem. Once in the heart of West Flanders, the peloton will have to climb the tough cobbles of the Kemmelberg twice, then head back to the finish in Wevelgem.
Cyclingnews will be covering the race live from 14:00 CEST/8:00 EDT/5:00 PDT/22:00 AEST.
2002 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Acqua e Sapone 207 kms in 4.39.00 (44.731 km/h) 2001 George Hincapie (USA) U.S. Postal Service 215 kms in 5.00.50 2000 Geert van Bondt (Bel) Farm Frites 214 kms in 5.01.03 1999 Tom Steels (Bel) Mapei-Quick Step 208 kms in 5.15.53 1998 Frank Vandenbroucke (Bel) Mapei-Bricobi 208 kms in 5.21.21 1997 Philippe Gaumont (Fra) 1996 Tom Steels (Bel) 1995 Lars Michaelsen (Den) 1994 Wilfried Peeters (Bel) 1993 Mario Cipollini (Ita) 1992 Mario Cipollini (Ita) 1991 Djamolidine Abduschaparov (Usb) 1990 Herman Frison (Bel) 1989 Gerrit Solleveld (Ned) 1988 Sean Kelly (Ire) 1987 Teun Van Vliet (Ned) 1986 Guido Bontempi (Ita) 1985 Eric Vanderaerden (Bel) 1984 Guido Bontempi (Ita) 1983 Teun Van Vliet (Ned) 1982 Frank Hoste (Bel) 1981 Jan Raas (Ned) 1980 Henk Lubberding (Ned) 1979 Francesco Moser (Ita) 1978 Ferdinand Van den Haute (Bel) 1977 Bernard Hinault (Fra) 1976 Freddy Maertens (Bel) 1975 Freddy Maertens (Bel) 1974 Barry Hoban (GB) 1973 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1972 Roger Swerts (Bel) 1971 Georges Pintens (Bel) 1970 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1969 Willy Vekenmans (Bel) 1968 Walter Godefroot (Bel) 1967 Eddy Merckx (Bel) 1966 Herman Vanspringel (Bel) 1965 Noél De Pauw (Bel) 1964 Jacques Anquetil (Fra) 1963 Benoni Beheyt (Bel) 1962 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1961 Frans Aerenhouts (Bel) 1960 Frans Aerenhouts (Bel) 1959 Leon Van Daele (Bel) 1958 Noél Fore (Bel) 1957 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1956 Rik Van Looy (Bel) 1955 Alberic Schotte (Bel) 1954 Rolf Graf (Swi) 1953 Raymond Impanis (Bel) 1952 Raymond Impanis (Bel) 1951 André Rossel (Bel) 1950 Alberic Schotte (Bel) 1949 Marcel Kint (Bel) 1948 Valeré Ollivier (Bel) 1947 Maurice Desempelaere (Bel) 1946 Ernest Sterckx (Bel) 1945 Robert Van Eenaeme (Bel) 1939 André Declerck (Bel) 1938 Hubert Godart (Bel) 1937 Robert Van Eenaeme (Bel) 1936 Robert Van Eenaeme (Bel) 1935 Albert Debreitere (Bel) 1934 Gustave Van Belle (Bel) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com