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66th Gent-Wevelgem - 1.HC

Belgium, April 7, 2004

2003 results     Preview    Start List     Past winners

Gent-Wevelgem: A race against the wind

By Jeff Jones

Andreas Klier
Photo: © AFP
Click for larger image

With the strong 50 km/h NW winds predicted to continue through the week, this year's edition of Gent-Wevelgem will be another severe test for the northern classics specialists. Although there are far fewer climbs than in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the race will likely split to pieces once it hits Oostende and makes its way down the Flemish coastline to De Panne. Those who survive the crosswinds still have to negotiate two ascents of the notorious Kemmelberg, before starting the final tailwind run back to Wevelgem.

For the second time in a row, the race will start in Deinze's Grote Markt, a change from the old start in Gent's Citadelpark. Although not quite as scenic as Gent, the start in Deinze will no doubt attract throngs of people, eager for a photo or autograph from one of the stars.

Who will be there this year? Normally, riders who do the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix also include Gent-Wevelgem on their program, depending on their condition and ambitions. Last year's winner was Andreas Klier (T-Mobile), who beat Henk Vogels and Tom Boonen in a three up sprint. Boonen and Quick.Step would like to turn the tables this year, after Sunday's Ronde didn't go quite according to plan. But Klier, who finished 6th in the Ronde, will also have the company of Ronde winner Steffen Wesemann, along with Sergei Ivanov and Daniele Nardello in his team, and T-Mobile will be a squad to watch closely.

Quick.Step-Davitamon will start with Tom Boonen, Stefano Zanini, Servais Knaven and Johan Museeuw, with the latter riding his last G-W and hoping to make it count. Paolo Bettini is noticeably absent from the Quick.Step roster. The Italian crashed badly in this race last year and missed the rest of the spring season. No unnecessary risks are being taken this year.

The 2003 start in Deinze
Photo: © CN
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A look at the past winners list shows that Gent-Wevelgem is suited to the sprinters, and the start list for this year's race reveals a few candidates. Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) was in one of the mid-race breaks in Flanders, and has proven that he can sprint as well as ride in the wind. In the absence of three time winner Mario Cipollini, Domina Vacanze will be looking for Giovanni Lombardi and Andrus Aug to bring home the bacon.

Lampre's sprinter Luciano Pagliarini will start, although Romans Vainsteins is probably a better candidate in the wind. Alessio-Bianchi will be relying on Fabio Baldato, who hasn't had the best of luck in this classics season. Rabobank's Oscar Freire is definitely a strong candidate, after his 23rd place in Flanders with a bloodied nose. He is in good shape at the moment, and may be able to add his name to the Gent-Wevelgem winners list. Failing that, Rabobank still has Steven de Jongh for a sprint.

US Postal-Berry Floor's director Dirk Demol says that the team is focusing more on Paris-Roubaix than Gent-Wevelgem, hence will replace Stijn Devolder with Ryder Hesjedal in the squad. 2001 winner George Hincapie remains, although his eyes will be looking towards Roubaix as well.

Klier on the Kemmel
Photo: © Jeff Tse
Click for larger image

If he's recovered from his crash in the Ronde, Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com) wants to have a try at winning this mid-week classic. Cooke had to have four stitches in his elbow after a crash, but will in all probability line up in Deinze for the start.

Last but not least, Jaan Kirsipuu (Ag2r) showed in the Ronde that he is certainly good enough to make the selection in a 200 km classic, although he was not quite strong enough for the full 257 km of the Ronde. Kirsipuu can sprint and he is excellent in the wind. It could be his turn in Gent-Wevelgem this year.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be providing live coverage of the 66th Gent-Wevelgem starting from 14:00 CEST (Europe)/8:00 EDT (USA)/5:00 PDT (USA)/22:00 AEST (Australia).

Past winners

2003  Andreas Klier (Ger) Team Telekom             204 kms in 4.29.00 (45.502 km/h)
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