The Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic celebrated its 75th edition in frigid conditions. Despite freezing temperatures and a stiff wind, the race went ahead.
The only compromise the organiser made was to cut out the first 47.5 kilometres to Gistel. It made the decision yesterday ahead of a forecasted snowstorm.
“As long as the roads are clean and dry, it’s okay. When the roads get bad, you’re better off not racing,” Sky’s sports director, Servais Knaven told Cycling Weekly.
“It’s minus two and windy, but we’re going ahead.”
Just like Milan-San Remo, the team buses played an important part in today’s Ghent-Wevelgem. After the riders signed the start sheet in Deinze, they climbed back into the warmth of the team buses for a ride to Gistel.
“In these weather conditions, it’s the same to have a race of 190 kilometres or 240 kilometres,” race president Luc Gheysens explained.
“We want to respect the riders, they’ve already been through a horrible Milan-San Remo, a tough Waregem [Dwars door Vlaanderen], and a very tough E3 Harelbeke.”
It is the first time since 1952 that the organiser had to adjust the Ghent-Wevelgem route.
“It’s a good move on the organiser’s part,” Allan Peiper, BMC’s performance director explained. “The riders have been through a lot in the last couple of weeks.”
“We were all happy with making the race shorter,” Knaven added. “What was already a good sign that they think of the riders.”
The 198 riders looked like bandits and mummies when they rolled away this morning. Their faces were wrapped, heads well covered and bodies under thick clothes.
Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) tested heated gloves powered by rechargeable batteries. Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and team-mate Adam Blythe, once the day wore on, went barehanded.
“They are all putting on extra layers,” Knaven said.
“We don’t have [the heated gloves], but we do everything possible to stay warm. It’s better to have too many clothes on than to be cold.”
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the race after launching a solo attack in the final four kilometres from an 11-rider lead group.