Ghent-Wevelgem 2013: The Big Preview
Sunday (March 24) marks the 75th edition of the Ghent-Wevelgem semi-Classic that Belgian superstar Tom Boonen will enter as defending champion.
The 32-year-old will ride alongside new Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Mark Cavendish for the second time this season after last weekend's Milan-San Remo.
Last year, Boonen edged out Peter Sagan and Matti Breschel in a small group sprint to claim his third career title last year having also won E3-Harelbeke two days prior.
Twelve months ago the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix champion had notched five wins in the run-in but is still looking to open his season account. Boonen suffered a setback in January where he required emergency surgery on a septic elbow infection.
Sagan [Cannondale] missed a golden opportunity to win Milan-San Remo Sunday, where he finished second to Gerald Ciolek [MTB-Qhubeka], having made a tactical error. After a superb start the Slovak will no doubt be looking for revenge as will Fabian Cancellara [RadioShack Leopard], who was third behind the Tour de France green jersey champion in Italy.
Boonen spearheaded a group of 13 riders that contested the Ghent-Wevelgem finish last season, which included Australian Matt Goss [Orica-GreenEdge] who has form.
The peloton will again tackle the decisive and iconic Kemmelberg twice - once at the 174km and then again at 192km mark of the 235.5km race.
The event is historically one for sprinters but a route variation in 2010 has lent itself somewhat more to the Classics men. Boonen won the last big group sprint of some 30 plus riders, and on the current course, in 2011.
In the event of a mass finish his Belgian-based squad also has an option in Cavendish. The Manxman's main goal of the season is Grand Tour success but Wevelgem remains outstanding on an old list of races he'd like to win.
The route this year will incorporate the Ypres in recognition a World War I anniversary. Ypres will double as the start of the second edition women's race.
Sky will continue its Classics experiment in Belgium. The British squad has focused more on specific training and less on racing in an effort to try and win a one-day title this spring. The approach seems to be working at least for Ian Stannard, who was a protagonist at Milan-San Remo, and team-mate Mathew Hayman, who finished third at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Both are set to race this weekend.
When Sunday, March 24
Ghent-Wevelgem 2013: Climbs
Ghent-Wevelgem 2013: Teams
BMC Racing Team
Ghent-Wevelgem 2013: TV coverage
Ghent-Wevelgem is not being shown on British Eurosport
Ghent-Wevelgem: Recent winners
2012: Tom Boonen
2011: Tom Boonen
2010: Bernhard Eisel
2009: Edvald Boasson-Hagen
2008: Oscar Freire
2007: Marcus Burghardt
2006: Thor Hushovd
2005: Nico Mattan
2004: Tom Boonen
2003: Andreas Klier
Ghent-Wevelgem: Last year's top ten (2012)
1. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 5-32-44
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
3. Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank
4. Oscar Freire (Spa) Katusha
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan
7. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil-DCM
8. Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
9. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini
10. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar all same time
58. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 2-33
70. Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky at 2-33
130. Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky at 10-01