The parcours for the 2014 Gent-Wevelgem more than meets the billing for a cobbled Classic. At 233km, it is longer than yesterday’s E3-Harelbeke and with nine ‘hellingen’, as the brutal cobbled ramps are known, four of which are climbed twice, it will offer little in the way of respite.
Despite retaining its historic name, the riders last began an edition of Gent-Wevelgem in Gent some 10 years ago. Since 2004, the riders have rolled out from the town of Deinze, and tomorrow will be no different. Almost the first half of the race is flat and the breakaway specialists and wildcard teams seeking exposure for their sponsors are likely to use the favourites’ desire to conserve energy for the hellingen ahead to make hay while the road is flat.
The Casselberg, reached after 114km of racing, will represent the first serious challenge, and the second, as the riders greet its slopes twice on a circuit. A quartet of bergs then follows, each hard on the heels of the last, with the Catsberg, Baneberg, Kemmelberg, and Monteberg among the challenges faced in what is likely to be a critical part of the race.
A flat 25km section will offer the riders some respite before a final three climbs – second ascents of the Baneberg, Kemmelberg, and the Monteberg. With the climbing finished, and a flat 35km remaining, the sprinters’ teams will be chasing down any rider or group enough to have gained a gap on the preceding ascents.