Christophe Laporte improved on his 2nd place from last year’s Gent Wevelgem by taking victory this year. Aided by teammate Wout van Aert, the Jumbo-Visma pair went clear with just over 50km still to race and never looked likely to be caught. The win was agreed before the line, with Wout asking his teammate if he wanted to win, an offer that Laporte happily took up. In a blast from the past, sep Vanmarcke took the bunch sprint for the final spot on the podium.
Horrible weather dictated the early part of the race with the peloton leaving Ypres all wrapped up in jackets and gilets. A breakaway went clear early on and kept a decent gap. That helped them stay out of trouble with crashes in the peloton seeing early abandons. Filippo Ganna, so impressive at Milan San Remo crashed on a cobbled section and was forced to pull out. Poles Lukasz Wisniowski and Michal Kwiatkowski also suffered falls and took no further part in the race. Last year’s Biniam Girmay also crashed hard but was able to keep going.
The climbs of the Heuvelland saw the peloton thin out but it was the Kemmelberg that saw the winning move launched. The penultimate ascent of the race’s defining climb saw Jumbo-Visma move up into the base of the climb and only Ben Turner of Ineos Grenadiers was able to keep up with the acceleration before slowly falling back into the peloton.
By the time the pair reached the final Kemmelberg ascent, their gap was a minute and whilst Van Aert briefly distanced his teammate, he waited for Laporte and the gap held with just the main roads to Wevelgem left on the parcours. As the bunch accepted their fate, the gap rose up to over 2 minutes with attacks out of the bunch killing off any chase.
The pair rode arm-in-arm with plenty of time to celebrate, crossing the line in the agreed order.
“I can now say that I have won a great classic. Without detracting from any of my previous victories, this is one of the best victories of my career. I was already close last year, but I finally did it now. I am genuinely proud, also of the excellent work of the entire team. My gratitude to Wout is so great. That such a great champion puts his hand on his heart and grants me the victory is indescribable.
Maybe it looked easy to the outside world, but I can say that we really suffered today. The circumstances didn’t make it easy, but it’s all worth it. This is a nice prelude to next week, hopefully we can take our form to the next races”Christophe Laporte
“This is truly unbelievable. This victory is very much due to Christophe. He is such a great team player that it was an easy decision for me. He is not only a colleague, but also a very good friend. I have not forgotten all that he has done for me in the past. A few days ago we were talking about last year’s E3 Saxo Classic when we also crossed the finish line together.
We said something so unique would probably never happen again. Now we’re doing it again. It is hard to believe that we succeeded in this strong field. Everything came together today, with our plan unfolding perfectly. I will remember the moment we crossed the line together for a long time. To me, this feels like a collective victory.”Wout van Aert
2023 Gent Wevelgem result
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Main photo credit: Cor Vos