SD Worx’s Marlen Reusser took her first major classics victory at this year’s Gent Wevelgem Women in storming fashion. Attacking at the summit of the Baneberg, Reusser simply wasn’t seen again as she pulled out a gap and the chasing bunch never sorted out a coherent chase. The Swiss rider took advantage with 40km to race and never looked back. Bar a mishap entering Wevelgem where she managed to take a wrong turn, the win was not in doubt from the moment the Kemmelberg was crested for the final time.
The 2023 edition of Gent Wevelgem will be remembered for the chaos caused by the sheer volume of crashes on a wet and murky day. Surprisingly not windy, the conditions still made the Flemish lanes hazardous and the infamous ‘ridge of death’ on the Belgian roads catching out a good few riders. An early break by Pien Limpens livened up the first 30km, but as the only rider to go clear it was unfortunately not going to last too long. The peloton seized control again going through De Meuren before Norwegian champion Malin Eriksen also went solo. Her break didn’t last as long but helped her avoid the series of crashes taking place in the bunch.
Another major crash saw the likes of Marta Bastianelli and this week’s Classic Brugge – De Panne winner Pfeiffer Georgi caught up and needing to chase back to the bunch. They were not alone as Gabrielle Pilote-Fortin required medical attention as well. The first ascent of the Kemmelberg saw Lotte Kopecky, Kasia Niewiadoma and Anna Henderson gain a gap. The trio were then joined by around ten more riders which effectively killed the move.
And so we reached the point where Marlen Reusser went clear on the Baneberg. She wasn’t first into the bottom but an EF Education-TIBCO rider, possibly Letizia Borghesi appeared to be in the wrong gear and lost all her speed and a pair of Jumbo-Visma riders just watched Reusser go. The move was all the more interesting to see because Reusser had come to a gentle fall on the previous ascent after misjudging the edge of the road. Coming off the Baneberg, the gap shot up quickly and it wasn’t long until the Swiss rider had 30 seconds.
From there, it was always going to be a tough ask to catch the World Champs TT runner-up, especially with a helpful wind. As the chasing group couldn’t organise itself, the gap rose up to 2 and a half minutes, making it an impossible task. Eventually, there were some attacks from the chasing group which saw a small group including Trofeo Alfredo Binda winner Van Anrooij, a returning Georgi (who had unfortunately crashed again) and Anna Henderson again. However, this group would be caught in the final metres of the race.
A strange crash on the run-in saw Lorena Wiebes move up on the inside, lose balance on the lip of tarmac and spear into teammate Elena Cecchini taking them both down. Wiebes has a suspected injury to her hand as a result. She wouldn’t be alone in sustaining an injury in this year’s Gent Wevelgem, Brodie Chapman has confirmed that she has fractured her S3 vertebrae.
Whilst Reusser had plenty of time to celebrate her victory, it was a bunch sprint that we might’ve expected at the start of the day that decided the podium spots. Megan Jastrab sprinted for a long time but held onto 2nd place and a photo finish for 3rd saw Maik van der Duin just pip Karlijn Swinkels for that final spot. Both riders had been impressive back at Classic Brugge – De Panne as well.
“I am super happy, but I am so tired that my head is not quite there yet. I didn’t attack, I thought maybe we could sort it out a little bit, maybe we could make it a small group. But no one was in my wheel. Then I thought, let’s just try something. It was very, very tough. Especially my arms. I can’t even dress myself, I’m all done. We have such a strong team, we had maybe six maps to play. So at some point, we had to do something. We had such a surplus in this group, I think we were there with almost the entire team. So we had to play the game, but yes, I thought for sure: it is still a long way to the finish line.
I don’t know what happened [when I took the wrong turn], I didn’t see the people pointing the direction. I went straight. That was my mistake, that wasn’t so good. I was not concentrated. Was there panic? No, but I was a little angry. I felt like they didn’t show well that a turn was coming. So I thought, why don’t you show me better? Because it is not nice to lose seconds like that.
I was so devastated, so I really wanted to know if I really should go full throttle or if I could take it a little bit more relaxed. But with one kilometre to go, I understood that it was probably going to work. But even at three hundred, four hundred meters, I looked back to make sure no one was coming.”Marlen Reusser
“The last meters had to come from my toes, but I think everyone had that at the end. At such a moment it is just who has the most left. In the winter I always evaluate things from the previous season to see what I can do better next year. But the biggest change is the shift change. And for the rest? Just tell me.
I know I can compete for the win in a sprint if I survive the hill zone first. The hill zone is really the hardest part of the course for me at the moment. If I put all my energy into that and try to arrive as fresh as possible, then you hope to be able to sprint with it afterwards. That was the case today. It is a combination of positioning, good form and a good team. It just all fell together.”Maike van der Duin
2023 Gent Wevelgem Women result
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