This year’s course is seventeen kilometres longer than last year’s. The women will cover 159 kilometres and conquer a total of seven slopes. The unpaved sections – also known as plug streets – have been removed. De Moeren will replace them, just like in the men’s course. The wind has free play on this flat stretch, which could significantly impact the peloton early in the race. “In this course, the wind always plays a role”, Vos knows from experience. “It makes the race unpredictable and tough.”
After about 95 kilometres, the first hill section awaits. The riders will face the Scherpenberg, Baneberg, Monteberg and Kemmelberg. The latter is the most notorious of the four and appears after 125 kilometres. The women have to climb the mountain’s steep side for the first time, which means 800 metres of climbing over cobblestones at a ten percent gradient. The steepest part even involves a 23 percent gradient. The last 34 kilometers before the finish are entirely flat.
“Basically, all the obstacles we encounter along the way are challenging. As a result, it can go either way at the end.”
Vos is well aware of all the challenges the course of this Flemish cobblestone classic has to offer. “The Kemmelberg is the executioner which could break up the peloton. But actually, all the obstacles we encounter along the way are challenging. As a result, things can go either way in the race’s final phase. Gent-Wevelgem often ends in a sprint of a thinned-out group, but that’s not always the case. This year could be very different. In any case, it’s important to ride alert. Especially on the challenging parts we have to be in front to keep control. That’s easier said than done because it’s what everyone wants.”
Vos is looking forward to the start and feels empowered by her team. “We have a good team and in the final we can fight for the win with several riders. So we will certainly do that.”
The women’s edition of Gent-Wevelgem starts at 1:50 pm. The finish is expected at 6:10 pm.