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Women’s Gent Wevelgem 2022 Race Preview

Chantal-Blaak-2016-Gent-Wevelgem

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Women's Gent Wevelgem Race History

The Women’s Gent Wevelgem has been running since 2012. Taking place on the same day as the men’s race, the women’s version starts from Ypres and finishes in Wevelgem. The route takes in the infamous Kemmelberg, although the women haven’t tackled the steepest Ossuary side until this year’s race. The flat run-in from the Kemmelberg to Wevelgem has seen split groups come back together and the race often finishes in a bunch sprint. That’s likely to happen again this year with a light headwind facing the riders after the Kemmelberg. The long run to the finish gives riders plenty of chance to get back to the front group.

From 2017 until 2021, the riders tackle two loops of a hilly circuit containing the Kemmelberg (Belvedere side), Baneberg and Monteberg. The Belvedere side of the Kemmelberg has usually been the toughest climb, being steep and cobbled. The Baneberg is short but very steep. Only 270 metres long but with the steepest part of 20%. Finally, the Monteberg is 0.7km long at 6%. 

Just like the men’s race, the recent addition of the gravel-covered Plugstreets has created a new challenge. Their inclusion was a nod to the First World War, with plenty of the fighting taking place in the area of the race. Despite being relatively smooth, the gravel sucks away a rider’s effort and creates tired legs. The women have tackled 3 stretches of gravel in the Women’s Gent Wevelgem previously but they won’t be on 2022’s route. Instead the route will head up to De Moeren for some windswept flat miles.

Originally lasting 120km, the Women’s Gent Wevelgem’s shorter distance has allowed more attacking racing. 2022’s race will be 159km long however. 

The first edition was won by Lizzie Deignan who attacked 40km from the finish line and won solo after being in an initial break of 4 riders. Floortje Mackaij won in 2015 from a small breakaway that held off the chasing peloton. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak also won with a solo break in 2016. The 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 editions have all been bunch sprints.

Previous Winners

2021
Marianne Vos
2020
Jolien d’Hoore
2019
Kirsten Wild

Race Profile

TV Coverage

Sunday 27th March 2022
Live on Eurosport & GCN
15:15-17:45 GMT

Twitter: #GWE22 or #GWEWomen

Women's Gent Wevelgem 2022 Contenders

The 2018 winner of Gent Wevelgem, Marta Bastianelli hasn’t finished lower than 5th here since 2016. She’s certainly been in form this year after maybe a slightly off 2021 season. With 3 wins to her name already, Bastianelli successfully negotiated all of the late drama to finish 3rd at De Panne this week. The Kemmelberg shouldn’t cause too many issues for an experienced rider used to its slopes.

We haven’t seen Lisa Brennauer racing yet in 2022 which is somewhat surprising. It may be that she’s aiming for a later season peak for the team sponsor’s main race at the Ceratizit Challenge. Brennauer has always done well at Gent Wevelgem with 3 visits to the podium. In fact, she’s on a podium streak after 3rd places in 2020 and 2021. As this is her first race of the year, there are naturally some question marks about whether she has the race fitness to repeat that this year.

As you’d expect from SD Worx they’ve got a number of options. You’d be backing Lotte Kopecky as the main option with a sprint finish on the horizon. The Belgian has been 2nd in both 2020 and 2021 and will feel like there’s unfinished business here. After winning at Strade Bianche and podiuming Ronde van Drenthe and Nokere Koerse she stands a chance. The attacking option will be the 2016 winner Chantal van den Broek-Blaak. She hasn’t finished in the top-10 here since 2017 but will always be up for putting pressure on other teams with an exploratory attack. If anything happens to Kopecky, their fallback options will be Lonneke Uneken and Elena Cecchini. Uneken was just 4th at De Panne and Cecchini 5th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

Trek Segafredo are throwing their own firepower at Gent Wevelgem. Elisa Balsamo is showing there absolutely isn’t a curse of the rainbow bands by winning 2 Women’s WorldTour races in a row. The difference in parcours between Trofeo Alfredo Binda and Brugge-De Panne makes those wins even more impressive. Expect to see her up there again. Teammate Chloe Hosking was supposed to be getting the lead sprint nod at De Panne but a late crash took her out of contention. It was a similar story back in Nokere Koerse too. Hosking has been on the podium here, back in 2015, but it doesn’t appear to be one of her best races. 

Ellen van Dijk will do much of the same role as Van den Broek-Blaak for SD Worx. Either she will be an elite domestique pulling back attacks or she will be making them herself. She only has a single top-10 finish here though, in 2016. Finally, for Trek, there’s Elisa Longo Borghini who doesn’t appear to be quite in her peak form yet. We’ve seen her make attacks but they’ve not quite been as powerful as some of her 2020 race-winning moves at this time of year. That suggests she’s focused on later Grand Tour related goals. She’ll be covering the attacks and working for Balsamo again at Gent Wevelgem.

As per usual, Team DSM will be trying to ensure Lorena Wiebes gets to the finish in the front group to sprint. It’s less locked on at Gent Wevelgem compared to other races with a 2nd place finish in 2019 mixed in with 62nd in 2021. I’m wondering if the inclusion of the ossuary side of the Kemmelberg will prove too hard at a crucial point of the race. It feels like an age since Floortje Mackaij won Gent Wevelgem as a 19-year-old back in 2015. We’ve seen her on a couple of podiums so far in 2022, with 3rd places at Omloop van het Hageland and Drentse Acht. She will probably be covering moves unless Wiebes gets dropped, at which point she may get free rein to attack. 

Kemmelberg summit
The view to the summit of the ossuary side of the Kemmelberg

It was a bit of a surprise that Marianne Vos had never won Gent Wevelgem until last year’s race. This year’s parcours feels even more suited to her skills with the additional steep cobbled climb up the Kemmelberg. She’s only raced once so far in 2022, back at Strade Bianche at the start of March where Vos was 7th. She is and always will be a contender here. Teammate Coryn Labecki has been 3rd here back in 2017 but has found it tougher going in the years since. She was able to negotiate the climbs successfully at Trofeo Alfredo Binda on her way to 6th place there. She should provide good support for Vos. 

Canyon SRAM are bring a strong team on paper but they don’t necessarily have a great track record at Gent Wevelgem. Alice Barnes has a best of 7th at Gent Wevelgem in 2017 and appears to be in some of the best early-season form of her career. Back to back WWT top-10s and 4 more at non-WWT races, this year is a great run. Lisa Klein has the best previous result by the team with 3rd in 2018. She’s been quieter though in 2022 so far. 5th in the TT at Bloeizone Fryslan set up a 6th place GC finish but her results in road races show she’s been working for team members. 

Soraya Paladin has a previous best here of only 35th but after finishing 3rd at Trofeo Alfredo Binda, she’s clearly in form. She could be a good outside bet. The team’s star rider Kasia Niewiadoma naturally doesn’t have the best record in a sprint heavy finish – the best finish of 19th. Similar to Vos, we’ve not seen her race since Strade Bianche a few weeks ago when she was 4th. Maybe she gets away on the Kemmelberg but it’s a tough ask to hold a gap from there to the finish.

This feels like it will be a Marta Cavalli race. She’s been 5th and 10th in previous editions and the extra climbing should suit her more than others. Cavalli’s certainly a rider who can sprint after a tough day of racing and there’s always a chance for a podium if the bunch is small enough at the end. We know what Grace Brown can do when attacking but the conditions probably aren’t conducive here this year. A headwind faces the riders after the Kemmelberg and that will make staying away very tough. If FDJ is able to get a number of riders to the end for a sprint finish then they’ve got Emilia Fahlin and Clara Copponi. Fahlin was 6th here in last year’s race and has largely been seen this year keeping Copponi out of trouble. After getting stuck behind the large crash at De Panne, Copponi did a great job getting back to the front group and contesting the sprint. She’s finished in the top-10 at every race she’s entered this season – that streak is now up to 5 races.

Clara Copponi (Medium)
Clara Copponi

Emma Norsgaard sneaked into the top-10 here last season with 9th place. The winner of Le Samyn des Dames has been on strong consistent form so far this season, finishing no lower than 6th in her 4 races. She doesn’t quite have the outright firepower of a Lorena Wiebes but is still strong enough to be considered a near-lock for the top-5 places. Teammate Arlenis Sierra could be useful here too after finishing 4th in the 2018 race. She DNFed her first race of the season, and for her new team, at Trofeo Alfredo Binda. That may mean the climbing here could be too much this early in the season.

Valcar will have the twin options of Silvia Persico and Chiara Consonni at Gent Wevelgem. Persico has been consistent, particularly on the hillier races so far this year. 8th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda is her best result but there was also a top-10 at Strade Bianche too. Unless the front group is small, there will probably be enough riders with better sprint to push her out of the top-10 here. Luckily the team has Chiara Consonni if it does come down to a bigger bunch sprint. She’s on a consistent run of 6 top-10 finishes in the month of March. So consistent in fact that Consonni has been 7th in 3 of those races. Expect to see a similar result if she can make it over the climbs successfully.

This is the sort of race that Susanne Andersen was signed by Uno-X to do well at. She’s had a rejuvenated season so far with strong results at almost every race. Her history at Gent Wevelgem is surprisingly not that great though. After a pair of DNFs early on in her career she was 98th last season whilst working for Wiebes. I’d expect to see her make it over the climbs in the front group this year and be sprinting for a top-10 finish. 

Women's Gent Wevelgem 2022 Outsiders

Ruby Roseman-Gannon 2022
Ruby Roseman-Gannon Photo Credit: Con Chronis

EF Education-TIBCO’s Letizia Borghesi was an impressive 9th at Nokere Koerse and has shown already that she can be at the pointy end of Belgian spring classic races. She has been further back on the hillier Italian races this season and I’m not sure this flat finish is quite ideal for Borghesi. She is still absolutely a rider to watch for though.

Ruby Roseman-Gannon has had a solid first spring classics season, with consistent results just outside of the top-10 in most races. I did debate adding her to the list of contenders but after being a DNS at Ronde van Drenthe there are just enough question marks to make her an outsider. We’ve seen her get over the Muur at the front of the race already in 2022 and if Roseman-Gannon can do the same with the Kemmelberg she’ll be up there in the sprint finish.

I’d tipped Julie de Wilde as a rider to watch at Brugge-De Panne and she sneaked into the top-20 in 19th place. She was just gapped as part of the chasing group that was affected slightly by the smaller crash late on, otherwise, she might’ve finished higher still. I’ve maybe got question marks about the hills here but I think we can definitely see De Wilde in the top-20 once more.

Finally, there’s AG Insurance-NXTG’s Julia Borgström. The Swedish rider has definitely moved up a level in 2022 with a series of consistent places nearer the front. She was 14th at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and 13th at GP Oetingen too. She’s not the strongest sprinter but finishing in the front group here will be another indicator of progress.

Top 3 Prediction