Gent-Wevelgem’s 251-kilometers of racing includes; three climbs up the Kemmelberg and the road between Deinze and Wevelgem features 10 steep cobbled climbs. Those climbs annihilate the field throughout the day. Add in the race’s infamous gusting winds and rain from off the North Sea; and if the climbs and cobble don’t do it, the foul conditions will rip a field into small groups in no time. But for the sprinters, there is a chance. Gent-Wevelgem’s final flat 35km gives the peloton and sprinters one final chance to bring everything back together. So what will happen in 2019?
Right now, various weather services are predicting light rain and steady winds for West Flanders on Sunday. A small group or solo attack might just have the edge.
Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale)
My top pick. There’s no denying that Naesen is on top form this spring. Coming off a second-place finish at Milano-Sanremo last weekend, Naesen appears to have made a significant breakthrough at the cobbled classics. His team has the experience to keep him in it, does Naesen have the legs to finish?
Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)
Viviani’s tears of disappointment after his near miss last year at this race are hard to forget. He’s back for 2019 and appears to be in good form (four victories already this season). But, can Viviani survive all the day’s climbing in rainy, slippery conditions?
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Peter Sagan is not on his best form, but I wouldn’t count him out. Sagan has more victories (3) at Gent-Wevelgem than any other current rider, and experience counts in the classics. Sagan thrives off pressure and the pressure for him to kick off his season is high. Sagan made the front group at Milano-Sanremo, but there’s some question as to whether he has the legs to finish the sprint.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)
Wout van Aert, if given a wet and windy day at Gent-Wevelgem, could take the advantage and run with it. Van Aert is clearly on good form this spring (third at Strade Bianche and sixth at Milano-Sanremo). Pair his conditioning with his handling skills and he might be able to take off and stay off over the cobbles.