Gent-Wevelgem: Tom Boonen looking to claim record fourth victory
Last Updated: 24/03/13 7:53pm
Tom Boonen, centre, is looking for back-to-back victories
The "sprinters' Classic", Gent-Wevelgem is often one of the most exciting races on the calendar, playing a key role in Flemish Cycling Week and offering a hefty amount of UCI WorldTour points the winner.
The race is famous for attackers trying to derail the sprint trains as a number of the world's top fast men line up to add the race, which dates all the way back to 1934, to their palmares.
As is the case with the iconic Belgian Classics, a tightly knit cluster of climbs within a short space of time has the potential to cause splits in the bunch.
A slight reduction in the number of climbs on last year - from 11 to 10 - is unlikely to make the race any easier to tame.
Tom Boonen will be looking for a fourth win to take himself out on his own as the race's most successful rider.
The parcours heads west out of Deinze towards the coast and with the first "hellingen" climb not arriving until the 131km mark, a relatively flat start to the day should see an early attack move clear.
Upon reaching the outskirts of Oostende, the road follows the coastline south for about 30km and the moves back inland in search of ascents on which to test for splits in the bunch.
The first climb, the Casselberg, is tackled twice as the riders are taken on a small lap of Cassel, before the road heads into the first of two laps of a 15km circuit comprising of three "bergs" that will conspire to break up the race.
The Baneberg (163km) is first up, with positioning crucial ahead of the infamous Kemmelberg 8km further down the road and then the Monteberg at 175km. The Kemmelberg, in particular, is feared not only for its steep ramps, but also the descent off the top, which has seen many crashes down the years.
The riders then return back for a second loop, with a second attack of the Baneberg (181km) setting things up nicely for the run back to the Kemmelberg and its 23 per cent gradient.
At 46km from the finish, the climb will no doubt see some of the more opportunistic attackers chance their arm, while the sprinters' teams will have to be on their toes and ready to drag back the moves.
The final chance for escapees to make time is the final climb over the Monteberg. After that, while still undulating to begin with, a flatter run into Wevelgem should allow the peloton some crucial kilometres to drag back their opposition.
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, 4:29.10
2 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana, +28secs
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, same time
4 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, st
5 Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp) Vacansoleil, st
6 Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ, st
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, st
8 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
9 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Leopard, st
10 Andrey Amador (Crc) Movistar, st
18 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +40