Riding is Life
Lights

Comments

A pack of riders navigates the dirt (or mud in this case) Plugstreet section of the 2023 Gent-Wevelgem. The black and white image shows the riders in a pack, close together almost as if huddled for warmth, as tall trees and mist press in on both sides.

Gent-Wevelgem will have WEATHER

After last year's cold soak, more of the same – plus wind! – is on tap for the 2024 edition.

Joe Lindsey
by Joe Lindsey 23.03.2024 Photography by
Kristof Ramon
More from Joe +

After last year’s nasty conditions at Gent-Wevelgem, any riders hoping for a reprieve in 2024 will be sorely disappointed. In fact, the weather may even be worse, and could play an outsize role in shaping both the men’s and women’s races.

Normally we think of weather concerns in the Classics as rain, which makes cobbles and corners slick. And the good news is that while Sunday will likely have that, with roughly 50% chance of showers throughout much of the day, it likely won’t be as wet as last year. But the major factor that is more likely to affect racing this time around is the wind.

This close to the event, weather models have mostly converged on a prediction of a steady 25-32 km/h (15-20 mph) wind out of the west-northwest, gusting to 50 km/h (30 mph) throughout much of the day.

With the race’s loosely counterclockwise loop from the start in Ieper to Veurne and back to the bergs near the French border, that means the first half of the race in particular will be marked by a strong cross/headwind, which will likely increase as they near the North Sea coast. The pack will get a respite of sorts after the turn back south roughly 100 km in, but their western heading entering the first cobbles – the Beauvoordestraat and Veurnestraat – could be an opportune time for early selections. And a southwestern jag in the run-in to the day’s first major obstacles, the Scherpenberg/Baneberg combo, will put the riders facing a cross/head again.

Alexander Kristoff sits at the finish line of the 2023 Gent-Wevelgem race. He is covered in grit, his glasses, face, and jersey speckled with grime and his jersey and balaclava soaked. He has a grim expression.
A long day at the office last year for Alexander Kristoff.

It’s impossible to predict exactly how things will play out, of course. But with temperatures expected to be only 5-10° C / 40-50° F, riders will have to work hard to stay warm if they get wet. And constant vigilance to maintain position could make for nervous racing in the early going as riders try to stay up front and clear of crashes or splits that could see them stuck in chasing echelons.

With 1,300 meters of climbing for the men and about 850 for the women, Gent-Wevelgem is not a particularly difficult profile. But it is long; the men will race 253 km while the women do 171 km, and in conditions that will tax bodies every bit as much as does more relentless climbing. It’s worth remembering that in last year’s race, women’s winner Marlen Reusser went clear with 40 km to go, while in the men’s race, the Jumbo-Visma duo of Wout van Aert and winner Christophe Laporte broke away with 53 km to go.

With a tailwind expected for the final 30-odd kilometers, a peloton reduced by fatigue, crashes, and splits will be vulnerable to bold, long-range attacks again.

What did you think of this story?