March 23, 2021
It's time for the 2021 edition of Flemish Cycling Week, a series of 5 races held each Spring. Today we're taking a look at two: Gent-Wevelgem, a "minor classic", is historically held on the last weekend in March. That's one week prior to the second monument of the year, the Tour of Flanders (or "Ronde van Vlaanderen") which in turn is normally held in early April.
This year, Flanders is April 4 - Easter Sunday. Gent-Wevelgem is Sunday, March 28. As we head into Flemish Cycling Week, let's preview the fields for these two races and take a look at the live stream information.
Gent-Wevelgem features a rolling profile that can be won in two ways - first, in a bunch sprint, or second, in a breakaway. The Men's start list therefore includes classics specialists (Philippe Gilbert, Davide Ballerini, Greg Van Avermaet) as well as world-class field sprinters (Sam Bennett).
On the women's side, the heavy hitters are of course present, like Elisa Longo Borghini. Cyclocross fans will want to keep a particular eye on team Ciclismo Mundial*, which features Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Sanne Cant, Manon Bakker, Yara Kastelijn, and Aniek van Alphen, tackling the road season during the cyclocross "off-season". Interesting to note: these are normally rivals during the cyclocross season, but here they'll be teamed up for Gent-Wevelgem! *Note: this team has just been renamed "Plantur-Pura" to reflect a new sponsor.
In 2020, Mathieu van der Poel eked out a victory over Wout van Aert in a two-up sprint. The 2020 edition was re-scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic to October, instead of the usual April date. Those two riders will certainly be favorites and marked men for the 2021 edition. A third rider, Julian Alaphilippe, would have been there too, except his race was ended by a dramatic crash with a race motorcycle. He broke his hand and ended his season.
That trio will surely be marked by other riders, which could give a better chance to an "outsider" like Peter Sagan. It's crazy to call him an outsider at this point in his career, but he's been slowed by his recovery from COVID-19, and may be less "marked" than he's been in the past.
Flanders has featured a women's edition for the past 15 years. Recent winners include Anna van der Breggen, Lizzie Deignan, Marianne Vos, and American fan favorite Coryn Rivera.
The USA streaming rights to Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders for 2021 both belong to FloSports, who offer the subscription FloBikes package. If you're a cyclocross fan, FloBikes is worth your consideration because they've acquired the rights to the 2021/22 UCI Cyclocross World Cup, in addition to a robust calendar of road races this Spring. To help you decide between the various streaming providers, check my review of the competing services: GCN+, FloBikes, and NBC's Gold Cycling Pass.
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