Gent-Wevelgem to remember World War I centenary with 2014 route
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gent-Wevelgem to remember World War I centenary with 2014 route

by Ben Atkins at 5:24 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics
 
Belgian memorial and British cemeteries to be passed in slightly changed course

gent-wevelgemNext year’s Gent-Wevelgem will mark the centenary of the start of World War I, Het Nieuwsblad reports, as a slightly amended route pays its respects to those who died on the terrain that it passes through. Much of the decisive action of the Flemish Semi-Classic takes place around the area of the Western Front, but certain changes have been made to the course to deliberately pass by some historic sites.

"We are not changing the character of the course," said Luc Gheysens, of organising club, Het Vliegend Wiel - the Flying Wheel. “Gent-Wevelgem is a Classic of wind and the hills of the Heuvelland area. It is not a preparation race, but a target in itself.”

The race was traditionally run on the Wednesday between the two big Sunday races of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, but was moved to the Sunday before the Ronde in 2010. This year’s race will be held on March 30th.

"It is the only Classic that is ridden in two countries, although both belong to the same region," Gheysens added, referring to the 80km of the course which takes place in French Flandres, as it crosses the border into France.

The major change to the course comes inside the first 50km when, rather than taking a northwesterly path to the port of Ostend then following the North Sea coast, it will take a more due westerly direction so as to pass the Belgian World War I memorial at Diksmuide.

Following the first of two ascents of the Kemmelberg - the cobbled hill that characterises the race - the course will pass through Ploegsteert [known to the British troops as Plugstreet - ed] near Menin, where there are several World War I cemeteries.

The Kemmelberg itself was used for artillery observation by French forces for much of the war, but saw fierce fighting in April 1918 when it was taken by the Germans during their massive spring offensive. It was taken back in September 1918 by British, French and American armies, and there is now a mass grave of some 5000 French troops at the top, as well as the 18-metre-high "Monument Aux Soldats Francais."

The French hilltop town of Cassel, whose climb is scaled twice from opposite sides, was the headquarters of both French and British armies during the conflict.

As usual, the peloton will pass through the ancient cloth-trading town of Ypres, which was the scene of so much bloodshed during World War I, and ride under the Menin Gate memorial to the missing.

The third edition of the women’s race - which will be part of the UCI elite calendar for the first time - will start in Ypres before passing through many World War I battlefields on its way to Wevelgem.

Gent-Wevelgem (WT) 233km

Hills
Casselberg (Mont Cassel), 115 km
Casselberg (Mont Cassel), 120 km
Catsberg (Mont des Cats), 137 km
Baneberg, 146 km
Kemmelberg, 154 km
Monteberg, 158 km
Baneberg, 185 km
Kemmelberg, 193 km

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