On Sunday the 28th of March, the 2021 editions of Gent-Wevelgem In Flanders Fields will take place.
Taking place primarily in West Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem is a race that is steeped in history both on and off the bike. The latter part of the name of the race is an allusion to John McCrae’s famous World War One poem with the same title.
Gent-Wevelgem is traditionally known as a sprinter’s classic. However, obstacles like the elements, echelons and climbs such as the Kemmelberg have the potential to split things up.
A season ago, Mads Pedersen claimed victory in the men’s race. On the women’s side of things, Jolien d’Hoore emerged victorious.
Both of these riders will be on the startline in 2021 to try to defend their titles. However, they will each be facing some tough competition from other favorites.
Men’s Race Favorites
According to betting odds from around the internet, Wout van Aert, Sam Bennett and Mads Pedersen are the biggest favorites for the 2021 title.
Wout van Aert may be the most talented rider in the men’s field on Sunday, but the same cannot be said about his team. That honor goes to Deceuninck – Quick Step, who have assembled an embarrassment of classics riches. Alongside Sam Bennett, Yves Lampaert, Davide Ballerini and Zdeněk Štybar could all win this race for DQS if they play their cards right. As we saw on Friday at E3, the Wolfpack has spent plenty of time perfecting the art of riding as a team in the spring classics. No matter how the race pans out on Sunday, Quick Step should have the numbers in any decisive groups.
Mads Pedersen will be a part of a dangerous Trek trio alongside Edward Theuns and Milano-Sanremo winner Jasper Stuyven. AG2R Citroën and Alpecin-Fenix will each have strong duos at the race in Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen and Jasper Philipsen and Tim Merlier.
The field for the men’s race is wide open, and there are a number of additional riders who could end up with the victory. Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb deserve a mention as previous winners of this race. Groupama – FDJ’s leader Arnaud Démare also has a second place finish to his name from back in 2014.
Women’s Race Favorites
As the defending champion riding for the strongest classics team, Jolien d’Hoore enters Gent-Wevelgem as the favorite. However, defending her title from a season ago certainly will not be easy.
Lotte Kopecky of Liv Racing finished second at this race a season ago. She has demonstrated some good form so far this season, and therefore must be listed among the favorites.
Ceratizit-WNT’s Lisa Brennauer was on the Gent-Wevelgem podium last season. She will also have plenty of backup in the form of 2019 winner Kirsten Wild.
Lorena Wiebes finished second at this race in 2019, and she will be leading Team DSM with the goal of reaching the top step on the podium this time around. Like Brennauer, she will also have the support of a former winner in Floortje Mackaij.
Marta Bastianelli is another former winner who deserves a mention ahead of the 2021 race.
Trek-Segafredo has a few different cards to play with Elisa Longo Borghini and Lizzie Deignan, while Jumbo-Visma’s Marianne Vos deserves a mention in just about any race she enters.
Emma Norsgaard is still only 21, but she has been knocking on the door of winning a big classic for a while now. Her most recent result was a second place at the Oxyclean Classic Brugge-De Panne on Friday.
Grace Brown of Team BikeExchange won that race ahead of Norsgaard on Friday. Brown has been on great form so far this season, so she should be another rider heading into Sunday with a lot of confidence.
Because of the nature of the course, we could see these races on Sunday be decided any number of ways. The most likely outcome in both races is probably a reduced bunch sprint. However, certain riders may decide they are better off trying their hand at a solo move in the closing kilometers.
It is possible that this race may come down to whether or not teams can cooperate well enough to prevent Quick Step and SD Worx from getting a numerical stranglehold on proceedings.
It should be a fascinating tactical affair as teams look to dictate key events and place their riders in the right moves.
My Picks: Wout van Aert and Lotte Kopecky
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