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Dutch Bees sting again at wet, cold Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields

Jumbo-Visma duo flies away on Kemmelberg

Photo by: Sirotti

Last year, Christophe Laporte was the Gent-Wevelgem runner-up to Biniam Girmay two days after he was runner-up to teammate Wout Van Aert, the 2021 champion, in E3 Saxo Bank Classic. On Sunday’s cold, wet Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields, Laporte took the biggest triumph of his career, his 2022 Tour de France stage win aside. Jumbo-Visma has now claimed five out of the 12 rounds of the 2023 WorldTour.

The Course

Gent-Wevelgem’s 260 km contained three consecutive unpaved “plugstreets” and nine cobbled climbs, with the mighty Kemmelberg and its pitches up to 20 percent ascended thrice. The final 700-metre, 9.9 percent clamber up Kemmelberg from the Ossuaire side, also the final climb, came with 34 km to ride. It was a wet race.

Two Canadians lined up: Derek Gee of Israel-Premier Tech and Human Powered Health’s Adam de Vos. Ben Perry and Hugo Houle did not start.

Before the big clot of climbs, last year’s winner Biniam Girmay crashed but carried on. By the first run up the Kemmelberg from the Belvedere side, a dozen escapees had a 1:30 gap on the peloton. A surge from Nathan van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma) created a quartet of chasers containing Matej Mohorič. This chase ballooned with quality riders.

The breakaway on a plugstreet between Kemmelberg 1 and 2.

Wout Van Aert was getting left behind on the plugstreets, but before the next series of climbs, and soon after the two leading groups came together, the race reformed. Almost immediately on the second ascent of Kemmelberg, Van Aert and teammate Laporte attacked, and by the foot of the Baneberg, they had nearly a minute’s lead.

Van Aert and Laporte bolt on the others on the Kemmelberg.

Van Aert waited for his French teammate after the third, hardest passage of the Kemmelberg. Thirty-three kilometres remained and the Jumbo-Visma duo still held over a minute. Fifteen kilometres later and the gap was 2:00.

The yellow and black attack finished arm in arm, Laporte getting the victory. Sep Vanmarcke rounded out the podium thirteen years after he was runner-up.

The second race of Flanders Week is Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen.

2023 Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields

1) Christophe Laporte (France/Jumbo-Visma) 5:49:39
2) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) s.t.
3) Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium/Israel-Premier Tech) +1:56