After the wind broke the peloton into pieces in the Moeren, a front group of 25 riders emerged with some big names in it. The remaining groups were unable to close the gap and after about 180 km on the attack it was Wout Van Aert who became the 50th Belgian ever to win Gent-Wevelgem. He was the fastest sprinter on the Vanackerestraat before Nizzolò and Trentin.
At 10am the peloton started its race in Ypres and the traditional early breakaway quickly formed. Fedorov (Astana - Premier Tech), Rex (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) and teammates Bissegger and Arroyave Canas (EF Education - NIPPO) joined forces and quickly created a nice gap of 9'30".
Towards the coast, the pace of the chase increased. This year the wind played a big role in the Moeren again. The peloton broke into several pieces, with the first group including: Bennett (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious), Trentin (UAE Team Emirates), Matthews (Team BikeExchange), Küng (Groupama - FDJ), D. Van Poppel (Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux) and European champion Nizzolò (Team Qubeka Assos). In the meantime, the leading group saw its advantage melt away like snow in the sun. In no time, the first chasing group was able to catch the escapees. This resulted in a group of 25 riders at the front that held a two-minute lead for a long time.
After the first pass on Kemmelberg, a chasing group of seven riders formed under the attack of Stybar (Deceuninck - Quick-Step), which also included team mate Lampaert, Durbridge (Team BikeExchange), S. Kragh Andersen (Team DSM), Naesen (AG2R Citroën Team) and the duo Riesebeek-Vermeersch (Alpecin-Fenix). However, it was not possible to stay apart, just before the Plugstreets Hill 63 the chasing group was caught again. There AG2R Citroën Team, who missed the battle in the Moeren, had to work hard.
The time difference between the leading group and the rest of the peloton remained about one minute. Van Hooydonck, teammate of Van Aert, took the lead at the second passage on the Kemmelberg. He made a selection in the breakaway and rolled out the red carpet for his leader. The action of the men of Jumbo-Visma ensured that only an elite group remained at the front of the race.
On the third climb of the Kemmelberg - the Ossuaire side - first Trentin and then Van Aert tried to lead the forcing, but there was no big separation. The gap to the chasing group remained virtually unchanged at around one minute. A front group of nine headed for Wevelgem, where a course change awaited in the finale. Due to a fire in Menen, the passage through the centre of Menen was replaced by an alternative route, which extended the race with 1.1 km.
With about 16 km to go, it was Van Hooydonck who shook the tree. The one who had to pay? Bennett. The Irishman had been vomiting a few kilometres earlier and had to let go of the leaders together with Van Poppel. A group of seven raced to the finish. Van Hooydonck played a golden role for his leader in the last 2 km. He kept the pace so high that there were no attacks. His leader Van Aert finished off the job in the sprint and gave the Italians Nizzolò and Trentin the slip.
Picture: (c) Photonews