First edition of Gent-Wevelgem Youth Day on 21 April 2024
In 2024, the youth races of Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields are being organised as a separate event. The 5 races which, until this season, have taken place on the same day as the elite ones, are scheduled in 2024 for 21 April. Following the example of the Tour of Flanders Youth Day in Oudenaarde, Ypres will next season be welcoming the top talents of the future during the very first Gent-Wevelgem Youth Day.
In 2022, Flanders Classics organised the very first Tour of Flanders Youth Day in the heart of Oudenaarde. Zoë Backstedt was the first to get her name on the honours board for the U19 race for women and she did so while wearing the rainbow jersey. During the first Gent-Wevelgem Youth Day on 21 April next year, the honours board will not be a blank because youth races (5 different ones in all) have been taking place on the fringes of the professional races for many years now.
That changes in 2024. The races in both Ypres and Boezinge are moving to a unique youth day on 21 April. All the races will start and finish in Ypres, the heart of Flanders Fields, with the Grote Markt as the epicentre. This high day for youth cycling will be made up of an intense programme of, in total, five races: Men & Women U17, Men U19 (GP André Noyelle) & Women U19, and Men U23 (Kattekoers). Depending on the distance of the races, the Kemmelberg will continue to be part of the circuit, as it has been in the past.
“The first two editions of the Tour of Flanders Youth Day were particularly well received,“ says Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel. “It is a very deliberate choice to extend this line now to Gent-Wevelgem. A youth day such as this attracts a lot of people and it is more than just a race. The experience, that is what it is all about. By giving the youth races their own day, the young talents get a chance to shine, on and off the bicycle. A starting presentation awaits them on the podium and the winners sometimes get their first taste of a live TV interview. They experience the classic just like the riders they look up to.”
The change in programming also has organisational reasons. Tomas Van Den Spiegel: “By moving the youth races to a separate day, we create more space in the timings of the passages on the Kemmelberg and in Ypres. The combination of youth and professionals on the same circuit on the same day necessitated strict timetabling. Safety is and remains the number one priority of our organisation. Organising seven races on one day is no easy task. Fortunately, we have always been able to count on the particularly good collaboration with the Koninlijke Yperse Wielerclub, the Koninklijke Wielerclub De Sasspurters Boezinge, the city of Ypres, Heuvelland and all the other parties involved. We look forward to making the very first youth day a big cycling party together.”
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Patrick Benoot, alderman for sport in the city of Ypres confirms the good cooperation: "Organising seven races in one day was never an easy task, but the experience and organisational talent within the Koninklijke Wielerclub de Sasspurters and the Koninklijke Yperse Wielerclub ensured that everything literally ran like clockwork. The fact remained, however, that the young riders had to ride somewhat in the shadow of their idols and thus did not get the attention they deserved. This will now change by organising these five top races on a different date which will even include live streaming. In short, the real thing but tailored to the up-and-coming youth. Instead of one, we will then have two cycling heydays that are important for Ypres as a tourist and sporting city."
In collaboration with partner Proximus, all the races will also be livestreamed. This gives the talents of tomorrow the chance to shine in a Gent-Wevelgem setting in Flanders Fields and literally to ride in the spotlight.
Tour of Flanders Youth Day celebrates its third edition
The Flanders Classics Youth programme is thus getting its second youth day. On 19 May 2024, the Tour of Flanders Youth Day is taking place for the third consecutive year. Then it is Oudenaarde that will be the epicentre for a total of four races: Men & Women U17 and Men & Women. As with the first two editions, all the races will be livestreamed in 2024 as well.
The final youth race in 2024 takes place on 26 May. That is when the U23s get the chance to add an Omloop het Nieuwsblad victory in Herzele to their name.