Paracycling added to the Gent-Wevelgem programme in Ypres

Paracycling added to the Gent-Wevelgem programme in Ypres

Road  29/02/2024

Sunday 24 March is the big day. That is when we will be looking between Ypres and Wevelgem for the successors to Christophe Laporte and Marlen Reusser in the 86th edition of Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields. New this year is the addition of a paracycling race in the centre of Ypres.

The Flemish cycling year kicked off with the opening classic. This means that cycling fever has again fully engulfed Flanders and cycling fans are eagerly looking forward to the revered Flemish Cycling Week. This year, Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields is once again on the programme at the start of this race-crazy Flemish week. On 24 March to be precise. Ypres is the setting for the start of both the men’s and women’s races.

Cycling fans can get ready for an intense day of cycling in the centre of Ypres. The day's programme starts at around 9:00 with the men's team presentation. Their race starts at 10:40. This year, exceptionally, not from under the Menin Gate, which is undergoing renovation, but rather from the Grote Markt. After the men’s start, Fokkersvreugde will be providing the atmosphere with West Flemish songs until it is time for the presentation of the women's teams starting at 11:40. Once the top favourites have signed the race sheet, they will start their journey through Flanders Fields at 13:15.

Paracycling

In the past, the races for Men and Women U19 and U17 and Men U23 were traditionally on the programme in Ypres. As from 2024, and following the example of the Tour of Flanders Youth Day, those races will be bundled into a dedicated youth day for Gent-Wevelgem, which has previously been announced. The five Gent-Wevelgem youth races are now scheduled for 21 April, during the first ever Gent-Wevelgem Youth Day. The races will go out live on a Proximus livestream.

The choice for this separate youth day was a conscious one. “It creates space in the timings of the passages on the Kemmelberg and in Ypres,” explains Flanders Classics CEO Tomas Van Den Spiegel. “So it’s a change for reasons of safety, which is and remains our absolute priority. However, this change does create space in the programme in Ypres. And this provides an ideal opportunity to integrate paracycling fully into our programme.”

Displaying inclusion in sport during such a big race sends a strong signal to wider society
G-sport Vlaanderen

For the organisation of the race, Flanders Classics has been working together with G-sport Vlaanderen. Like the elite riders, the paracycling competitors will be introduced to the public on the podium on the Grote Markt starting at 13:30. Their race starts at around 14:00, with the finish foreseen at about 15:00. The riders will compete over a course of 3 km in and around Ypres. The paracycling event concludes at around 15:30 with an official podium ceremony. The parasport race thus fits in perfectly with the passages of the Men Elite and Women Elite who, according to the fastest schedule, will make their return to the Grote Markt in Ypres at around 15:45 and 17:00 respectively.

Diego Desmadryl, Ypres city alderman in charge of Economy, SME, Tourism and Events, is looking forward enthusiastically to the well-filled Ypres programme: “With the coming of Gent-Wevelgem, we have already succeeded in putting the cycling tourism of our city on the map, but it is evident that we want to explore all possibilities to enhance the day even more. We consider it a strong signal of equality that riders with a disability have their own race on the Grote Markt, where the professional riders also start.”

G-sport Vlaanderen is also looking forward to joining hands with Gent-Wevelgem: “For several years now, we have been working together with organisers of regular cycling races, but with this collaboration during the Gent-Wevelgem World Tour race, we are taking a new step forward. Displaying inclusion in sport during such a big race sends a strong signal to wider society. Hopefully, other races will follow suit.”

After the passages in Ypres, the peloton moves on to the finish in Wevelgem. There, we will find out who the successor to Christophe Laporte is at around 16:20. And at around 17:35, according to the earliest schedule, we will know who will be following in Marlen Reusser’s footsteps.

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