Who will succeed Elisa Balsamo in Flanders Fields?
On Sunday 26 March, the starting signal will sound for the twelfth time for the women's Gent-Wevelgem. With Kopecky, Wiebes, title defender Balsamo and the quick Kool, there are already a lot of great names on the provisional list of participants.
Last year, Elisa Balsamo, in her rainbow jersey, was the first to cross the finish line in Wevelgem. So, this year, she starts as the title defender. At Trek-Segafredo, she has a strong block supporting her with the likes of Lucinda Brand, Shirin van Anrooij and Elisa Longo Borghini.
One of her biggest challengers is undoubtedly SD Worx, the team on a victory march and hungry for more. Lotte Kopecky, the winner in 2021, was best in the opening classic earlier this year and only just failed to win in the Strade Bianche. She is joined by Lorena Wiebes, who, with her quick legs, was very close to winning in Wevelgem in 2019.
Another former winner rides for UAE Team ADQ, where Marta Bastianelli will be the leading lady in the final Gent-Wevelgem of her career. The quick Chiara Consonni also starts for UAE Team ADQ. The Italian won Dwars door Vlaanderen last year and can certainly handle conditions in Flanders.
Another quick Italian is on the provisional starting list for Uno-X Pro Cycling Team. Maria Giulia Confalonieri, who finished third last year, represents the colours of the Norwegian team alongside former world champion Amalie Dideriksen. FDJ-Suez sends specialist attackers Grace Brown and Marta Cavalli, who came fifth in 2019. At Jumbo-Visma, they are counting on Coryn Rivera, third in 2017.
In 2019, Zoe Bäckstedt (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) won Gent-Wevelgem in the U17 category. The British rider, who last year became junior world champion and also won Tour of Flanders for juniors, starts for the first time among the profs. Belgium is also looking forward to seeing some young talent. Julie De Wilde, who finished second in Dwars door Vlaanderen last year, starts in Ypres for Fenix-Deceuninck. She is joined by Belgian champion Kim De Baat and fourteen-time Belgian cyclo-cross champion Sanne Cant.
Other Belgian names are riding for Canyon//SRAM Racing, including Belgian Shari Bossuyt. Valerie Demey is also coming to Flanders Fields with her team Liv Racing Teqfind. They also bring Rachele Barbieri with them, third in last year's Scheldeprijs, a trump card in a bunch sprint. The same goes for Team DSM, which is heading to Ypres with Charlotte Kool.
On Sunday 26 March, at around 18:00, we will know who will be celebrating success on the Vanackerestraat in Wevelgem. Discover the provisional start list here.