Brutal day in Belgium for Gent - Wevelgem

Sun 29 Mar 2015

A brutal day of racing has seen just 39 out of 200 riders finish today’s Gent – Wevelgem in Belgian today.

As Luca Paolini (Team Katusha) won a memorable day on the bike, ORICA-GreenEDGE was one of just nine outfits with multiple finishers – Mathew Hayman in 18th and Jens Keukeleire in 34th.

“This is one of the worst courses you can have when you are talking about wind,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said.

The gusty conditions and rain shaped the entirety of today’s 240km race and when the peloton had already broken into three groups within the first few kilometres it was evident that the race would be a battle of survival.

It managed to regroup shortly after as seven riders made a move off the front, but it was a racing condition that wouldn’t last long.

The escapees established a lead of eight and a half minutes in the first hour of racing before Etixx-Quickstep initiated the chase.

As the gap slashed in half to four minutes, the wind continued to take its toll causing a series of crashes that re-split the peloton.

With 125km to go the early break was back in the peloton but the weather continued to play havoc as echelons became a common feature and riders were literally blown off the road.

An initial solo move was unsuccessful and countered by another from Jurgen Roelands (Lotto Soudal) who remained in the lead until the final 18km.

From behind a group of six chasers, who had previously escaped and ended the remaining peloton’s day, also ended Roelands’ move after a 50km solo effort.

Once at the front of the race, the attacks within the group of six began, but it was Paolini’s solo move in the final five kilometres that proved successful.