The one-day Gent-Wevelgem race is part of the UCI World Tour and is currently held on the Sunday before the Tour of Flanders in March. It was first staged in 1934, and has been held every year since, except between 1940 and 1944 due to war. Despite its name, the race has begun since 2005 on the market square of nearby Deinze.
There are ten climbs on the route, including the 159m high cobbled Kemmelberg which riders must ascend twice. For many years, the notoriously tricky descent was just as decisive a factor in the race as the savage ascent, especially in the wet weather conditions typical in this part of Belgium at this time of year, but the route was changed after a series of crashes in 2007 and the descent of Kemmelberg now takes a longer route.
The 235km 2013 edition of the race was won by the Slovakian Peter Sagan, riding for the Cannondale Pro Cycling team. He crossed the finish line with a lead of 23 seconds over a group of riders including Slovenia’s Borut Bozic who finished second, and third-placed Greg Van Avarmaet from Belgium.
No rider has ever won the race more than three times, a record held by Eddy Merckx, Mario Cipollini and Tom Boonen. The legendary Merckx has more podium finishes than any other rider – not only did he win the race in 1967, 1970 and 1973, but he also finished second in 1974 and third in 1972.