Solo effort from Marlen Reusser wins Gent-Wevelgem Women - Live coverage
The biggest talking points ahead of Gent-Wevelgem Women - Preview
Gent-Wevelgem Women 2023 - Contenders
Gent-Wevelgem Women 2023 - Route
- The peloton race 162.5km from Ypres to Wevelgem
- The race passes under the Menin Gate in honour of those who lost their lives in Flanders Fields during World War I.
- A few solo moves punctuated the first 100km of racing
- Whittling down of the peloton over the climbs
- Reusser went solo on the penultimate climb, and her TT prowess proved too strong for the chasers
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of Gent-Wevelgem Women!
I'm Matilda and I'll be here to take you through the action from a wet day in Belgium.
The riders have just set off for the neutralised start.
It's a wet and cold day today, with the rain unlikely to let up for most of the afternoon.
We've got 4km neutral, so the official start should be given at about 2pm CEST.
Here's your up-to-date start list for today's race:
🚨 Startlist 🚨24 teams, 140 riders - here are all the names you need for @GentWevelgem!#GW23 #GWwomen pic.twitter.com/eOVL0lcjwMMarch 26, 2023
There's 162.5km on the menu today, so one of the longer races on the women's calendar.
There's seven climbs to contend with, and they call come in a 30km period between km 100 and 130 - meaning there's over 30km from the last climb to the finish line.
One DNS to report: Typhaine Laurance of Lifeplus Wahoo.
There's some familiar roads on the route today, as we head to Veurne, De Panne and De Moeren - which all featured in Thursday's Brugge-De Panne.
That was won by Pfeiffer Georgi after crosswinds upset the hopes of a bunch sprint.
And racing is underway!
The flag has dropped for the official start.
And the attacks are starting already!
No quiet start today - Pien Limpens (Parkhotel Valkenburg) is the first rider to have a go.
Here's the peloton rolling out from under the Menin Gate in Ypres for the neutral start:
#GWwomen The start of the Women Elite's race has also been given. Who will be Balsamo's successor? 🤔 #GW23 pic.twitter.com/hUqtYuCHeRMarch 26, 2023
The first 100km of this race may be fairly flat, but in these conditions the racing can be made pretty hard.
Plus, with the exposed De Moeren section - added last year - there's a chance for the crosswinds to split the race up.
Sounds like Limpens got a jump on the peloton - she's just over 30 seconds ahead of the bunch.
Here's a reminder of the four climbs the peloton are facing today (with repeats to make seven ascents):
As the hardest and final climb of the day, the Kemmelberg is Gent-Wevelgem's headline berg.
It's a short but sharp cobbled climb, 600m in length with an average gradient of 7%, but some pitches of up to 20%. We took a closer look at the Kemmelberg here.
Limpens' lead is going out - it's being reported as a minute and 15 seconds now.
With its long, flat run-in, Gent-Wevelgem is often seen as a sprinter's classic.
A sprint finish would suit the likes of Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx), Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) who all took the start this morning.
However, this race, with its climbs, cobbles and inclement weather, can also lend itself to a small or solo move that can survive to the finish.
It will be the sprinters vs the puncheurs today to decide how it all pans out once we get to Wevelgem.
Cofidis are working on the front of the peloton now, as Limpens' advantage continues to grow.
There are probably a lot of teams who wanted to be up the road today but aren't.
Here's three riders who will surely have a target on their back this afternoon.
Former Gent-Wevelgem winner Marta Bastianelli, Brugge-De Panne winner Pfeiffer Georgi, and Trofeo Binda winner Shirin van Anrooij.
Only one rider has won this race twice: Kirsten Wild in 2013 and 2019.
Could 2022 winner Elisa Balsamo join her today?
We're about 12km into this race now.
It's a headwind as the race heads from Ypres towards the coast, so the pace is relatively low as they battle the wind.
This has got to be a pretty tough effort for Limpens', all alone in the rain and headwind.
She will have been hoping someone could join her. She has 1:45 on the peloton now, but she may not last out front for all that long.
These are the conditions the riders are up against this afternoon.
Lorena Wiebes is a big favourite for today, but Gent-Wevelgem is a race she's never won.
Her best result was 2nd in 2019, but since then she's either DNF'd or finished outside of the top 10.
Limpens' lead is coming down now for the first time - being on her own, it's easy to get tired quickly.
Just over 20km completed, and she's been away for most of that.
In around 10km, the peloton will hit De Moeren and the chance of crosswinds.
It sounds like the winds are there, but it will depend if the peloton race it hard enough to see splits, or if they take it relatively calmly.
A few teams are starting without their obvious favourites today.
Movistar have no Norsgaard or Van Vleuten, no Vos for Jumbo-Visma, and AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step have lost former winner Lotta Henttala this week through illness.
Limpens' lead is dropping down closer to a minute now.
The peloton will soon be going through Veurne, from which they turn back inland and towards De Moeren.
The wind direction is right for crosswinds, but sounds as if the speeds are relatively low, so we may not see echelon drama across the exposed marsh lands.
Just 40 seconds for Limpens now.
Hard to tell whether this is the Dutch rider tiring, or if the peloton are winding it up towards De Moeren.
The peloton are about to catch Limpens now and hit De Moeren very shortly.
And the catch is made.
Crosswinds - possibly - coming now.
The peloton have turned away from the headwind now, so that's why the pace has quickly gone up.
130KM TO GO
The first break may be over, but there's a lot more of this race still to go...
First sighting of European champion Lorena Wiebes.
If any teams want to split this race early - or even just make it hard for the sprinters - De Moeren is the place to do it.
Otherwise it's over 60km until the first categorised climb.
The peloton completed 34.5km in the first hour, to give an idea of the early pace.
The peloton were racing hard into De Moeren, but we haven't heard of any dramatic splits just yet.
It takes combination of high winds and effort from teams to turn crosswinds into echelons.
Nearly 40km completed, so we're around a quarter of the way through this race.
Will another move go, or is everyone just thinking about the climbs?
CRASH IN PELOTON
Some riders have gone down here on the wet roads.
Looks like SD Worx and DSM kept things under control across De Moeren.
.@GentWevelgem fight in De Moeren . pic.twitter.com/CzGLf2EdceMarch 26, 2023
Relative calm compared to the way De Moeren affected the racing on Thursday in De Panne.
🎥 40 km into the race and the peloton has just raced through 'De Moeren' - no echelons this time!#GWwomen #GW23Liveticker: https://t.co/T2rI729a9N pic.twitter.com/QxNR7ZTiqeMarch 26, 2023
Martina Alzini (Cofidis) has abandoned the race after that crash.
It's not clear exactly who else was involved in the crash.
There's been a second crash - the weather and general tension can cause some sketchy conditions in the bunch.
Ariana Fidanza (Ceratizit-WNT) and Nicole Frain (Parkhotel Valkenburg) both reportedly involved in this crash.
When thinking about the climbs we still have to come, it's good to remember that whilst punchy, none of them are long.
None last longer than 1.2km, so can definitely be tackled by the sprinters without too much difficulty.
Heads down in the bunch - it's easy to see how crashes happen with everyone going fast and packed closely together on the wet roads.
50km completed - that means we're less than 50km away from the Scherpenberg now.
The pace is rising in the peloton now as the bunch is stretched out.
No one going off the front, but riders are getting dropped out the back.
Hitting some cobbles now, a short section through the village of Leisele.
No trouble for Arianna Fidanza after that crash.
An unfortunate touch of wheels for @AriFidanza but she’s back up after a quick bike change 👊#GWwomen #GW23March 26, 2023
All still together in the bunch.
Hard to get away on the flat, especially in this weather.
The sprinters definitely outweigh the puncheurs in this race, so a lot of teams will be interested in keeping this together for a sprint.
The biggest teams have options, though - SD Worx could send Lotte Kopecky on an attack instead of back Wiebes, as Shirin van Anrooij is an extra card for Elisa Balsamo's Trek-Segafredo team to play.
The first climb we'll see in about 40km is the Scherpenberg - 'scherp' means 'sharp' in Flemish, so that gives an idea of what kind of climb this is.
The average gradient is deceptively low at 2.6%, but some points ramp up to 11%, and the narrow, winding road can make it a real battle.
100KM TO GO
60km under the belt already.
It may have been a relatively quiet start to the race, but battling the conditions and fighting for position in the bunch will already be taking it out of a lot of riders.
The riders are taking this opportunity to fuel, so there's a little calming as the domestiques drop back to the convoy.
It's all getting ready for the climbs. Once they start, there's very little let up.
We've got another attack!
Malin Eriksen (Duolar-Chevalmeire) is a handful of seconds in front of the bunch.
Good to see someone trying something, but another solo move... Can this last any longer than Limpens did?
It's interesting that there's only been solo moves today, rather than a three or four rider move from the Continental teams.
Maybe in these conditions, a lot of riders are happier to shelter in the bunch that expose themselves to the elements.
And Eriksen is caught again.
It's a hard ask for a solo rider to stay away.
Not always easy to tell with all the teams in their black jackets, but Trek-Segafredo (in the middle) are policing things in this race.
They'll be hoping Elisa Balsamo can pick up her first one-day victory of the season this afternoon.
We're now seeing Canyon-SRAM come to the front of the peloton.
They've got their headline rider Kasia Niewiadoma here, but it's probably Shari Bossuyt who is their best chance today. She took her first pro road win in Normandie last week.
CRASH IN PELOTON
More falls on these clearly quite treacherous roads.
Just under 25km to go until the first climb now.
Here's that short-lived move from Eriksen in the Norwegian champion jersey.
Kaia Schmid (Human Powered Health) is the latest rider to abandon this race.
81km completed so we're halfway through the 2023 women's Gent-Wevelgem.
It's been a quiet first half today in terms of attacks, but with all the climbing still to go, there's still plenty of action to come.
The Scherpenberg is the first categorised climb, by the road has started to undulate a bit now as we head towards the hilly areas of Flanders.
This will all take energy and power out of the legs of a lot of riders.
Less than 15km until we start climbing.
The first ascent of the Scherpenberg isn't usually all that decisive, but with relatively few attacks so far today, we may seen some riders try to take it up pretty early.
Reminder that the peloton is still all together.
We've had some abandons and some riders have been dropped, but the bulk of the race is all together in one group.
It's definitely been hectic in the bunch - the crashes are proof of that - and it will probably continue that way as they fight for position into the climbs.
As I typed that... there has been another crash.
Sounds like most of these crashes are small touches of wheels, rather than mass falls.
Less than 4km to the start of the Scherpenberg now!
Another small crash here.
Riders down and bikes tangled up. So easy to touch wheels and go down in this tense peloton.
Gabrielle Pilote Fortin (Cofidis) came off worst in that crash - looks like she will be stopping.
A lot of riders are having to chase back on after being caught behind the crash.
The teams are battling for position as we approach the base of the Scherpenberg.
Trek-Segafredo has Elynor Backstedt controlling things.
The Brit has been stepping into an Ellen van Dijk-type role for Trek this spring.
Another handful of riders have gone down - Lotto-Dstny, UAE Team ADQ and Jayco-AlUla all involved as the mud just slips under the tyres.
We're descending down from the Scherpenberg now - no action over the relatively tame climb.
The longer Baneberg comes in 2km time.
CRASH IN PELOTON
Going over another patch of cobbles, and again more riders have gone down.
Several Movistar riders affected, and Brugge-De Panne winner Pfeiffer Georgi (DSM) has to wait for a new bike.
No one looks too hurt but these wet cobbles are dangerous.
60KM TO GO
Into the action now - still six more climbs in the next 30km.
ON THE BANEBERG
Onto the narrower and steeper Baneberg, Canyon-SRAM are on the front.
Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) topples over from the front of the peloton going up the Baneberg.
Not sure what the issue was there for the Swiss rider, but she falls slowly onto the bank. She's back up now.
That's the second climb down - about 5km until the Monteberg.
The peloton is super strung out and quite reduced now. Fewer than 60 riders in the front group.
That said, riders are using the brief respite of the flat to try to come back to the front of this race.
It's SD Worx with Christine Majerus who are keeping the pace high going towards this next climb.
The Monteberg is 1.2km in length, with an average gradient of 5%.
It maxes out at 9% though, so can be tough. This is the only climb of the day that they'll only tackle once.
On sprinter watch, Balsamo and Wiebes are still in the lead group, as is Charlotte Kool.
Onto the Monteberg now.
DSM are showing themselves now - Charlotte Kool will be hoping to get through the climbs safely.
Bit of a barrage on the front of the group, no one's even trying to attack just yet.
The lack of aggression on these climbs really plays into the hands of the sprinters and their teams.
Balsamo, Wiebes and Kool all looking relatively comfortable so far.
That said, we're about to hit the Kemmelberg, which is the hardest of the day's climbs.
Could this see some fireworks?
The peloton is accelerating into this climb now!
And we're onto the steep, cobbled Kemmelberg.
Some riders at the back are already getting caught out.
It's Lotte Kopecky who is looking really strong on the front of the group, with Lucinda Brand just behind her.
Kasia Niewiadoma is now taking things up on the front - it's getting hard for the sprinters.
Kopecky, Niewiadoma and Anna Henderson are opening up a small gap on the rest of the bunch.
We're descending now and this trio are one or two seconds in front of the chasers, which includes Wiebes.
50KM TO GO
The trio have been joined by the chasers, but it's fewer than 15 riders in the lead now, with another group not too far behind.
The helicopter shot shows just how much the Kemmelberg split up the race.
Riders and groups are all over the road.
It's still Kopecky and Niewiadoma who are doing the work to push on here.
The riders are shedding their layers now - they're getting ready to really race these climbs.
The small group at the front looks likely to be rejoined by the bigger group behind, which includes Balsamo.
DSM don't have Kool in the front group, but seem keen to push on with the two riders they do have.
Approaching the second ascent of the Scherpenberg now.
These climbs are really back-to-back.
And with that the leaders are caught by group 2.
A big bunch back together for the Scherpenberg.
CRASH IN PELOTON
Big crash right in the middle of the group.
At least 10 riders taken down there.
An AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step just slipped in the middle of the bunch, and took down almost half the group.
A lot of riders still not back on their way, this will be the end of the race for them.
In the now-reduced lead group, it's SD Worx who have taken things up again. Majerus, Reusser and Wiebes are on the front.
Approaching the base of the Baneberg now.
The Scherpenberg was once again just too gentle to really make a difference.
Views from the first time up the Kemmelberg.
40KM TO GO
Onto the Baneberg now - it's narrow and SD Worx are still controlling.
Marlen Reusser is just drifting off the front as we enter the climb.
More that the other riders have let the wheel go than a concerted attack from the Swiss rider.
However, this is quite a gap growing for Reusser now as SD Worx have turned the gas off in the group behind.
The time trial specialist is a dangerous rider to let go.
It's Trek and FDJ who are taking up the chase.
About 20 riders in the group behind.
Reusser has an advantage of 22 seconds.
Reusser has less than 30 seconds here, but there's just no organised chasing behind.
This could work in Reusser's favour.
About 1km until we tackle the Kemmelberg again.
From there, the climbing is over and it's 30km flat to the finish.
50 seconds for Reusser now.
The gap is just growing and growing.
Some riders are rejoining the chasing group, which shows the pace is not really that high.
Reusser has a minute lead and she's just starting the Kemmelberg.
It's Grace Brown who is leading things as the chasers start the climb too.
The chasers have completed the Kemmelberg now.
So there's just flat between now and the finish - can the chase make a difference on the flat?
The presence of Wiebes and Balsamo is possibly sapping some motivation from this chase.
No one wants to just deliver those two to the line.
Frustrating moment for Reusser as she misses two bottles in succession.
30KM TO GO
A minute and a half for Reusser - this is a gap she could definitely defend to the finish.
There's just no impetus in the chase.
Majerus is on the front, and she certainly won't be pacing with her teammate up the road.
So many more riders catching up to the chase, again showing that the pace is not there.
That said, could the added size help their efforts?
Shirin van Anrooij is working in the chase now - Trek still have 2022 winner Elisa Balsamo here.
Reusser's advantage is continuing to grow.
Jumbo-Visma have numbers in the chase, but don't particularly have a sprinter to work for.
Kasia Niewiadoma accelerates as Reusser's lead approaches two minutes.
FDJ-SUEZ are having a go on the front, but it's all a bit too little, too late.
Reusser has 2 minutes with 23km to go.
Reusser is going through Ypres to head under the Menin Gate.
This is where the race started this morning.
Another rider has gone down on a corner through town.
It's just emblematic of this whole day - crashes everywhere.
20KM TO GO
It seems pretty unlikely they'll close a 2:24 gap now.
Looks like Marlen Reusser is on her way to her first big Classics win of her career!
This is only Marlen Reusser's third road race of the season, after taking a month off racing following Opening Weekend.
She's been down in Sierra Nevada training with Demi Vollering.
Shari Bossuyt (Canyon-SRAM) is attacking off the front of the bunch now as we see a few riders breaking away.
This is just a race for second, though - they can't close a two minute gap like this.
There's seven riders off the front of the chase now, about 10 seconds ahead of the rest.
Christine Majerus, Shari Bossuyt, Pfeiffer Georgi, Anna Henderson, Eugenia Bujak, Shirin van Anrooij and a rider from Uno-X.
Marlen Reusser hasn't take a victory since she became European time trial champion last September.
Her last win on in a road race was of course that gravel stage of the Tour de France Femmes last summer.
The Uno-X rider in this group in Elinor Barker.
10KM TO GO
Nasty crash in the third group - Wiebes, Kopecky and Balsamo all on the floor.
It was Wiebes who slipped out and took out several riders.
Wiebes looks in pain here.
A bittersweet ending for SD Worx.
Very little change to report here.
Reusser is just time trialling to the finish, and all hope of catching her is definitely gone from the groups behind.
Reusser took on the Kemmelberg alone.
5KM TO GO
Reusser takes a wrong turn!
She's turned around and back on course now.
It's a good thing Reusser has such a big advantage though - she has a big buffer and room for error.
3KM TO GO
She's been away for over 30km to go, just a few left for Marlen Reusser to enjoy.
Less than 2km to go for Reusser.
The chasing group of seven has swelled to nine, but they're nowhere close to the Swiss rider.
The fight for second will be interesting though - they're attacking already, not leaving it to a sprint.
Anna Henderson, Pfeiffer Georgi and Ruby Roseman-Gannon are the ones animating.
Reusser has her earpiece out here - too much encouragement from Lars Boom and Anna van der Breggen in the car?
And Reusser is on the home straight...
Marlen Reusser wins Gent-Wevelgem 2023!
A huge solo effort delivers her her first Classics victory.
And she remembered to unzip her jacket to show off the jersey.
A couple of minutes until the chasers get to the finish.
The chasers are just looking at eachother - they could be caught by the third group now.
It's Shirin van Anrooij who's trying to go clear.
1km for group 2.
The chasers are caught by the bunch at the last minute - it's a sprint for second.
It's between Megan Jastrab and Maike van der Duin for second and third!
Photofinish needed to confirm.
It's a first WorldTour one-day podium for Megan Jastrab.
Big smiles between her and Pfeiffer Georgi, who worked perfectly together to take the win in De Panne on Thursday.
It's confirmed as second for Jastrab, and in fact Karlijn Swinkels in third for Jumbo-Visma.
Maike van der Duin took fourth.
Reusser really had time to soak in that victory.
Lotte Kopecky reports at the finish that Wiebes was 'screaming' after her crash.
She didn't finish and got in the car so we'll wait for updates on her condition.
And there's the throw to the line for second.
It's been a pretty good week for DSM - both without Charlotte Kool.
Correction: Maike van der Duin is awarded third on the line.
Swinkels is fourth.
Here's your confirmed top 10:
Marlen Reusser explains that her move wasn't exactly intended as a solo attack.
"I didn't attack, I thought maybe we can make a little bit of selection or a small group," she said at the finish. "But there was nobody on my wheel and I thought 'let's try a bit'."
"It was very very hard. Especially my arms, I mean I cannot even dress myself, I'm so done."
Marlen Reusser is the first Swiss woman to win Gent-Wevelgem, and only the second Swiss rider - man or woman - to win in Wevelgem.
Rolf Graf won the men's race in 1954.
Some cold looking riders waiting for the podium!
It really was a grim day out there today.
And there's your final podium!
A cold but happy top 3.
That's all from us today.
The Women's WorldTour continues next Sunday and it's a big one: the Tour of Flanders is coming.