Gent-Wevelgem: Lorena Wiebes defeats Elisa Balsamo in photo-finish sprint

Former European champion benefits from Lotte Kopecky's blistering lead-out, with Lidl-Trek's Balsamo unable to round Wiebes on the line

Clock16:57, Sunday 24th March 2024
Lorena Wiebes delivered her bike throw slightly later than Elisa Balsamo and with it, produced a perfect bit of timing

© Getty Images

Lorena Wiebes delivered her bike throw slightly later than Elisa Balsamo and with it, produced a perfect bit of timing

Lorena Wiebes (SD Word-Protime) edged out Lidl-Trek's Elisa Balsamo to win the 2024 women's Gent-Wevelgem, with the pair only split by a photo finish on the line. It was a searing battle between the two sprinters and produced a thrilling finale to an action-packed race.

The former European champion enjoyed a textbook lead-out from world champion Lotte Kopecky in the finale, after SD Worx-Protime had managed to squash multiple late attacks from the Movistar duo, Floortje Mackaij and Emma Norsgaard.

Wiebes had launched her sprint first in the final straight and Balsamo soon came rampaging over her right-hand shoulder, but Wiebes secured her win by timing her bike throw to perfection. It is a first Gent-Wevelgem title for the Dutchwoman.

Behind the two frontrunners, meanwhile, a late burst from Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) delivered the Italian to third place. None of the day's earlier attacks, including from Kopecky herself, were able to sway off a reduced bunch sprint finish.

Read more: Spring Classics 2024: Essential guide to the races and riders

"The team did an amazing job, we made the race hard but in the end, it was a bunch sprint anyway," Wiebes told media after the finish.

"But I was happy about the legs and really happy with the leadout from Lotte [Kopecky]."

How the 2024 Gent-Wevelgem unfolded

Gent-Wevelgem is one of the hardest races on the Women's WorldTour calendar and for good reason. As one of the most prestigious spring Classics of the season, this Belgium one-day is raced at a furious speed and is a lengthy test indeed, standing at 171.2km long.

The peloton's opportunists wasted little time in attacking off the front of the bunch, with moves coming and going over the first few kilometres. A more concerted move went clear after 7km of racing, led by a unison of teams who all fancied their chances in the breakaway.

Some riders were unsuccessful - Christina Schweinberger (Fenix-Deceuninck) and Alana Castrique (Cofidis) failed to make their attacks stick - but others made their moves count and eventually, a six-rider breakaway formed at the head of the race.

Within the breakaway were Julie Van de Velde (AG Insurance-Soudal), Giorgia Vettorello (Roland), Lieke Nooijen (Visma-Lease a Bike), Amandine Fouquenet (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), Anniina Ahtosalo (Uno-X Mobility) and Laura Molenaar (VolkerWessels Women's Pro Cycling).

Their gap exceeded five minutes some 30km later, but at a similar point to the men's race earlier in the day, crosswinds ripped through the peloton with a little over 120km to ride. It was the world champion Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) who was on the front foot, causing tension within the pack that ultimately saw Georgia Baker crash out of the race amidst the chaos.

However, things settled down over the next hour of racing and the breakaway was handily caught under the steam of an SD Worx-Protime-led peloton.

SD Worx-Protime particularly active over the Kemmelberg

Both Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ) suffered crashes but were able to remount their bikes and return to the peloton, with Longo Borghini clearly undeterred by her bruises. The Italian later followed a couple of stinging attacks from Kopecky on the Kemmelberg, which came to define the last categorised climbs on the parcours.

With SD Worx-Protime regularly on the attack through Kopecky and her teammate Lorena Wiebes, it was up to the rest of the peloton to respond - a task that Longo Borghini was more than capable of answering.

Kopecky, Wiebes and Pfeiffer Georgi (dsm-firmenich PostNL) may have been the leading trio over the final ascent of the Kemmelberg, but Longo Borghini quickly dragged further contenders to the front of the race and for a moment, an elite eight-rider group stood at the head of the race.

To the disappointment of Longo Borghini, Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) and others, however, the move was closed down by the peloton and in turn, Lidl-Trek and SD Worx-Protime returned to their duties of pacesetting.

Lidl-Trek and SD Worx-Protime ensure sprint finish

Both Lidl-Trek and SD Worx-Protime were vital to the finale, with the peloton teeing up a sprint finish to decide the day's victor.

Try as they might, Movistar could not muster up a solo win, with both Floortje Mackaij and Emma Norsgaard repeatedly closed down by Ellen van Dijk and Marlen Reusser on the front of the peloton. Their attacks were admirable, nonetheless, and contributed to an exciting conclusion to the race.

As eyes began to turn to a bunch sprint, SD Worx-Protime, Lidl-Trek and dsm-firmenich PostNL began to assemble their teams on behalf of sprinters Wiebes, Elisa Balsamo and Charlotte Kool, respectively. Still, the attacks continued to fly from Movistar, but nothing was going to get in the way of a tantalising bunch sprint.

Brown, equally undeterred by her crash, sent a late flyer with 2km to ride and it came at the perfect time, with SD Worx-Protime's Reusser caught out on a bend and forced to chase onto the back of the peloton. The Australian held a small gap under the flamme rouge, but dsm-firmenich PostNL produced the final turn to set up a sprint finish.

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to the spring classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

Race Results

1

nl flag

WIEBES Lorena

Team SD Worx-Protime

4H 16' 19"

2

it flag

BALSAMO Elisa

Lidl-Trek

"

3

it flag

CONSONNI Chiara

UAE Team ADQ

"

4

nl flag

KOOL Charlotte

Team dsm-firmenich PostNL

"

5

it flag

CONFALONIERI Maria Giulia

Uno-X Mobility

"

6

cu flag

SIERRA Arlenis

Movistar Team

"

7

nl flag

PIETERSE Puck

Fenix-Deceuninck

"

8

nl flag

DE JONG Thalita

Lotto Dstny Ladies

"

9

at flag

SCHWEINBERGER Christina

Fenix-Deceuninck

"

10

ca flag

COLES-LYSTER Maggie

Roland

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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