Women and under-23 riders to get a taste of the gravelcobbl
The dirt roads introduced to the men’s edition of Ghent-Wevelgem in 2017 will be extended to the women’s and under-23 races for next year, race organisers have announced.
The so-called Plugstreets, dirt roads near the French border which were given their name by British troops fighting near the village of Ploegsteert during World War One, were introduced into the men’s version of Ghent-Wevelgem in 2017, and will now be rolled out into the other races which take place on the same day.
As was the case in 2017, the Plugstreets actually consist of three different sectors of dirt roads, each coming in quick succession in the space of 5.7km with around 60km to go in the men’s race (the exact courses of the women’s and under-23 races are still to be confirmed).
The first is probably the most testing, being 2.1km long and steadily rising along its length including a tight chicane that has the potential to be particularly treacherous in the wet.
Watch: Tour de France 2018 route guide
A monument to the Christmas Truce 1914, where soldiers stopped fighting and came out of their trenches to exchange gifts and play football, is situated at the start of the second section, which is shorter and flatter than the first.
However, seeing as this was nicknamed “Mud Lane” during World War One, we’ll look forward to some slippery racing if the weather is less perfect than it was in 2017.
Greg Van Avermaet won the 2017 edition of Ghent-Wevelgem, out-sprinting Orica-Scott rider Jens Keukeleire at the finish in Wevelgem, two days after also taking victory in E3 Harelbeke. The women’s edition was won be Lotta Lepistö in a bunch sprint.
The use of dirt roads in road races has become increasingly common in recent years. Strade Bianche makes use of Tuscany’s white gravel roads and has quickly become a major race in the spring calendar despite only being launched in 2017.
The Giro d’Italia has also used some of the same roads as well as the gravel climb of the Colle delle Finestre in the past. The Tour de France is also following suit in 2018, with a gravel section over the Plateau des Glières in the Alps.
The 2018 edition of Ghent-Wevelgem will take place on March 25, and will once again be part of the WorldTour.