The Ghent-Wevelgem one-day classic will be shortened by 45km due to a due to a snowstorm that is sweeping through Belgium. Following a meeting with team managers on Saturday afternoon, organisers took the decision to move the start to the coastal town of Gistel rather than the traditional start of Deinze.
A decision concerning the inclusion of the race's key climbs, including the two scheduled ascents of both the Casselberg and Kemmelberg, will be made on the morning of the race. The shortened race will now be no more than 192km.
"We will not make the same mistake as Milan-San Remo," race director Frank Hoste told Belgian daily, Het Nieuwsblad this morning. "The health and safety of the riders have priority."
Milan-San Remo teetered on chaos on Sunday. Team buses returned at the last minute to meet the riders ahead of the Passo del Turchino, whose roads sat under two to five centimetres of snow.
The team buses took the riders to the Italian Riviera to re-start, but with careful planning, organisers may have avoided the delay and near-chaos.
Cold 25kph winds brought snow and rain this morning in Flanders. Hoste woke up early ahead of what he hopes will be the 75th running of Ghent-Wevelgem. The green jersey winner of the 1984 Tour de France started his car and went for a drive, covering the race's 237 kilometres.
The race heads west to the North Sea, travels the coast, returns inland, dips into France and skirts the Belgian side of the border to Wevelgem. It covers 10 climbs, most notably the Kemmelberg and Monteberg, two times each.
The French leg, with the two Casselberg ascents, worries Hoste. Over the border, laws require at least two-day's notice for route changes. Hoste is limited if he needs to skip the 176m climb. It provides the most problems, too, as it is exposed whereas trees shield the Kemmelberg's road.
In any case, crews in France and Belgium are preparing to salt the roads to prevent ice.
After its start in 1934, only the Second World War stopped Ghent-Wevelgem from 1940 to 1944. It continued every year since.
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won the last two years, Barry Hoban took the 1974 edition and riders like Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) are still trying to add their names to the list.
A harsh winter wrecked many races. Besides Milano-Sanremo's problems, snow forced the cancellation of Drôme Classic (February 23), GP Lugano, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (February 24), Dwars door Drenthe (March 10) and Nokere Koerse (March 13).
Light rain currently blows with the 29kph wind, which makes it feel much colder than the 1°C reading. Forecasts show snow arriving around 2am and staying until 8am. If the race starts from Deinze at 11:20, -2°C air temperatures and 31kph winds will chill the peloton.
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