Ghent-Wevelgem will no longer start in Ghent, beginning with the 2020 edition, race organisers have confirmed.
Instead, the Belgian one-day race will start 80km away in Ypres, with the Flandrian classic having passed through the town between 1945 to 1991, before being reinstated in 2013.
Ypres has signed a deal that will see it become the start town of the race for five years until 2025, with the mayor, Emmily Talpe, saying they were able to finance this after the Great War Remembrance Race was discontinued.
Having started in Deinze, just outside Ghent, for the past 17 years, the start line will move westwards, closer to the border with France.
The men’s elite race will now start on Market Square, with the Menin Gate and St. Martin’s Cathedral nearby, as well as theUNESCO World Heritage site the Cloth Hall.
The partnership between Ypres and Ghent-Wevelgem actually began in 2016 with three of the seven races starting in the town, including the women’s elite race and the men’s u23 race, as well as other junior categories.
The race pays tribute to the lives lost in the area during the First World War, with the new parcours skirmishing the front line from 100 years ago. Organisers said in a statement: “By bringing not only a passage but also the start of its Men’s Elite race to Ypres, the organisation strengthens its identity even more.”
Talpe said: “We are very proud of this co-operation. The fact that such a major sporting event comes to Ypres is a big thing for our image. It puts Ypres on the international map again after the past WW1 commemoration period and the media attention for such a race is huge. It is a fantastic opportunity for us and, after the start of the leg of the Tour de France in 2014, another top-level sporting event that we welcome.”
In the 2019 edition, Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) beat John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the sprint finish, with Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) third.