Gent-Wevelgem - In Flanders Fields
Known for it’s flat finish, Gent-Wevelgem has earned a name for being one of the most gruelling races for sprinters. This signposted route however, doesn't finish in Wevelgem and neither does it start in Gent. The 128km loop starts and finishes at the foot of the legendary Kemmelberg in Heuvelland, Flanders. With it 1.483 altimeters, the route focusses on the area of the West Flemish Hills (Les monts des Flandres in French) along the French-Belgian border. Expect difficult terrain, complete with cobbles, plugstreets, hills and unfavourable winds. Resolute in its history, the Gent-Wevelgem navigates a number of the battlefields from the First World War.
The route of Ghent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields conquers the most important climbs of the ‘Ghent-Wevelgem’ race. The parcours has 2 loops. You can ride the 100k loop with 3 notorious Plugstreets and 11 steep slopes, including a double climb of the Kemmelberg. Just follow the red signposts.
But to warm up you can add a 28k loop to Ypres and cycle through the Menin Gate before the real climbing starts.
Catsberg or Mont des Cats in French is an climb in the municipality of Godewaersvelde, We call this area French Flanders. The climb is somewhat tough; you'll need to tackle about 2.5 km with an average incline of 8% and with a maximum incline of 18%. However, the challenge is worth it for one of the prettiest climbs around, just watch out for ramblers crossing the road from the many trails that criss-cross these hills.On the top you'll find an abbey with it's own trappist beer. A bit too early in the ride to taste the beer, though. This hill is a beacon in the landscape. You can spot the 200-metre-tall television from nearly everywhere on this route.
A very short and venomous climb or should we say 'wall' . Only 270m long, with an average incline of 9% and a maximum incline of 20%. If you manage to pull your eyes away from your front wheel, you will note the incongruous sight of a ski-lift above the road. This climb is used in Gent-Wevelgem and one of our favourites.
The Rodeberg can be tackled from both directions, but make sure you take a side-trip to the south at the summit, taking the small road up to the Molenhof restaurant, where the road really kicks up. This is the Baneberg. The hill is one of the best places in the area to pause with, t'Hellegat offering excellent food and drinks and the Nachtegaal campsite, where you can hire a retro camper to sleep in and enjoy fantastic views to the south.
The parcours of the Ghent-Wevelgem cycling classic leads the cyclists through three ‘Plugstreets’ (Hill 63, Christmas Truce and The Catacombs), semi-paved roads in and around Ploegsteert. During the war, there was fierce fighting around this village in the province of Henegouwen. It was also near the Ploegsteert forest that German and Allied soldiers briefly fraternised on Christmas 1914. The British found it difficult to pronounce the village’s name correctly, so they ended up calling it Plugstreet. The organisers wanted to integrate the Plugstreets into the route of the Ghent-Wevelgem classic to draw a link with the First World War and commemorate the victims.
At 156 meters the Kemmelberg is the highest point in West Flanders. Named after the village of Kemmel on its eastern slopes, during World War One it was the scene of brutal slaughter, the roads up it's slopes were only constructed to allow the hauling of munitions up to the gun emplacements on top. Today, it is the showpiece of Gent-Wevelgem, one of the great Classics and whose two ascents of the Kemmelberg’s notorious cobbled pavement, or pavé, continued to court controversy. For if the riders must climb from the south-east the Kemmel twice, for a while they also had to descend down the northern face. With its 20 per cent gradient over unpredictable terrain, the Kemmelberg has witnessed some truly horrendous crashes.