The Flemish classic Gent–Wevelgem kicks off on Sunday, 31st of March. The 2019 edition will be the 81st time the race has been ridden. This is traditionally a sprinters’ race. And this year too it’s the explosive and fast riders who are likely to win. Here are our five tips for the top. 

Dylan Groenewegen

The Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has been riding really well already in the 2019 season. He’s shown that he’s in a class of his own during several UCI World Tour races, even against some of the best riders in the world. But there’s an extra challenge at Gent–Wevelgem: Groenewegen has to survive a relatively hard route of over 250km. And then have saved enough energy to finish the sprint. But if it does end in a sprint, and if he has enough energy left over, Groenewegen is the best rider in the pack. Unfortunately, Dylan Groenewegen won’t start due to sickness.

Gent-Wevelgem

Groenewegen winning the Driedaagse Brugge–De Panne 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan has had a variable spring so far, with some illness and injuries. He has started to look better and better, and is getting nearer the front in more races. He no longer has the sprinting speed he once had, but he’s as strong as a bear and has a huge amount of experience. If he gets the opportunity to end up in the final elite group of riders, then he’s often the man who wins. He has the experience too: he won this race in 2013, 2016 and 2018. If he succeeds in 2019, he will be the first ever rider to have won the race four times.

Sagan winning Gent–Wevelgem in 2018. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Greg Van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet also knows what it takes to win this race. He won it in 2017 and is riding very well so far in 2019. But getting over the line first is difficult for Van Avermaet, as so many riders keep an eye on him. When he attacks, you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone will react. He will have to be smart and hope that other riders will want to do the hard work if he ends up in a small group of attackers towards the end. If that’s the case, he may well be the guy who gets over the line first.

Van Avermaet was the best in this race in 2017. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Mathieu van der Poel

Can we already expect Mathieu van der Poel to get the win? On paper, not really: Van der Poel is only now starting to discover what he can do on a road bike. But whoever looks into their hearts knows that this guy has it in him. And why not? It’s still not clear where Van der Poel’s limits are, and he seems to surprise us every time. He can win a sprint, but he’s also demonstrated that he can also be successful if he decides to go on the attack.

Van der Poel wins the GP Denain in 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani placed second in the 2018 edition of Gent–Wevelgem and just like Groenewegen he’s an excellent sprinter. He’s already won a stage of the Tirreno Adriatico in 2019 as was also 3rd in the Driedaagse de Panne. Viviani had to submit to a superior Groenewegen in that race, so it’s time the Italian show’s what he’s made of and give a reply to the super-fast Dutchman.

Viviani (right, wearing his Italian champion’s shirt) celebrates with his team mates after Alaphilippe won Milan–San Remo 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos.

As far as we are concerned these are the biggest favourites. But just behind them are name such as John Degenkolb, Magnus Cort, Arnaud Démare, Matteo Trentin and Oliver Naessen who may well also be in the mix when the race comes down to the wire.