Frankie's Formulas: Gent-Wevelgem

Frankie's Formulas: Milan-San Remo

By Frankie Andreu

 

INFINIT is continuing our #MyMIX - Frankie's Formulas, a series of race formulas specifically for the EU Spring Classics that Frankie raced for over a decade. Including insider stories about what actually happens in the peloton, the race conditions, terrain and and the custom-blended nutrition solution needed to complete the stage.

 

Frankie's Gent-Wevelgem Formula at a Glance: Under 3 Hour Formula, Cycling/Spring Classics, Cramper's Blends, Heavy Sweaty, Caffinated Formulas, Low-Calorie, Vegan-friendly, Grape

Gent-Wevelgemhttp://www.steephill.tv/2011/gent-wevelgem/

"Imagine the fighting for position and the speed of the peloton entering the Kemmelberg for the second time. This course is very demanding because there is virtually no down time. There is no time to chew any solid food because you’re using your mouth to try to consume as much oxygen as possible. The calories have to come from the bottle and with a race distance of 242 km you need a lot of calories!.."

 

About the Race:

  • Annual cycling race started in 1934, held in Belgium as part of the Flemish Cycling Week.1
  • Officially named "Gent–Wevelgem – In Flanders Field", the race is often called the sprinters' classic due to its flat finishing terrain.2
  • Since 2012 a woman's event is held on the same day as the men's race.
  • Its early-season date means riders are often tested by wet and windy conditions, as well as several climbs, including two ascents of the steep and fully cobbled Kemmelberg.3


It’s the first one day classic of the World Tour, and at 293km, it’s also the longest. If you add the neutral zone the race goes well past 300km. With a start at 10am it’s important to have a good breakfast and important to fuel up right before the race start. Milan San Remo, despite the distance, is known for having a very quick start. Usually on average it takes an hour for the break to establish itself and it’s not uncommon for the fast racing to last up to two hours. At speeds of 30 mph it takes a while for the right group to escape and for the field to grow tired of chasing everything down.

Gent-Wevelgem 2014.jpg
By OpenStreetMap contributors, JÄNNICK Jérémy. D'après une carte publiée par les organisateurs du Gand-Wevelgem 2014 et cette carte - You may find a page on the OpenStreetMap wiki page for Gent-Wevelgem 2014, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31845628

 

As a sprinter, the prestige of winning Ghent Wevelgem could be compared to a climber winning Alpe de Huez - huge! Ghent Wevelgem may be known as a sprinters race but it's not an easy race for any participant. The course starts in Ghent and heads directly towards the coast to welcome the crosswinds. As the winds come flying off the coast the cross wind battles start with everyone fighting for position to not get dropped. The biggest obstacle of the day is the famous Kemmelberg. It’s a short 500 meter very steep cobbled climb with an even more treacherous steep cobbled descent. The race does the Kemmelberg twice and the last time is a measly thirty kilometers from the finish. You can only imagine the fighting for position and the speed of the peloton entering the Kemmelberg for the second time.

This course is very demanding because there is virtually no down time. There is no time to chew any solid food because you’re using your mouth to try to consume as much oxygen as possible. The calories have to come from the bottle and with a race distance of 242 km you need a lot of calories!

A common site during Ghent Wevlegem are the flags that are sticking straight out because of the winds. Last year the wind was so fierce it blew riders completely off the road and made for dangerous riding conditions. Most had trouble just controlling their bike. In Ghent Wevlegem it’s common for the peloton to split into three or four different groups during these wind battles. There is no sitting in and resting for a sprint finish.

 

Frankie's Formulas: Gent-Wevelgem


Besides the wind Belgium is also known for its road furniture - roundabouts, rail road tracks, trees lining the side of the road, parked cars, and even a once in a while a fork lift. One year during a nasty cross wind battle the peloton was pinned to the right side of the road heading towards the town of Koksijde. Cutting through town, lined up against the curb, everyone was weaving in out of the parked vehicles in our path. Looking up we saw the parked yellow truck sitting in our path and the first ten riders managed to weave out of its way. What the rest of the peloton didn’t see was that the fork lift parked there had its forks sitting flat at ground level. That instant of moving just enough to miss the vehicle turned out to not be enough with the additional five feet of metal plates lying in the road. That turned out to be the end of the race for many riders.

In 2000 we had a run in with some moving road furniture. A horse had jumped into the road and landed right next to the racing peloton. Come to find out the horse had a partner and when the second horse jumped into the road it ran right into Eric Zabel taking him down.

Despite its dangers sometimes there is help along the race route. The same year Zabel was hit by a horse I was dropped with some riders from the front group 25km from the finish. I was completely dead, had no legs left, and the wind was howling straight at us making it a long ride to the finish. As we rode towards the finish we passed tourists that were riding along the road and recruited them to help us battle the wind so we could end the agony. We continued on and gradually picked up more tourists. Towards the finish we had six pros and seven tourists all rotating in an echelon. I even mooched some food off one of the guys so I wouldn’t bonk and make it to the line. They pulled with us the whole way until the one-kilometer to go banner. I probably would have had a better chance finishing with the race, instead of ten minutes down, if I had been able get the right carbohydrates along with a little kick to give me a boost near the end.

Is this a sprinters race or strong man’s race? It’s a combination of both that requires long periods of being over your threshold to stay in the main group. The course takes its toll, the wind stops you in your tracks, and the stress level is extremely high. The final sprint for victory is the smallest problem compared to what the rest of Ghent Welvegem throws at you.

 

Get Frankie's Formula: Gent-Wevelgem

Learn more about Frankie Andreu and Gent-Wevelgem