Gent-Wevelgem: Marlen Reusser soloes to victory despite wrong turn

21-year-old US talent Megan Jastrab finishes second on the podium in an edition beset by crashes.

Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

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Marlen Reusser (SD Worx) took a solo win at Gent-Wevelgem despite taking a wrong turn in the final five kilometers.

The Swiss rider attacked with just under 40 kilometers to go and had well over two minutes of an advantage when she inadvertently went off course with about five kilometers to go.

Reusser was quick to realize her mistake and she was able to turn back onto the course without losing much time. Using her time trial skills to pace herself, she still had more than two minutes on the chasers when the new gap was calculated.

As she rode into the final meters in Wevelgem, Reusser unzipped her rain jacket so her SD Worx colors were visible as she celebrated the win.

Megan Jastrab (Team DSM) continued her strong classics campaign to take her first WorldTour podium by winning the sprint from the bunch with Maike van der Duin (Canyon-SRAM) finishing third.

“It’s very nice and I’m super happy but I’m so tired that I don’t think I am here yet with my head,” Reusser said afterward. “I didn’t attack, I thought maybe we could make a bit of a selection or a small group and there was nobody on my wheel so I thought let’s try it. It was very hard, especially my arms. I cannot even dress myself now, I’m so done.

“I didn’t see the guys giving me the way, I went straight, that was wrong. It was not so good. I was not concentrating.”

Lots of crashes and a lone escape

Heavy rain greeted the riders as they set out from Ypres on Sunday afternoon. This year would be the second time that the women’s race finished following the men’s after the race organizer Flanders Classics decided to shake up the schedule last year.

The poor weather made for tricky riding conditions and several riders were caught out by big crashes along the way, including Brugge-De Panne winner Pfeiffer Georgi (Team DSM). Meanwhile, several attempts at forming a breakaway came to nothing and the race was pretty much together as it hit the climbs in the second half of the 162km race.

Lotte Kopecky was the first of the big pre-race favorites to make a move over the Kemmelberg with just over 50km to go. She took Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Anna Henderson (Jumbo-Visma) with her, but there was never really any proper momentum in the group and they were soon brought back.

A massive crash with 44km to go, as the riders traveled between the Scherpenberg and the Baneberg, reduced the bunch dramatically. A rider from the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step team appeared to get her wheels caught in the ridge in the center of the road before coming down hard near the front of the peloton.

As teams assessed the damage, and crashed riders worked to get back to the bunch, Reusser surged clear. There was no initial reaction to her move and the time triallist soon built a substantial advantage.

By the time she reached the Kemmelberg for the second time with 35km to go, Reusser had a minute on the chase group and it was only going out. Despite the increasing gap, the teams behind were still disorganized and few seemed keen on putting numbers on the front to try and bring Reusser back.

The chase would finally come to life inside the final 20km, but it would ultimately be too little too late.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the SD Worx squad and several of its riders in the chasing group went down inside the final 15km. Lorena Wiebes was attempting to go around the outside of the group when she lost control of her bike and went down hard, taking Kopecky with her.

There was then a moment of panic for Reusser when she took a wrong turn in the final five kilometers, but she was able to get back on course before she lost too much time. In the end, she still had over two minutes on the chasers as she crossed the line for victory.

Behind Reusser, a sizeable group fought it out for the final podium spots with Jastrab taking a convincing second place as Van der Duin (Canyon-SRAM) rode in for third place.

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