Laporte sweeps to victory with Van Aert at wet and windy Ghent-Wevelgem
French rider Christophe Laporte won the Ghent-Wevelgem classic ahead of his Belgian leader and Jumbo-Visma teammate Wout Van Aert on Sunday in a rain-lashed race which swept over cobbles and past World War I landscapes.
The two men finished hand-in-hand, almost two minutes ahead of third-placed Sep Vanmarcke of Belgium.
Laporte is the fourth Frenchman to win the Flemish classic after Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Philippe Gaumont.
"At 10km from the line, Wout asked me if I wanted to win," revealed Laporte.
"He knew my answer: when I started my career, my aim was to win a stage on the Tour de France and a classic. Today I realised a childhood dream."
Second last year behind Biniam Girmay of Eritrea, Laporte, who won a stage on the 2022 Tour de France, recorded his biggest victory.
Already victorious at Wevelgem in 2021, and the winner of the E3 Classic on Friday at Harelbeke, where he dominated Dutch rival Mathieu van der Poel and Tadej Pogacar, Van Aert confirmed his status as favourite for the Tour of Flanders next weekend.
"It wasn't the plan we had initially developed but we quickly saw that everything was under control as our two guys appeared strong," said Maarten Wijnants, sporting director of the Jumbo-Visma team.
Contested in appalling wet and windy weather conditions, Sunday's race pivoted on the ascent of Mont Kemmel in the Ypres region, 55km from the line.
That's where Van Aert pressed the pace which only Laporte was able to follow.
For Van Aert, it was a third podium in three one-day races this season after his second place in the Milan-San Remo and his Friday victory at Harelbeke.
Unlike Jumbo, the Ineos team had a day to forget.
Filippo Ganna and Michal Kwiatkowski both crashed out at around the halfway stage.
Polish rider Kwiatkowski, the 2014 world champion, was feared to have suffered a broken collarbone.
2023 Gent-Wevelgem Top 10
1 LAPORTE Christophe Jumbo-Visma 5:49:39
2 VAN AERT Wout Jumbo-Visma 0:00
3 VANMARCKE Sep Israel - Premier Tech 1:56
4 FRISON Frederik Lotto Dstny 1:56
5 PEDERSEN Mads Trek - Segafredo 1:56
6 BJERG Mikkel UAE Team Emirates 1:56
7 RENARD Alexis Cofidis 2:04
8 KOOIJ Olav Jumbo-Visma 2:04
9 VAN POPPEL Danny BORA - hansgrohe 2:04
10 MCLAY Daniel Team Arkéa Samsic 2:04