After almost two weeks of beautiful sunshine, the rain arrived for the start of the Tour of Flanders. No doubt there were a few smiles among the riders as the heavens opened but, for the inexperienced, trepidation may have been the overwhelming feeling.
Donning their rain jackets, the riders wound their way through the huge crowds that lined the road between the team buses and the presentation stage, negotiating the already slippery cobbles as they went.
All were greeted with claps and cheers, but the biggest were reserved for the Belgian Omega Pharma-QuickStep team. Led by home hero Tom Boonen, along with Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar, the noise raised several decibels as they walked onto the stage. The team come to the race with a strong group of riders and are likely to dictate much of the race strategy.
There were plenty of other big names on show for the second monument of the year. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) are two of the big favourites to take victory today. Earlier this week, Cancellara said that the pressure was on the Slovak to win. Milan-San Remo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Gent-Wevelgem victor John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) are also on hand, and could be dangermen if the race comes back together on the run-in to Oudenaarde.
Click here for the start line gallery.