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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage from the 2010 edition of Gent-Wevelgem.
After yesterday’s action in E3 we have another blockbuster in store for today.
However this year’s race is almost totally different to previous editions. Organisers of the 2010 Gent-Wevelgem have called this year's race a "transition" in their quest to elevate the status and reputation of the event.
The race has dropped it’s mid-week slot in between Flanders and Roubaix and is now a full week before Flanders.
While a proposal to stretch the course out to almost 260 kilometres fell by the wayside, the peloton will face a formidable series of 16 Flemish climbs on their 219 kilometre journey to Wevelgem; an increase of 14 climbs over the 2009 edition.
This year's edition will even include an international foray, as the peloton cross the border into France for the climbs of the Mont des Cats and Mont Noir.
The race set off this morning from Deinze and the peloton have been racing for just over an hour. We’ll bring you an update on their status very soon.
One rider that won’t be racing today is Andreas Klier (Cervelo). He crashed out of yesterday’s race and had to be taken to hospital. Nothing broken but he does have mild concussion. We hope he makes a swift recovery.
Just one more snippet on today’s route: The peloton will stream towards the Belgian coastline before a prompt turn south and into the hills of southern Flanders. Two loops will follow, with the Sherpenberg, Mont des Cats, Berthen, Mont Noir, Baneberg, Rode berg and Monteberg to be tackled twice. The always crucial Kemmelberg will also play double duty on race day, with the second ascent to precede the 35 kilometre run into the finish.
So, after 18 kilometers of racing a group of four riders jumped off the front. They're still out there and their names will be with you shortly. Right now they have a lead of 40 seconds over the bunch.
Drum roll please..... our four leaders are Geert Steurs (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator), Angel Madrazo (Caisse d´Epargne), Tom Van den Haute (Landbouwkrediet) and Matthé Pronk (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Teamb).
Another non-starter today was Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) after he crashed three times yesterday. He's not having much luck so far this year.
Cyclingnews were at the start this morning. It was dry and overcast but we can expect a few light showers today. Last year's race was marred by bad weather and we saw plenty of riders eliminated early on.
By the way ,Russel Downing of Team Sky won today's stage in the Criterium International. You can check out the report, images and results right here! The riders have a short 7.7km time trial later on today and it will decide the race. Pierrick Fedrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) leads going into the final stage but he's got a fight on his hands. Samuel Sanchez, Cadel Evans, Tiago Machado and Michael Rogers are all less than 30 seconds down. It's going to be a tight fight for the overall.
When asking in-form Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) about the course of the 72th Gent-Wevelgem the Spaniard said he didn't have a clue. "I don't know the new course," Flecha told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé at the start in Deinze. Last year the first hundred kilometres offered a great spectacle with crosswinds making it a hard race. "Probably this year it'll be the same during that first part. I'm riding really good from the start of the season and I hope I can keep it up. I don't have a lot of pressure," Flecha added, referring to his great win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and his strong performance during the E3-prijs Harelbeke on Saturday.
Here's a bit of trivia for you to impress your friends with. Tom Van den Haute (Landbouwkrediet) is son of Ferdi Van den Haute and he won the race in 1978. I'm sure he's making his dad very proud today.
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) won Gent-Wevelgem two years ago in a bunch sprint. The Spaniard showed in Milan-San Remo that he still has the punch after a long and hard race but when heading to the sign-on in Deinze the triple world champion explained that he didn't like Gent-Wevelgem v2.0. "It's not normal. The climbs are always the same but the roads we're covering are too narrow; there's not enough space for 200 riders," Freire told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé. "This race is not my main goal but of course I will give my best. After my win in Sanremo there's no pressure at all. I want to do good in the Basque country in order to be ready for the classics following it," Freire added.
There's a crash in the bunch and a rider from Vacansoleil has been taken to hospital. As soon as we know more we'll let you know. Meanwhile the gap is up to 2.15
The last rider to sign on today was Matti Breschel from Saxo Bank. He didn't race yesterday so like Gilbert he'll be fresh. Fabian Cancellara wasn't sure of his form for today. He told Cyclingnews that he'd had a nice glass of wine last night to celebrate winning E3. Well deserved we think.
Cancellara was one of the last riders to sign-on in Deinze and while he was still on the podium for a chat with the presentator the peloton had already started the race. When the Swiss champion found out about it he didn't look pleased at all and quickly left the stage. Spartacus was strong on Saturday but offering the peloton a five minutes lead is a bit over the top, no?
Marcus Burghardt (BMC) told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé that he didn't have his best race on Saturday in the E3-prijs Harelbeke. "All was going quite well and I was still near the front on the Paterberg but on the Oude Kwaremont it was over. Today offers another chance," Burghardt said about the race he won in 2007.
A bit more info on Gert Steurs. He is a 27-year-old Belgian riding for the Professional Continental team Topsport Vlaanderen. He turned pro in 2007 with Predictor Lotto and rode with them for two years before joining Topsport.
His biggest career moment came earlier this year when he won the second stage of the Tour of Qatar, from the Camel Race Track to the Qatar Foundation. That gave him second place overall, which he held on to until the end.
Angel Madrazo is a 21-year-old second year pro with Caisse d'Epargne. He rode a full season last year, concentrating on stage races. His calendar included Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of Poland and the Eneco Tour.
Matthe Pronk is the “old man” of this escape group. The 35-year-old Dutchman turned pro in 1999 with Rabobank, and has put in time with Bankgiroloterij, MrBookmaker.com and Unibet, before joining Vacansoleil last year.
He won the Nokere Koerse in 2003. Pronk puts in a lot of time on the track, having won various European and national titles in Derny, points, and Madison.
The leaders are approaching the first climb of the day. Here we go.
So who are you tipping for today's race? A lot of riders think the route is too hard to end in a sprint involving a big group. We spoke to Robbie McEwen (Katusha) at the start. The experienced Australian was very aggressive in last year’s race but he think that you have to be aggressive in a race like this, whether you’re a sprinter or not. However he felt that with the additional climbs added to this year’s route the race would be too hard to control for the sprinters teams. Therefore, could we see a select group of riders form before the finish like we did yesterday?
Our four leaders have taken more time on the bunch. Their lead is up to 3.30
Wasn't yesterday's E3 a cracking race? We had that lead group of Boonen, Cancellara and Flecha up the road and a desperate Pozzato chasing on his own behind. At one point the gap was down to just ten seconds. It meant that Boonen had to react. Why him? We'll he was the fastest sprinter and Pozzato, as we know from last year's race, can also sprint. Flecha and Cancellara wouldn't have worried too much if the Italian had made it across as it wouldn't have changed much for them. That's why we saw Boonen hammering it up the final climb as Pozzato began to close in.
Here are some images from today's start. Graham Watson doesn't have anything to worry about.
And the gap is starting to come down. It's 2:45 now.
We have a split in the bunch and Tom Boonen has been left behind and is in the second group.
Looks like Boonen is paying for the efforts he made in yesterday's race. Understandable to be honest.
We've spotted Cancellara. He's with Boonen today.
Our three leaders are still working well together but the lead is 2.20. Back in the pack and Rick Flens (Rabobank) takes a tumble and is sitting by the side of the road. He might be about to call it a day. I saw three leaders because Tom Van den Haute (Landbouwkrediet) has been dropped.
The leaders are entering France now. Back to the bunch and McEwan is in a group that's just slipped off the front. They wont last long. In fact in the time I've typed this they've been caught.
Van Hummel is on the attack. His knee has so much strapping on it. Van Hummel shot to fame at last year's Tour with his heroic display in the mountains. He wasn't very good, in fact he was dubbed the worst climber in the Tour but he hung in there until eventually pulling out in the final week. Such an iconic figure he is, that we contemplated having t-shirts printed in the office with his face on and the words below, 'Look busy Van Hummel is coming'.
Back to the action and I have to say these roads are very narrow. Think of the width of a car, cut it in half and that's what they're riding along.
George Hincapie is the man for BMC Racing Team today, according to sports director Mike Sayers. He told Cyclingnews at that Hincapie was fresh and would be the captain on the road.
"He's fresh, he didn't race yesterday [at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke]," he said. "George has got the experience, so he'll be calling the shots. We've just got to stay out of trouble on those narrow roads, especially near the coast."
Sayers was racing on the day Hincapie won Gent-Wevelgem in 2001. Although he'll be in the team car today, Sayers is still in good shape and showed the younger members of the BMC the Classics ropes on training rides last week.
"I was racing for Mercury when George won," he said. "Being on this side of things [a director] is far more relaxed than racing. If I were still racing I'm sure I'd be feeling pretty nervous right now."
Boonen and Cancellara are having a nice little chat. How nice. They'll be getting into the team cars pretty soon me thinks.
Lars Bak isn't wasting any time today. He's off the front of the bunch. Columbia have a pretty solid team today. Eisel is no bad sprinter and he can climb a bit too.
Apologies. It's HTC-Columbia. But yes, they do have a strong team for today's race. Matt Goss finished third here last year so he'll be looking for a good result today and they have Aldag in the car calling the shots.
Garmin-Transitions are one of the teams racing today who missed Saturday's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke. At the start this morning Julian Dean told Cyclingnews the hoped to play an active role in the race.
"It's going to be tough, especially with all those narrow roads," Dean said. "The plan to day is to race aggressive, try to get somebody away in one of the breaks and see what happens."
Team Sky are on the front now and they're leading the bunch along these narrow roads. The bunch is still pretty big at the moment but we can expect it to thin out soon. The gap to the three leaders is 1.39 as they tackle the Berthen.
Behind the Sky train we have a line of Liquigas - Doimo riders. They also have a strong team with last year's runner up Aleksandr Kuschynski, Daniele Bennati and Daniel Oss amongst others.
Gilbert grabs some food as the bunch hit the feed. He's tossing most of the contents away though.
Our three up front are now on the Mont Noir. It's 1,400 meters long but not too steep. Good on the young Spaniard getting into the break here. It's not really his comfort zone but he's doing a good job for his team today.
Crash. Gustav Larsson is involved and another thirty riders are help up behind him. It didn't look too serious from what we can see but we'll let you know if there's any news from that spill.
To give you an idea of how narrow these roads are, the guys can ride about four, five across but no more than that. It means there will be a lot of fighting for position and if you're not at the front you're going to be wasting a lot of energy.
That's a great effort from Bak. He's caught the three leaders already and moves straight to the front. "Follow me guys, I know the way!"
Behind our four leaders we have a group of three chasers who are now on the Baneberg. Make that two chasers followed by Perez from Euskatel, who has just been dropped on the climb.
Gregory Rast (Radioshack) has stopped. Looks like he's had enough but he may have had a crash. He's on his feet but not on his bike.
Four leaders working well but Bak must be the strongest. He jumped away and caught them so quickly.
Milram's Paco Wrolich crashed earlier in the race, falling on his face, but is still riding. “We are in Belgium, you have to be able to handle more, and that is exactly what Paco is doing,” according to his Directeur Sportif Ralf Grabsch.
I've got goosebumps. The four leaders are now on the Kemmelberg. Such a famous cobbled climb and it's the young Spaniard who is leading them up. Anyone predict that at the start of today's race?
The peloton are now on the climb and things are hotting up back there. We see Breschel, we see Brown, and quite a few Liquigas riders too. Of course the bunch will climb the Kemmelberg before the finish again.
Sad news from earlier today. Martin Reimer crashed out and had to be taken to hospital.
Liquigas are on the front now and the peloton split quite a bit on that last climb with quite a few groups forming.
We have around four echelons now. The leaders still have 53 seconds on the chasers but the bunch is in pieces right now. Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team), Roy Curvers (Skil) have been caught and it's Garmin and Luiqugas putting the hammer down. The Italian team have five or six riders in this group and I think Farrar is there too. Freire, Gilbert, are caught behind and are sprinting to get back on.
Gilbert isn't getting much help right now. He's in a group that has around 15 riders in it.
Henderson and Freire are giving Glibert a hand. So is Chavanel but it doesn't look too good for these guys right now. At the front the Liquigas riders have caught the Bak group.
Gilbert and co are around 12 seconds back right now. Liquigas group has roughly twenty riders in it now and they're working well together. They really caught some of the big favourites napping.
Matti Breschel and Baden Cooke are in the lead group, along with Farrar, Martijn Maaskant and Johan Van Summeren. HTC have Bak and Goss. Liquigas has pretty much their entire team. We'll get you a full lost of names asap but the Gilbert group is now at 30 seconds.
George Hincapie is also there. He's made the split.
If you're wondering where Boonen and Cancellara are, they pulled out at the last feed. Early bath for those guys.
Liquigas has the numbers in this lead group but the question is do they have the killer punch? Bennati is a good sprinter, but there are still a few threats in this group. The race is nicely poised.
You know what, this gap isn't getting any bigger so guys like Gilbert and Enrico Gasparotto aren't out of it yet. Just as I type that they both attack. Can they get back to this lead group.
Enrico Gasparotto has left Gilbert and makes it over the lead group. Does Gilbert have the legs to do the same?
Gilbert is closing in, weaving through the motorbikes and he has Freire with him. Class move from those two.
Goss now leads the group with Hincapie on his wheel, while the remnants of the chase group try and claw back to the front. Still 53 kilometers to go. Gilbert paced himself coming across the gap. He's lighter than he was at this stage last year. At the Omega Pharma-Lotto training camp earlier this year he told Cyclingnews he was carrying 3kg less into this season.
In other news David Millar won the final stage at Criterium International.
Fedrigo held onto the overall.
We're pretty much all back together now but Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana) has gone on the attack and we're back on the Mont Noir.
Dainel Oss, who was strong at Milan San Remo has gone after the Astana rider. He's about 50 meters back.
We have four more climbs to go but if this stays together we could have a bunch sprint on our hands. Bennati, Chicci, Farrar, Freire, Paolini, Eisel and Breschel all present.
Our two leaders are pulling away with a small chase group forming behind. Two leaders are now on the Rode berg.
Nice one from special Breschel, he's caught the two leaders and gone straight to the front of the race. Hincapie and Freire are chasing behind.
This could be an interesting little move. Freire and Hincapie have made it across to the three leaders.
Two more riders have made it over. Goss and one other. Gilbert is leading the chase and it looks like things could be coming back together again. Gilbert has done a lot of work today covering moves and chasing. He needs to make a move of his own soon.
Another Liquigas attack and Eisel looks around asking someone to chase.
Onto the Monteberg now and Lotto are setting the tempo. there's so much pressure on Gilbert today after the team's poor showing yesterday. They've still not won a race all year!
Gilbert and Hincapie take turns on the front.
Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) is trying to come over to the lead group but it's going to be hard for him to make it on his own. Roelandts is on the front, working for Gilbert.
Get ready, we're on the Kemmel!
That's Breschel on the front. He's going full gas. he looks back, he has a small gap.
The move has caused chaos behind but Eisel is trying to catch him with Hincapie with him.
Breschel goes over alone, he might have ten seconds right now. Behind him things look to back together.
Tyler Farrar is just over the top. Good ride from him today. If he can get back on he;ll be a threat in the sprint.
The Dane is sitting up. He knows the gap isn't big enough. He would have liked a few riders to come with him but he can't make it to finish on his own.
That's all the big climbs done. It's quite flat to the finish now but don't rule out things splitting up before the line.
The pace is still high with this lead group as they fly down a false flat. There are some dangerous riders trying to get on behind.
The chasers include Farrar, Cooke, and Paolini.
Hincapie takes a turn on the front. He's had a smart race so far. He's never had to do too much chasing and he's been with all the big moves today. One smart racing cookie.
The American swings off and Breschel comes to the front. Now Freire and now Gilbert.
Liquigas has two riders in this lead group but it's not Bennati or Chicci. They might struggle if it comes to a sprint.
Most of the riders seem to be sharing the work here. One rider I've not seen at the front is Vanmarke. He's constantly at the back, so he could be saving something for later. Or he could be tired and hanging on for dear life.
That's it from me for today. I'll pass you over into the capable hands of Susan.
And here I am to bring us into the finish. Thanks for the good handoff, Dan.
Our group of four chasers is now at 25 seconds. They are doing their best, but just not getting closer. Behind them, though, the field is falling further back.
How's this for sportsmanship? Eisel just handed former teammate Hincapie something to eat.
Oops, a mechanical for Breschel. He quickly gets a new rear tire. Well, it's not all that quickly. The chase group has now passed him, and he must try to catch them.
The lead group picks up the speed a notch, as the chase group of now five riders is 28 seconds back. At least Breschel has Cooke in that group to help him.
Hm, that doesn't look like 27 seconds gap to me!
We are told it is 20 seconds. Definitely within viewing range.
The front group is nervious. There is lots of looking over the shoulder. They await not only the chase group, but attacks out of their own ranks.
We have a slight split in the lead group, as Oss and Freire have fallen off the back.
Sorry, it is not Oss but Kuchynski. And Iglisnkyi is having trouble hanging on, too.
The front group pulls away now. Iglinksy can't see them, and the five chasers around Breschel have now caught Freire and Kuchynski.
Six riders in the lead, including HIncapie, Gilbert, Roelandts, and Eisel.
We don't know the gap to Iglinsky, but the Breschel group is now at 28 seconds.
Eisel takes a turn leading the group, as the chasers fall back to 31 seconds.
The group is happy to let Eisel do a long turn at the front, but he finally decides that was enough and someone else should take a turn.
Time to start debating which of these six will win. A sprint? Or will one of them take off -- who, and when?
Workhorse Eisel takes another turn.
STill no move, they are all together. The Breschel group is at 44 seconds, I think we can forget them.
A bit of looking at one another. Who will be the first to jump?
He has a slight lead, and the rest remain calm behind him.
He is caught again.
And they are still riding all calmly together! They seem to be calmer than I am!
HIncapie opens the sprint, but Eisel comes around him. And the Austrian from HTC-Columbia takes the win!
Second place went to Vanmarke, with Gilbert third.
Iglinsky crossed the finish line 55 seconds later, and the chasers came in at just about a minute down.
It was a clear win for Eisel, a good two bike lengths ahead of his closest rival.
Groups of riders continue to dribble over the finish line, now four minutes down.
Here is our final podium:
1.Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia)
2.Sep Vanmarke (Topsport Vlaanderen)
3.Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
That is Eisel's first win of the season, and that ties the number of wins he had last year. He won a stage in the Tour de Suisse.
Congratuaations to one and all. Thanks for reading along with us, and join us again next weekend for the Tour of Flanders!