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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne. Can Voeckler earn his first win of the year or is this another one for Sagan?
A quick update on what has so far occurred. In the break we have Kenny DeHaes (Lotto Belisol), Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), Ben Hermans (RadioShack Leopard), Youcef Reguigui (MTN Qhubeka), Jane Ghyselinck (Cofidis) and Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare). They got away at km46 and got out to a maximum advantage of over four minutes but it's mostly hovered around 3:30...
DeHaes has been in great form of late, winning Handzame and then seventh last week at the Scheldeprijs... Could be one to watch today with the team's first option, Jelle Vanendert out of action. Lotto will be putting their efforts behind Dennis Vanendert and Tim Wellens.
Gap is tumbling now with Vacansoleil and Garmin Sharp leading the charge.
Peloton is seriously strung out as the gap is down to 1:50
75 km to go and the peloton are now on the Ijskelderlaan. A number of riders are already starting to slip back due to the pressure from Garmin, Europcar and Vacansoliel on the front of the bunch.
The gap continues to drop as well. Voeckler is around 20 riders back at the moment, but he's looking towards the front. He faded badly at Flanders but this is a race that suits him, of course, having won the race last year.
The race itself has a HC rating but after Flanders and Roubaix it's a slight anti-climax, but a key point in the build up to the Ardennes Classics which begin this weekend at Amstel Gold Race.
Up ahead and the break are now on the Schavei, the 10th climb of the race.
The leaders race through the finish line for the first time today. They're still tapping out a nice pace but the bunch are continuing to cut their lead. BMC are the latest team to join the chase.
As the bunch come over the line 1:30 down on the break.
There are three laps to go for both the break and the peloton. Most likely, we'll see the break caught in the next 20km and then a strong counter attack from the strongest riders in the race. Usually the race is one by a lone rider, or a small break.
Hagaard is now being climbed for the first time . Deignan sets the pace for most of the climb. The Irishman has been in pretty good form in recent weeks, after a difficult 2012. This race doesn't really suit him but he's joining the business for his American employers.
As Haas (Garmin) jumps out from the peloton and establishes a small gap.
In the bunch Sagan is near the front with Caruso right next to him.
The bunch sit up for a brief moment for a feed. There are just over 65km to go.
The lull in pace doesn't last long.Voeckler doesn't appear happy with the sporadic pace and comes to the front to have a word. I'm not sure anyone was paying attention though.
Attacking in the feedzone. Topsport, give that old chesnut a try, as up ahead the break take on the next climb. The lone Topsport rider has just a few meters on the bunch but Haas has been caught.
Sijemens comes to a standstill at the foot of the next ascent with problems with his chainset. At the front of the bunch it's now Lotto and RadioShack doing all the damage. Shack won this race a few years ago with Rosseller. That year he also won the overall in De Panne.
Apologies. Haas is still out there on his own. No check to him but the bunch are 1:20 behind the break as Sagan is joined at the front of the bunch by two more of his teammates. It looks like Cannondale, after a quiet Paris-Roubaix, are looking to make the most of the outing.
Haas is flying. He's gone passed Youcef Reguigui who was dropped on the last climb by the bunch.
Haas is a minute behind the break and 20 seconds ahead of the bunch. It doesn't look good for his chances of making the catch.
There's already a counter attack from the field with a number of riders trying to slip clear.
58km to go now and Haas is sitting up. If a couple of riders has gone with him, or if he'd been able to bridge the gap to the leaders it could have been different but he jumped clear just as Cannondale were waking up and there are five of them on the front now.
After their brave move of attacking in the feedzone Topsport have come to the front to help with chasing down the break, giving Cannondale a slight break from working. The gap is continuing to drop though, and it's at 1'15 with 54km to go.
There's a crash, just on the right hand bend that leads to the next climb, and three riders are on the deck. Moser is on the front at the front though, trying to catch Marcato who attacks.
The Italian is caught, and it looks like Devolder is on the front of the race now.
Devolder has attacked with 50km to go. A la Berzin in Liege 1998, the comeback is well and truly on.
The two time winner of Flanders is looking back, he's clearly looking for more riders to come with him but he's going to have to carry on by himself for now. He's 31 seconds behind the break.
RadioShack do have options here though, with Jan Bakelants and Gallopin in the bunch, and Hermans on up road in the break.
Tim Wellens (Lotto) has jumped clear with a rider from Saxo Bank on his wheel but that move is about to be caught.
De Weert is on the side of the road. He needs a new bike from his team car.
The leaders come over the line for the second time now. Devolder comes over the line 23 seconds down with a few other riders clear of the fast-moving peloton.
The entire race is separated by roughly 45 seconds.
Davide Rebellin is racing today. He's near the front of the peloton too as they start the next lap.
Leukmans and Voss have joined up and are hunting down Devolder.
Hermans comes to the front but he should be slowing things down if he's smart to Devolder can make contact as the leaders start Holstheide
Malacare is about to make contact with the Voss posse.
Devolder is about 20 meters down on the break
He'll make contact on this next climb and we'll have two RadioShack riders in the lead group.
The Voss group is 16 seconds back, with the peloton 46.
Gilbert is in trouble!
He has a puncture and takes a wheel from a teammate but the wheel isn't fixed properly and the mechanic has to come to the rescue.
A fan, clearly enjoying himself, gives Gilbert a pat on the back as the world champion stands there helpless. Gilbert manages to restrain himself.
Up ahead and the two RadioShack riders have started to put the pressure on the rest of the break.
Gilbert is coming back to the peloton with aid of the BMC team car.
It's going to be a long chase. And BMC are making it even harder by setting a furious pace on the front of the bunch. The world champion is alone, by the way, no teammates to help him. Maybe he's having an off-day and told his team not wait.
Gilbert is still chasing but Sagan also has bike change.
World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) can become the third world champion to win the Brabantse Pijl. In 1972 it was the legendary Eddy Merckx who managed to win in the rainbow colours. Oscar Freire repeated the feat in 2005. The Belgian rider skipped the biggest pavé classics to be ready for the Ardennes. “Things went well in the Basque Country. It’s one of the hardest stage races of the year and that’s what I needed. It was a good choice to ride there. The Tour of Flanders and Roubaix were nothing for me,” Gilbert said.
Jean-Marie Wampers told Cyclingnews at the start of the race that the riders who did Paris-Roubaix probably are not yet recovered from their efforts of last Sunday. “Back in my days I needed a week before my energy levels were back to normal,” the 1989 Roubaix-winner said. “After doing Flanders, Wevelgem and Roubaix it was over. In 1990 we rode a small race in Bellegem shortly after. They always start so fast in these races. Roubaix-winner Eddy Planckaert and myself were the first to get dropped after half a lap. Now the riders can recover faster,” Wampers said. He added that riding a long Roubaix reconnaissance like most do nowadays would drain him in his days. “I prepared by doing a normal training and GP Cerami. Then I watched video tapes of previous Roubaix editions.”
The Voss group have caught the leaders, as Sagan makes contact with the peloton again.
Euser attacks from the peloton, doing his own Devolver impression.
The pint-sized climber isn't having as much sucess though and is about to be caught by a rider from Europcar.
As Chavanel jumps from the peloton. He doesn't form a gap but he's certainly stringing out the field.
The old one two from QuickStep with Velits now attacking. He's caught too but the race is hotting up. The break with 37 seconds.
Less than 30km to go. RadioShack and Europcar are doing the work in the break but back in the peloton the dynamic is constantly changing. Quickstep have tried a number of moves but nothing has gone clear yet.
But Gallopin has a mechanical and it's going to be very hard to come back at this stage in the race. Omega attack again and it's Chavanel sprinting up Ijskelderlaan. He's strung the field out but the elastic hasn't snapped just yet.
Deignan has been caught by the bunch. That's a good ride from the Irishman.
Hermans is also caught.
Voeckler, the defending champion, rises out of the saddle, drifts to the front and starts to increase the pace. The beak,meanwhile, crosses the line with a gap of 41 seconds.
Argos take over the pace-setting duties on the front of the field, with 22 km to go. The break is still 40 seconds clear but there are some weak legs out there and a few turns are being missed. Devolder, in particular, is burying himself though.
Rebellin has a puncture.
20km to go and Argos have all their remaining riders on the front. The gap to the break isn't coming down though, so they're going to have to increase the pace.
The reinforcements that made it over to the initial escape have made the different.
Van Avermaet leads Gilbert onto the Hertstraat and the pace is enough to cause major problems. Only Sagan can follow.
Behind the race has split to pieces with Gilbert, Van Avermaet and Sagan free.
Chavanel is coming over with one rider from Argos.
16km to go and this move could be the winning one. There's another chase about 100 meters back but with Sagan driving the break and Van Avermaet to be used, it could work. Gescke is the rider from Argos Shimano in the move.
Chavanel has a made up the road but Devolder won't want contact to me made, and that's why he's continuing to set the pace. The gap between the Devolder group and Chavanel's group is less than 10 seconds.
It's seven seconds with 15 km to go.
Voeckler simply didnt have the legs it seems.
12km to go and the two groups have now merged.
Niki Sorensen is chasing on his own with Katusha and Europcar leading the chase from the remnants of the peloton.
Voeckler is now chasing with Gallopin on his wheel.
As up ahead Gilbert takes another strong turn on the front. There's no time check at the moment but it's less than 30 seconds.
The chasers are running out of time, the gap at 17 seconds with 9km to go.
The gap goes out to 19, Devolder drifts to the back of the group and sees if Gallopin is closing but it's not going to happen.
The gap is increasing. It's now at 25 seconds. If anyone is going to catch the leaders they need to go now!
Maes and Chavanel take turns on the front with Sagan coming through to do his work.
Onto the penultimate climb and Van Avermaet sets the pace, Gilbert on his wheel. The pace setter fades and Gescke takes over.
The peloton are at 33 seconds with 4km to go.
The leaders are starting to watch each other though and final climb is going to be crucial, as Omega shut down every attack from behind in the bunch.
Sagan in second wheel. He'll fancy his chances if it comes down to a sprint.
Gilbert is on Sagan's wheel and he's not coming through to take a turn. Sagan slows and Chavanel attacks. Sagan quickly shuts it down.
Van Avermaet and Maes are now clear. Sagan is chasing with 2km to go.
Van Avemaet is doing the work at the moment.
Onto the last climb and the two leaders have about 30 meters on Sagan and the rest of the chasers.
And Van Avermaet is going again and he's dropping Maes.
Maes has blown and is caught. Now Sagan turns up the pace and he just comes around the BMC man as if he's standing still.
Only Gilbert can answer.
Although Leukemans is coming over too.
Gilbert opens the sprint.
Sagan quickly gets into his slipstream and comes through in the final 50 meters.
Gilbert went early thinking that Sagan was tired after doing all the chasing in the last 2km but the Cannondale rider had just about enough to come through and take the win.
Leukemans was third with Chavanel in fourth.
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
4 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
7 Davide Malacarne (Ita) Team Europcar
8 Stijn Devolder (Bel) RadioShack Leopard
9 Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura
10 Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto Belisol
Gilbert's search for a win in the rainbow jersey continues.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find her results, race report and photos, right here.
Join us again this weekend for complete live coverage from Amstel Gold Race.