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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from De Brabantse Pijl
Welcme to the Brabantse Pijl! Will Philipppe Gilbert break out of his slump and repeat his win from last year?
179 riders were at the start today. NetApp's Daniel Schorn was the first to try to get away – no luck for him, though.
Schorn didn't want to give up and took off again, to be joined by Maxim Belkov and Artem Ovetsjkin. They now have 30 seconds on the field.
So here is our situtation (sorry,don't know the kms):
Daniel Schorn (NetApp), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Artem Ovechkin (RusVelo) now have one minute on the peloton.
Two riders dropped out at the 30km mark: Stefano Agostini (Liguigas) and Victor Manakov (Rusvelo) took an early out today.
23 teams are in this race: 10 WorldTour and 13 ProConti. They are: BMC, Katusha, Liquigas-Cannondale, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Rabobank, Garmin-Barracuda, RadioShack-Nissan, Saxo Bank and Vacansoleil-DCM for the top teams. The other 13 are Accent Jobs-Willems Veranda's, Andalucia, Champion Systems, Colombia-Coldeportes, Farnese Vini-Selle Italia, Landbouwkrediet-Euphony, Argo-Shimano, RusVelo, Europcar, NetApp, Spidertech, Topsport Vlaanderen and UnitedHealthcare.
After 45 km, the gap is 3:45.
We have 195.7 km to go today. The first part of the race is 132km with 8 climbs bfore the field starts in on five laps of a 12.8km circuit course. Each lap contains 4 “hellinge”. This will be fun!
The leading trio has now added another minute to their lead, giving them 4:45.
Last year's winner Philippe Gilbert is here today and boy, would he like to win. Things have just not gone his way this year so far. He will be supported by only six teammates today, as they are one short. And if he isn't up to the task, no doubt Greg Van Avermaet would be happy to give it a go.
Andy Schleck is here today, too, and no doubt will be under close scrutiny.
BMC and Rabobank have finally decided to start leading the chase of Daniel Schorn (NetApp), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Artem Ovechkin (RusVelo).
Some media outlets are playing this up as a duel between Gilbert and Schleck – rather is if it will come down to a sprint between the two. Somehow we have our doubts about that.
Lots of big names here, actually. Oscar Freire of Katusha, for instance, and Peter Sagan of Liquigas, who we think probably has a good chance. Omega Pharma-QuickStep is sending a very interesting look squad led by Jerome Pineau, with support from Gerald Ciolek, Iljo Keisse and Martin Velits, amongst others.
The field has finally stopped the gap from increasing, and looks content to leave the leading trio on a long rein. The gap is holding steady at 5:08.
Today's weather: partially sunny to overcast, with the chance of “hefty showers” developing in the afternoon. A moderate wind is expected.
BMC is indeed looking to Gilbert and Van Avermaet today, with DS John LeLangue assuring us that "Philippe is also getting better after his problems the past couple of weeks."
Vacansoleil is probably not feeling too optimistic at the moment. First they lost captain Bjorn Leukemans to knee problems, and now both Ligthart and Hoogerland have punctured.
Speaking of Leukemans, the bad news is that he will miss the Ardennes Classics because of knee problems. The good news is that he will not require surgery.
Rabobank has sent its big guns: Matti Breschel, Michael Matthews, Luis Leon Sanchez and Lars Boom. They are prepared for every eventuality.
The third climb of the day, the Alsemberg, at km 78.4, has torn apart the peloton. Right now the three leaders are nearly at the next climb, the Bruinepot, with a gap of about 4:30 over the first chasing group.
Sebastian Rosseler , who won here in 2010, is leading Garmin-Barracuda, but keep an eye on Thomas Dekker, who last week won a stage at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Team Europcar has got its big guns out today too: Thomas Voeckler, and Sebastian Turgot, who took second in a photo finish Sunday in Roubaix.
Apparently a number of riders are suffering from the high pace and the nasty "hellinge". Don't expect to see everyone finish the race today.
What did the cobbled Classics look like? What images will we carry away with us? Cyclingnews has posted a few of the most important photos of these races -- take a look.
This race was first held in 1961 and was won by Pino Cerami. The rider with the most wins in Edwig Van Hooydonck, with four.
Speaking of the cobbled classics, Dan Benson attended all of them and came up with a list of ten conclusions about them. Read it here.
Only 3:19 left now for Daniel Schorn (NetApp), Maxim Belkov (Katusha) and Artem Ovechkin (RusVelo). And it looks very wet.
As we said, Philippe Gilbert, who won in 2011, is here, as is 2010 winner Sebastian Rosseler. But did you know that Oscar Freire has won here three times? From 2005 to 2007.
Hoogerland punctures again.
The gap continue to fall, now at 2:52.
Schorn wipes the rain of his face and no doubt wishes he had gogten into an escape group on a day with better weather.
BMC and Rabobank continue to lead the chase, as they go up yet another short but steep climb.
More bad luck for Vacansoliel. Hoogerland has had to leave the race due to illness.
Hm, think I forgot to mention that is Susan on live report duty again today.....
Tom Boonen was thinking about whether to ride Amstel Gold Race. But apparently he has decided that enough is enough -- he won't do it.
Less than two and half minutes now. But the good news is that the sun has come out! For the moment, at any rate.
A handful of riders have gone down in a crash, including, we hear, Andy Schleck.
Juan Jose Haedo of Saxo Bank was also involved in that crash. Both he and Schleck are on their way back to the peloton.
Schlek is still on his way, but has quite a ways to go to catch up again.
Jerome Pineau and Schleck have now joined forces to work their way up through all the cars.
BMC and Rabobank are still at the head of the race. Hopefully they will still have something left by the end of the day.
The peloton is now in sight again for Schleck.
Schorn leads his two escape-mates up the next climb, as the gap falls to 2:01.
Schleck is still tailing off the back end of the field.
Ovechkin can no longer hold the tempo and falls back from his two break companions. The gap is now only 1:52
Oh look, cobbles! On a climb! What fun!
For the first time we see some Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders near the front.
LL Sanchez has either crashed or punctured. A teammate gives up his bike for his captain.
And a team car comes close to wiping out Sanchez as he works his way up....
Gerald Ciolek of OPQS is at the front now, with Phiippe Gilbert close behind him. Will the BMC rider finally show something today?
OPQS looks like they are taking command of this race, too. They have just led the field in catching Ovechkin.
Poor Vacansoleil. Thomas De Gendt has fallen out of the field with a mechanical problem.
Pineau of OPQS has established a slight lead over the field. Slight, but defnitely a lead.
And down he goes! Slps away on a wet curve. Ouch!
Our two leaders, Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) bump up the cobbles on teh next climb, with a gap of 1:34.
And now Schorn appears to be pulling away from Belkov.
A series of attacks out of the field see seeral small groups giving chase.
Schorn crosses the finish line for the first time, and sets off on the incredibly hilly circuit course.
The first chasers cross the line at 1:30 back, with the rest of the field about 10 seconds behind them.
Schorn still solo in the lead. Does he want to imitate his teammate Jan Barta, who on Monday won Rund um Köln in a solo flight on a closign circuit course?
Four riders have split off and are giving chase. One is Mathews of Rabobank and we will try to get the other names.
Phil Gilbert leads the chase after them.
Looks like that group of four has been caught.
Schorn is hanging doggedly on to his 1:27 lead.
Two more riders five it a go, but of course everyone else wants to come along as well.
A group of five with a minimal lead. The peloton is breaking up again.
I am going to hand things over to Sue for a while now -- give my fingers a break.
Just to recap, we've got 45km to go. Daniel Schorn is still off the front solo with a gap of about 1:24. Various riders have been trying to form small groups off the front of the peloton to chase him.
Schorn's gap is holding fairly steady for the time being. Looks like the riders are dealing with wet roads, but it's not raining at least. We haven't heard yet whether former breakaway rider Maxim Belkov has been caught.
The main chase group that has formed is a small group of about a half doze riders. They are at 1:16 behind leader Schorn. However, the peloton is not much further behind them - almost t in contact.
With 40km to go, the main chase group is four riders, with another just dangling off the back of them and in front of the peloton. Schorn's advantage is 1:11. The chasers aren't particularly well organized thus far, but there is still plenty of time to chase down Schorn.
Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quickstep) has decided to take a well deserved break and skip Amstel Gold. http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/boonen-to-miss-amstel-gold-race
Racers are on a 200m cobbled section called the Heuvelstraat. Those cobbles must be super slippery today as the roads are still obviously wet.
The peloton rolls through the finish line and heads out for more. 37km to go.
Back in the main group, Peter Sagan has a snack. As we get closer to the finish, there will be fewer opportunities to refuel.
Susan back, thanks, Sue.
Liquigas continues to drive the field, as Schorn has a 1:07 lead. Belkov is now on the verge of being caught by the field.
Schorn has his head down. Tired or conserving energy?
Another cobbled climb for Schorn, with 32 km to go.
And now the field goes up those cobblestones.
Attack! Thomas Voeckler of Europcar takes off from the peloton.
A handful of riders take off after the Frenchman.
Voeckler's attach has once again split the field.
Voeckler is still away, with small groups of riders giving chase. And Schorn is still up front.
A Lotto Belisol rider is next behind Voeckler. Haven't seen much of them lately.
Schorn is still hanging in there, but it won't be long now.
Peter Sagan hits the ground, and leaves portions of skin and clothing. He seems to be basically ok, but is not hurrying to get back into the race.
Sagan was one of the favourites for today -- but no longer.
Voeckler has now caught Schorn on the Heuvelstraat, 200m of bumps.
Let's make that caught and passed.
We still have a group of seven or eight riders in chase, but they are now at Schorn, and 21 seconds behind Voeckler.
Voeckler crosses the finish line and now has two laps to go.
The chase group is at 23 seconds, with the next group at 48 seconds. Still too early to count any of them out.
Oscar Freire of Katusha is one of those in the chase group.
The chase group is doing a lot of looking at one another, instead of actually doing anything....
Van Aermaet is in there, too. We are gathering the names for you.
And here is the list: Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol), Dries Devenyns (OPQS), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Alex Howes (Garmin-Barracuda), Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Pieter Serry (Topsport Vlaanderen)
That group is 42 seconds behind Voeckler, with the next group at 1:16.
Freire takes a turn in the lead.
Schorn falls back out of the group -- he has put in a lot of effort today.
Voeckler builds his lead up, bit by bit. Now at 48 seconds.
It is not raining now, but the roads are still wet, and we see a number of puddles.
Voeckler jumps up on the bike path for a change of scenery.
Ten Dam leads the chasers up the gutter next to the cobblestones.
Voeckler has pulled out to nearly a minute lead now.
He still needs to be careul on those corners, though. Yikes!
Voekler is spending great quantities of time up out of the seat.
Well, the expert panel behind the scenes here has decided that Voeckler has got this thing wrapped up. As long as he is careful and doesn't crash!
Voeckler hits the finish line for the next-to-last time. 13km to go for him.
Here comes the chase group over the finish line, now at 1:10. Yup, race over, we would say.
Lots of little groups now. Gilbert in a group at about 1:30 down.
Voeckler as always up out of the saddle, bobbing around on the climb.
And it looks to be raining again. Now. 1:24 for the chase group, with 9km to go.
Eek! Not just rain, but hail, too!
Ooh, the hail is really coming down now. Ouch!
Is this in Voeckler's honour? You know, like, "Hail, the conquering hero comes..."
Extremely unpleasant weather conditions at the moment.
Must be really fun to ride uphill on cobbles in this crap weather!
The gap to the first group is 1:27, with the next group over 2 minutes down.
Only 5km to go!
For a change, Voeckler is sitting on his saddle. There, we knew that wouldn't last. Up he goes again.
Duarte of Colombia-Coldeportes jumps in hope of making his mark.
He had bridged up the Freire group, and has now taken off out of it.
The rest of the Freire group has given up hope. They really aren't working together.
Only two more km of thies lovely weather for Voeckler.
He is up on the sidewalk as he crosses under the last km marker.
He looks bac again to reassure himself no one is coming, shake hands with his DS in the team car and continues happily on his way.
Voeckler cruises on in to his first win of the 2012 season. And it looks like the precipitation has stopped!
He throws kisses and raises his hands in celebration.
Duarte still has a slight lead. Devenyns gives chase.
Freire moves up and opens the sprint for second place.
Who would have a chance against the speedy Spaniard? He takes second. We are waiting for confirmation on third.
The rest of the peloton dribbles over the finish line.
The winner gets a kiss from his little son, also in Europcar kit.
Third was Pieter Serry of Topsport-Vlaanderen.
And here is the top ten for the 2012 Brabante Pijl:
1 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar
2 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Katusha Team
3 Pieter Serry (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator
4 Fabio Andres Duarte Arevalo (Col) Colombia - Coldeportes
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6 Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Barracuda
7 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
8 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
10 Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
Congrautalations to them and to everyone who survived the weather and the race!
Thanks for reading along and be sure to join us again Sunday for Amstel Gold Race!