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Hyper-aggressive position for the sprint lead-out
Hello and welcome to a very sunny Belgian for today's live coverage from Dwars door Vlaanderen.
2010 winner Matti Breschel is not riding due to his knee problems but the start list includes big-name sprinters Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo), plus classics specialists Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil), Sylvain Chavanel (QuickStep), Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-SunGard), Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek).
The first climb, the Nieuwe Kwaremont, comes 90 km into the race. Things then get really serious after 110km The first two sections of pave come on the next climb the Kattenberg, with cobblestones and climbs coming regularly from there until the end.
There are nine pave sections, for a total of 9.8km, with the last section coming on the last climb, less than 10 km before the finish.
The climbs include some of the well known hellingen from the Tour of Flanders, including the New and Old Kwaremont, and the Paterberg. The Nokereberg is the last climb and could decide who emerges to win in Waregem.
There are 12 climbs in total but judging by the weather today - hot and little wind - the race could be quiet for the first part and only come alive in the latter section. The Oude Kwaremont comes after 165km and could be the perfect point to blow the race apart. From there, there are four climbs and three cobbled sections.
Those of you backing a sprinter like Greipel, at the start this morning he said that 'today isn't for a sprinter and it won't be a sprint.'
The peloton just passed by the press room a few minutes ago but since then a group of four has broken clear. Frederic Amorison, Rob Goris, Tom Veelers and Dries Hollanders, and they have a half minute.
In fact their lead has grown rapidly and it's now up to four minutes at the foot of the New Kwaremont - the first climb of the day.
By the way we spoke to Heinrich Haussler this morning at the start. We recorded it on one of those new machines. A video camera. You may not have heard of them but they're going to be huge in a few years. Trust me. Anyway, here's the video.
Nice little break that's gone away actually.
We also spoke to Senor Russell Downing at the start this morning. He's confident going into today but said that Sky's tactic would be to make sure they had strength in numbers for the finale of the race. They've got some strong cards to play and the race looks perfect for the likes of Hayman and Flecha, maybe even Sutton if he's got his climbing legs on today.
The bunch are taking things easy at the moment, not willing to commit or chase. The leaders have a lead of 4.50.
Tweet in your thoughts on today's action, as well any news that's flying around the world of cycling. http://twitter.com/dnlbenson
And good morning to all the CN fans on the east coast of the US, who've just woken up (it's 9am there).
While everyone's looking at the favourites like Boonen, Cancellara and Flecha, don't forget someone like Degenkolb at HTC. The was up there in Het Volk and he's made for races like this. HTC only have 6 riders at the start but they only need one in the finale to win, as Goss showed us last week at Milan San Remo.
The leaders are on the next climb of the day, the Katterberg and have a lead of over 5 minutes. Nice work boys. So far the bunch are still asleep, there's no concerted effort to chase.
We spoke to Marc Sergeant at the start today. He said it would be a difficult race to control despite the good weather and that if it was a sprint then it would be between just a few riders.
He tipped Roelandtds to do something today but I think an ex-Lotto rider, Greg Van Avermaet has better chances.
At the top of the climb the leaders have 5.47 on the bunch.
A few clouds gathering overhead but nothing to worry the riders on the road. A very slight breeze, crosswind too.
Greipel by the way punctured earlier on. No radios so he spent an age back with the teams cars until help arrived.
Just under 80km to go now and the four leaders are working well together. The bunch are slowly waking up and the lead is down slightly to 5.14.
The bunch hit the feed and as so happens there's a crash. Two Topsport riders on the deck.
The bunch still aren't making a race of this just yet though. I think they're waiting for the final 40 odd kms and those last few hills.
Adam Blythe - procycling columnist - is on the front for the moment. Just riding tempo and keeping things under control.
The leaders hit the foot of the Valkenberg. Hollanders is struggling at the back, losing about a bike length. The road eases and he moves back to the leaders.
The lead grows again. it's up to 5.51
We spoke to Jonathan Vaughters this morning at the start of the race. Here's a snap-shot video. He's joking at the end by the way...
Kevin Van Impe from Quick Step goes on the attack. It's really just a test to see who is paying attention and the answer looks to be everyone.
The attack seems to have sparked things into life though and we've got a few riders moving up, accelerating but then looking back. The bunch finally string out.
Here's our video with Heinrich Haussler from the start this morning as well.
The bunch are moving now. Van Summeren is on the front and hammering out a fast pace. Rabobank are only able to watch on and wait.
Ravard has a little dig now but too many teams are moving up and fighting for position that it's almost impossible to stay away. The lead to the break is just over 5 minutes.
bad crash for Commeyne. he's on his feet but not sure he's going to continue. He seemed to run wide and into a ditch.
Rabobank turn the screw as the break hit the next cobbled climb and immediately start to splinter.
They're on the Eiekenberg and again it's Hollanders who gets dropped. this is a harder climb than before so he may struggle to get back on. It's Amorison who is doing all the damage.
The bunch hit the climb and that's Boonen on the front doing all the damage, dragging the field into the gutter as they fight to stay with him.
thomas is dropped.
Sky and Garmin are fighting to stay with Boonen.
Ryan Andersen crashes, riders getting dropped in ones and twos.
Boonen goes again and only Hayman can follow. They've got a small gap.
back together and Sky take up the pace at the front of the bunch. It's all strung out now with 57km to go. The gap down to 3.55
Docker crashes, getting it all wrong on a left hand bend.
Every time the peloton hit an 90 degree turn your heart is in your mouth because the pace is just so high.
Rollin from FDJ, a rider we've not really seen much of this Spring moves up and we've got another attack but it's marked by Garmin.
Van Summeren goes on the attack now. Sky forced to chase. You get the feeling that so many teams are cancelling each other out. Still nothing from Devolder. He's one to watch.
Leopard show their hand and Posthuma attacks, taking an AN Post rider with him. There's a small group behind followed by the bunch.
That move has been cancelled out and Leopard are all on the front. The gap below 3 minutes.
Boonen is currently sitting around 20 riders from the front.
Klemme does a huge turn for Leopard, Cancellara sitting just behind his train as Hollanders is swept up.
Greipel goes back to the car on the climb and gets a push, i mean a bottle.
All as Katusha launch a rider off the front of the bunch.
The gap continues to come down and it's 2.31.
Leopard cancel out that latest attack and Thomas (sky) moves up. he's obviously got back on after getting dropped.
Leopard are still sitting on the front but Quick Step are moving up slowly.
Meanwhile here's another video from the start this morning. Servais Knaven at the start of Dwars Door Vlaanderen.
Van Summeren is doing a great job today. He's on the front again, setting the pace as Cancellara sits back and just waits.
We're one climb from the oude Kwaremont but the bunch are already under pressure as Garmin and Leopard set the pace.
Will Garmin move onto the front foot and be aggressive? They have the numbers to do it.
Meanwhile the leaders still have 2.20 on the bunch. Quick Step move up and help with the chase.
Another ten seconds shaved off.
Amorison on the Kwaremont and shows he's the strongest rider in the break, dropping his two final companions.
The bunch are less than 2 minutes away so lets see what they can do on the climb.
Saxo Bank are up near the front of the bunch. Must be for Nuyens.
In fact Saxo are ripping the field apart as Klemme crashes.
He;s got a small gap, maybe 30 meters.
Flecha looks like he's making up ground on Nuyens but not many riders are. Boonen has, Cancellara, Van Avermaet has.
There are now many 20 riders with Nuyens now but behind that it's a total scramble for placings.
Amorison still plugs away along. Leopard take charge with Posthuma. Even Cancellara does a turn on the front.
Four climbs left and they come thick and fast with little chance of recovery.
Our lone leader hits the Paterberg, out of the saddle, in the gutter but getting lots of support from the crowds.
There are maybe 20 riders in the group behind and Boonen sets a blistering pace on the climb.
Flecha on his wheel, then Cooke, then Cancellara. Cooke is letting a gap creep in!
These four have a gap as Cooke grits his teeth and claws back up to Flecha's wheel.
At the back of that group it's just painful to watch as riders sway all over the road.
Veelers will be the next rider from the early group to get caught.
Groups are all over the road after the Paterberg.
The Boonen group is caught so the main favourites are back together. haussler and Farrar are both there. Thomas, Boom, Cancellara Flecha, Nuyens, Cooke and around 15 more.
Devolder is behind the main favourites. he's missed the cut again.
Goris has caught the lone leader but their gap is under a minute.
25 to go and there's still everything to play for. Ballan is also in the Devolder group.
Devolder and Ballan are roughly 100 meters back on the Boonen, Haussler, Cancellara group.
Devolder and co are back with the leaders now. Sutton too.
Greipel has been left behind though and lotto are chasing as Offredo attacks. The rest of the field are hesitating.
Cancellara attacks but he cant get a gap. Chavanel glued to his back wheel. Cancellara has forced a split though. Thomas, Boom, Van Avermaet are there.
Nuyens attacks as it comes back together and thomas is the only rider to go with him. The gap to the leaders down to just 18 seconds.
Thomas is just sitting in, letting Nuyens do all the work.
Handing over to Stephen Farrand, who will take you through to the finish.
This move looks serious and the chase behind is not organised, with Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil) trying to jump across.
The trio still up the road are looking back. They have 15 seconds but don't seem convinced they can stay away.
The chasers are lined out behind as the switch left and right between the fields on the concrete roads. This can only be Flanders.
Nuyens drives on the front of the break now. The gaps is rising very slowly but it is rising.
Quick Step and Rabobank are now leading the chase behind.
The gaps is now 20 seconds. The three are working perfectly together but neither is the peloton behind. Now Niki Terpstra (QuickStep) has attacked the peloton.
Nuyens looks back as the trio take a corner. The gaps is now falling as Garmin-Cervelo put three riders on the front of the peloton.
Nuyens is pushing on as the road climbs. Thomas is with him and Amorison hangs on too.
Tersptra tries again. He's aggressive but the attacks are not helping the chase of the break. Team Sky's Juan Antonio Flecha is sitting on Terpstra's wheel to neutralise the attack.
Terstrpa sits up but the trio press on.
The peloton can see the break but it is too big to jump across. Now Quick Step pick pu the chase, perhaps for Tom Boonen, who is in the front group. But so is Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and several other sprinters.
Haussler is helping the chase. Perhaps that means Farrar is also in the front group of chasers. There at least 30 riders in the group.
The gap is now insingle figures. It's time for Thomas to go if he wants to win. He could use his pursuit speed if he has it in his legs.
The three look tired after a hard effort. A sprint finish?
BMC now leading the chase.
Nuyens goes for it with Thomas on his wheel. But the peloton is closing.
Nuyens gets it!
Thomas tried to attack Nuyens with 500 metres to go but the Belgian got his wheel and then jumped past him in the sprint. Thanks to both of them going hard, they held off the sprinters to take first and second.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) seemed to take the sprint for third but it was Nuyens who raised his arms in celebration. He's the comeback kid after several years of problems.
Yes, results conform that Farrar took third ahead of Matt Hayman (Team Sky).
It was a dry, sunny day in Belgium today but that was a great way to kick off the spring classics. Yet again we saw some exciting racing that was only decided on the line.
That's its from our live coverage today. Daniel Benson and Barry Ryan are out at the finish speaking to riders about the race. We'll also have full results and a photo gallery of all the action very soon.
We've also got results and photos from the Coppi & Bartali race, the Volta a Catalunya and later from the track world championships.