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Welcome back to the Eneco Tour, 176.9 km from Ardooie to Vorst.
The race is underway again, and this will be an interesting stage -- with climbs!
Once again we had an early group get away. Gediminas Bagdonas, Mathew Hayman, Laurens Devreese andTim Declercq were the lucky ones today, and have built up a large lead.
That is: Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R), Mathew Hayman (Sky), Laurens Devreese and Tim Declercq (both Topsport Vlaanderen).
Marcus Burghardt of BMC did not start today, due to a fever. And Alex Dowsett (Movistar) had to abandon after injuring one or both wrists in a crash earlier today.
With 93 km to go, the gap is 6 minutes.
There are six climbs along the way today, plus a very steep uphill finish.
You will remember that Mark Renshaw won the opener yesterday, sneaking away from the field in the final km or two, and foiling the plans of his fellow sprinters.
Our top five in GC:
1 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling 4:01:04
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 0:00:06
3 Pieter Jacobs (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise 0:00:07
4 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:08
5 Benjamin Verraes (Bel) Accent Jobs-Wanty
It is another one of those strange bright sunshine-dark clouds days. At least the temperatures are a bit cooler than they have been the last few weeks.
Right now we have 71 km to go, and the gap is at 4:19.
Sky spread out at the front of the peloton. We wonder whether Bradley Wiggins will lose time again today.
No surprise, Renshaw also leads the points ranking:
1 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling 30 pts
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 25
3 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack Leopard 22
4 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 20
5 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida 19
The gap has moved back up to the five mnute mark.
The peloton has picked up its speed again, and we see a Lotto rider and a Belkin rider at the head of it, followed by much of Sky.
An Argos rider has punctured, but has received help and is going again.
De Vreese was also in the break group yesterday, and took the lead in the combativity classification.
There was a moment of silence this morning before the stage started, in honour of the Netherlands' Prince Friso, who died yesterday.
Nick Nuyens of Garmin-Sharp is missing a number. His race number is pinned on the left side, but nothing there on the right side.
Speaking of Prince Friso's death, the Dutch Team Belkin is wearing a black mourning band in his honour.
We are having a lot of punctures at the moment, there must be some problem with the road here. The latest victim is Tyler Ferrar of Garmin-Sharp.
Belkin leads in the team ranking.
1 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 12:03:46
2 Ag2R La Mondiale 0:00:02
3 BMC Racing Team
4 Movistar Team
5 Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team
The gap is not really dropping, so BMC has moved up to help with the chase, and Ltoo has sent another man up to the front.
Sylvain Chavanel of OPQS joins the list of those who have punctured.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) took an unusual step: he underwent a lie detector test to prove he is not doping.
Wiggins once again hanging out at the very back of the peloton.
The gap is starting to creep down again, now at 4:29.
Nuyens back at the Garmin team car -- perhaps asking about his lost race number?
Speaking of Nuyens, he is riding this race in preparation for the Vuelta a Espana. He is still struggling to come back from a fracture hip he suffered in June 2012.
The gap is definitely falling, now just over the four minutee mark.
Theo Bos was supposed to win teh sprint yesterday, but his teammate Renshaw took the win instead. Bos consoles himself by dropping back to the team car for a drink.
Hayman was dropped by the lead group momentarily. But now he is back with them.
Greipel now at the end of the long, drawn-out field.
And yet another puncture. This time it is Demare of FDJ. A front tyre, for a change.
With 32 km to go the gap is at 3.43. At this point it could go either way.
Alessandro Petacchi has been around a long time and has a lot of impressive wins to his name. but he is as excited as a kid on the first day of school, he says, making his comeback here with OPQS after a short retirement.
The field has just passed the Waterloo Monument. It is in honour of the battle in which Napoleon was defeated, not in honour of the ABBA song.
25km to go and the gap is still over three minutes. The leaders have a good chance to come through to the end, if the other teams don't get their act together soon.
One of the Belkin riders got caught on teh wrong side of a large traffic island. So he jumped up on it and rode along until he could join the peloton again.
Lotto had been doing much of the lead work, but the other teams seem to have realized that it just isn't working. Time for someone else to move in to the head of things.
with 21 km to go, the gap is still 2:46. Hard to make the call as to whether they will stay away to the end or not.
De Vreese and Hayman sprint for the intermediate sprint. Bagdonas may be droped.
Bernie Eisel has crashed and done damage to his bike. That takes him out of the picture for the end of this stage.
We have a climb here, and Steegmans (OPQS) attacks.
An FDJ rider joins hm, and now they are caught by the field anyway.
That looks like it may have kick-started the peloton. The pace is notably higher now and the gap is 1:59 with 18km to go.
The pace is high enough that th first riders are being dropped off the back.
Niki Terpstra (OPQS) is the next to attack.
He is joined by Matti Breschel of Saxo-Tinkov.
The duo already has 12 seconds on the peloton.
Boucher of FDJ crashed into the advertising banner on the side of the road. He is ok. The banner is not.
Bagdonas has been dropped on another of those short but steep climbs.
De Vreese and Declercq do their best to drop Hayman as well, but in response, he takes off on his own.
Behind them, Breschel has dropped back to the field.
14km to go and the peloton is tearing apart. Hayman still has a minimal lead over the two Topsport Vlaanderen riders.
The general rule of thumb is 10 km - 1 minute. So what do we have now? With 10 km to go, the gap is 1:04.
The two Topsport riders have now caught Hayman.
Orica GreenEdge has taken over the chase. The gap is under a minute and the cars between the two groups are being taken out.
And at the end of the field -- again -- is Wiggins.
Peter Weening is putting up a torrid pace at the head of the chasing field.
Puncture for Lastras (Movistar)
Lots of Garmin jerseys visible near the front as well. In fact, practically the whole team is at the head of the field.
With 5 km to go, the gap is only 23 seconds.
Argos-Shimano moves up near Garmin. This would definitely be a finish for Degenkolb.
The leaders go under the 4km banner, with the peloton breathing down their necks.
That's it, the break is over.
Renshaw with a puncture. Will the three km rule apply here?
Even if he gets the same time it seems highly unlikely he could defend his lead.
And the field flies up the final climb.
About six riders have a tiny gap. Now caught. Gilbert is near the front!
Ferrar on Gilbert's rear wheel. Gilbert tries to sprint, but Arnaud Demare sprints past him easily to take the win for FdJ.
Gilbert takes second, with Farrar third.
Renshaw comes in some two minutes down.
Demare is only 21 years old and in his second season, but has a very impressive record. He now has eight wins this season, including the overall title at the Four Days of Dunkirk.
Today's top ten, all with the same time:
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
2 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp
4 Marko Kump (Slo) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
5 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
6 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Accent Jobs-Wanty
7 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Lampre-Merida
8 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
9 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
10 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
We are still waiting on the GC.
We are hearing that Demare has taken over the GC lead, but are waiting for confirmation.
Still awaiting confirmation but we hear that Demare leads by three seconds over Renshaw in second, with Gilbert third at 4 seconds.
Renshaw gets the same time as the peloton, since he was within the 3 km region. But Demare still takes over the lead.
And here at last, the new GC:
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:03
3 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:00:04
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:06
5 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:07
6 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:08
7 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol 0:00:09
8 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:10
9 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
10 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) Accent Jobs-Wanty
That's it for today. Please be sure to read along again tomorrow!