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Gent-Wevelgem: the cold will make it even more exciting this year. Who will survive the temperatures to take the win?
Welcome to the newest Arctic-temperature race! Gent-Wevelgem is shortened but ready to roll.
This morning the race organizers met with the teams, and it was decided that the race would go ahead as planned. However, race director Frank Hoste later said that if any rider crashes on a patch of ice, the race will be stopped. Safety first!
Saturday afternoon race organizers announced that they would shorten the race by 45 km, moving the start to Gistel. That will make it a total of 190 km today, and the official start is at 12:30.
We are now hearing, though, that the start will be delayed, anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. We'll see what we can find out.
It is just taking a bit more time to get all the buses there, everything set up and so on. We will be on the road soon!
We also hear that there will be only 9 climbs today, instead of ten. The first climb, the Casselberg, will apparently only be tackled once, instead of the two times originally planned.
The race is now scheduled to start at 12:45, so in about 10 minutes.
Astana reported a DNS before things even got underway. Ruslan Tleubayev has to sit out because of a fever.
The race will now be 183.4km long, down from the originally planned 237.6.
And they're off! The race has finally started.
There seems to be another DNS today, David MIllar of Garmin-Sharp.
The race started at Cafe Tourmalet which is a pub that was once founded by cycling legend Sylveer Maes. The riders unfortunately didl not have time to hop in for a drink. Team director Eric Van Lancker (Garmin-Sharp) referred to crosswinds right after turning away from the coast into the flatlands of De Moeren.
It is indeed windy. In fact, only a few minutes into the race,the peloton has fallen into at least five groups.
CN's Australian editor Jane Aubrey has come over to Belgium for the Spring Classics, and she talked to Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) beofre the start. “It’s not raining at the moment but it’s still going to be freezing cold. It’s going to be a pretty epic day but it’s the same for everyone I guess.”
Any injury concerns after his crash at Milan-San Remo? “It was more the cold and the stop starting that I think caused the problems.”
As for today, “I think there’ll be a small group but it’s not going to be a full bunch sprint. Maybe 20, 30, 40 guys maximum.
“I feel okay, I feel pretty good. It’s depends what the weather’s like out there how I’m feeling and how I’ve recovered. I haven’t raced since San Remo but hopefully the knee doesn’t flare up in the cold weather here again.”
What was it like at the start and sign-in today? Take a look at our photo gallery here.
Jane Aubrey also caught up with Taylor Phinney of BMC, who she said was in a good mood. “I don’t mind the cold as much as other people so for me it’s good conditions – it’s just going to be a cold day. Also windy and a bit crazy but it’s a classic so it’s always crazy. It’s a better course for me than the other day.
“We’re all here for Thor, he’s our number one dude. We’re just going to try to animate the race and stay protected around him and bring him into the final, hopefully in that first select group.”
We have a lead group with a slight lead and a lot of big names. 26 riders, including Cavendish, Boonen, Hayman, Greipel, Boom and Hushovd now have 18 seconds on their chasers.
Sagan, Amador and Eisel also in that lead group.
As Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) tweeted this morning, “Off to the start of Gent-Wevelgem. Another day for survival, wearing lycra at freezing point temperature. At least it's dry.”
This is apparently the make-up of that lead group:
Boonen, Cavendish, Stybar, Kwiatkowski (OPQ)
Eisel, Hayman, Sutton (SKY)
Greipel, Henderson, Willems, Sieberg (LTB)
Boom, Wynants (BLA)
Blythe, Oss, Phinney (BMC)
Kuschynski, Paolini (KAT)
Breschel, Morkov (TST)
This group is a go! They now have 1:55 on the second group.
Blanco's Sep Vanmarcke shared his thoughts on the weather on the team's Facebook page this morning. “Nobody can prepare for such cold temperatures the only thing you can do is to try to stay warm but you need to be careful, to many clothes will mean you will not be able to race at full speed. And then there is always the uncertainty of getting sick in these conditions. So its not an easy decision what to put on today."
The first two chase groups have merged and are now only 20 seconds behind that large group in the lead.
Daniel Benson is also on the spot in Belgium, and he talke to Heinrich Haussler. We think we may safely say that the IAM rider is not happy about things.
“This isn’t sport any more, it’s bullshit. It’s not a race in these conditions because with the wind it’s minus 10. It’s pretty ridiculous. It could be every man for himself as soon as we hit the coast with the wind because it’s really strong and with open roads. I think we’ll see two or three groups but then the rest might pull out. I want to race hard but it’s a health risk at the moment because of the weather and I want to be ready for the bigger races that are coming up.”
Now the gap is back up to nearly a minute. Things seem to be relatively unsettled at the moment.
Tom Boonen has won this race the last two years. This year, though, he has had trouble getting up to speed, after a nasty intestinal infection last fall and an even worse elbow infection this winter. Will he be able to win again today, or will he save himself for the Tour of Flanders?
The latest report has the first chase group at 28 seconds, and the next group at 40 seconds. And apparently some riders are already three minutes down.
Garmin, RadioShack and Orica-GreenEdge are not in the lead group, so they are avidly leading the chase.
Daniel Benson also chatted with Sky DS Servais Knaven before the race. He said, “No one knows how every is going to react to the cold and icy wind. It’s similar to what happened at Omloop where the guys had maybe one or two attacks in them and maybe that’s it. We’ll have to see.
“In terms of the important sections, they’re all still the same. Of course the Kemmelberg is key but positioning for that climb is the most important aspect. Sometimes positioning starts 20 kilometres before the climbs.”
Here once again this high-powered lead group: Boonen, Cavendish, Stybar, Kwiatkowski (OPQ), Eisel, Hayman, Sutton (SKY), Greipel, Henderson, Willems, Sieberg (LTB), Boom, Wynants (BLA), Blythe, Oss, Phinney (BMC), Sagan (CAN), Fischer (FDJ), Kuschynski, Paolini (KAT), Amador (MOV), Breschel, Morkov (TST), Fouchard (COF), and Cousin (EUC).
While queuing up in front of the start podium with his teammates Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco) talked with Cyclingnews about the difficult circumstances. Teammate Maarten Tjallingii said he felt like a marionette. “We’re just here to entertain the VIP’s. They don’t care about us,” Tjallingii said. Vanmarcke was more realistic. “What do they want, a race cancellation? Then sponsors might pull out and next year there might not even be a race. We can’t only race when it’s at least 10°C. The conditions are what they are, unpleasant but it could be worse,” Vanmarcke said.
Last year’s winner of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is recovering from a knee injury but felt ready for these races. “It hurts but the doctors assured me that’s normal. In the E3 Harelbeke my instinct told me to go with the move on the Taaienberg but I went over the limit and didn’t recover in time for the next climb,” Vanmarcke added.
The gap is back up again, now at 45 seconds. The peloton is back at 1:44, with another group nearly 4 minutes down now.
The riders from team Sky were enjoying the warmth of a coal fire before facing the cold wind on the start podium in Deinze. British champion Ian Stannard (Sky) was amongst the group who actually seemed to have fun with the circumstances. Back in 2010 the young Brit first gained notice when he finished third in a hellish edition of Kuurn-Brussel-Kuurne. This year Stannard continuously colours the finale of the spring classics.
“It’s not that I fancy this weather. I prefer to stay inside, rest assured. I’m doing well nowadays simply because I made progression as a rider. All these tough races do make it hard to recover and I felt that in the E3 Harelbeke,” Stannard told Cyclingnews.
And the gap is back down to 23 seconds, as RadioShack, around Fabian Cancellara, leads the chase.
In contrast to the strong performance from the team in the Vuelta a Catalunya the Garmin-Sharp team isn’t going too well in the spring classics. At the chilly start in Deinze team director Eric Van Lancker informed Cyclingnews that the team ran out of luck.
“David Millar is ill and doesn’t start. Martijn Maaskant injured his knee and lacks competition. Nick Nuyens abandoned the E3 Harelbeke and will probably be out for the rest of the spring classics too. We’ll have to count on Tyler Farrar and Johan Vansummeren. These are not the best races for Sebastien Rosseler either and Andries Klier is our road captain but we can’t expect him to ride the finale,” Van Lancker told Cyclingnews.
Handing things over to Dan Benson, who has dunked his fingers in hot coffee to thaw them out after being at the start earlier.
A reminder of the break that's up the road:
Boonen, Cavendish, Stybar, Kwiatkowski (OPQ), Eisel, Hayman, Sutton (SKY), Greipel, Henderson, Willems, Sieberg (LTB), Boom, Wynants (BLA), Blythe, Oss, Phinney (BMC), Sagan (CAN), Fischer (FDJ), Kuschynski, Paolini (KAT), Amador (MOV), Breschel, Morkov (TST), Fouchard (COF), and Cousin (EUC).
It's too dangerous to let escape, hence Cancellara putting his team to work on the front in a bid to bring them back.
Cancellara isn't going to let today slip through his fingers that's for sure. Firstly, he's in great form and there's every reason he can win again today. Secondly, as last year showed one moment can change a season and he'll want to utilise his form if anything goes wrong at Flanders and Roubaix. Finally, he'll want to see a better demonstration from his team after E3, where he was isolated - not that it mattered in the end.
The RadioShack led second group are just 23 seconds down on the leaders.
The riders who have made the break illustrates a couple of points too, firstly Omega don't want to miss a break that's too large because they're not going to get much help in bringing it back, especially as a number of riders are sure to pull out during the feed.
Secondly, Sagan managed to position himself near the front when it mattered but again he's isolated and on his own. Liquigas have the fire power but at certain times they lack the experience and knowledge of an Andreas Klier or Eisel, who is Sky's road captain in today's race.
With regards to BMC, at the start they said Thor Hushovd was their leader for the race but the former winner has missed the split as Oss, Phinney and Blythe are up the road. It means BMC won't do any chasing and Hushovd can sit tight in the hope that the race comes back together. The gap is now 28 seconds.
Breschel probably deserves a mention as he too is in the break. The Dane was third in this race last year behind Boonen and Sagan and has a decent sprint on him when he's fit and on form.
He's had a difficult couple of years and didn't really show much in E3 on Friday but this is a little bit better from the two-time Worlds medallist.
The two groups have now come together.
What is your most memorable moment from the last ten years of this race? There have been many highlights, and Cyclingnews takes a pictorial look back at them.
Sky, Omega and BMC have now assumed control of the peloton. There's a slight lull in the action to some degree but the slightest sign of crosswinds will change that. Then the positioning ahead of Casselberg will begin.
There are now 53 riders in the lead group with peloton at 43 seconds.
GreenEDGE finally have some men in the lead group now having missed the earlier split.
The Cassleberg will only be taken on once this year, meaning that the descent is crucial because it leads into the Catsberg, where positioning will be crucial. If you're not in the first 20-30 riders at that point it could be very difficult to get back on terms.
97km to go with the lead group 50-strong. Not 53 as earlier reported.
Greg Van Avermaet has slipped off the front of the lead group and Ian Stannard is shadowing him to shut the move down.
The entire peloton is starting to come back together after some chasing from FDJ.
Hayman moves to the front at the request of Eisel - Sky's road captain - and the pace immediately shoot s up. There's a gap in the bunch with Stannard, Phinney, Flecha gaining a few seconds. Hayman puts an end to the move but it's caused chaos behind.
Another easing in pace, and the majority of those who have lost contact should come back.
Cancellara sits about half-way down the field but he need to move up because there are cross winds splitting the field at the moment. and BMC doing all the damage.
Sagan has missed a small split and without any teammates is forced to do all the chasing and bring thing back together. Boonen is in the lead group, and there's a bit of watching and waiting going on between the leaders. It looks like it's all going to come back together again.
Sagan seems to have had enough and moves himself and one of his teammates straight to the front. He can't keep having to make these efforts if he's to win a Classic this season.
Gilbert and a number of his teammates continue to patrol the front of the bunch and it's interesting to see how much of a back seat QuickStep are taking at the moment.
As I saw that Maes moves up and sets the pace.
There's yet another split in the peloton but once again the elastic can't be broken. Maes is still making things hard though and has taken around 10 riders with him. Greipel is there and Van Avermaet but they've got less than 20 meters.
As the move comes back together Flecha launches himself off the front with Grivko trying to get across.
Flecha has a pretty solid team with him so it's a bit of a surprise to see him try this. Bazayev and one other rider are about to make contact though.
The other rider in the move is Ladagnous and the trio link up with 86km to go as Cancellara drifts back to his team car for a word with Demol.
They've immediately opened up a 35 second lead and the bunch aren't giving too much chase at the moment. That will change as we start the run into the first climb.
And now Gilbert jumps.
The World Champion merely lifts the pace and it's enough to see Sagan come to life as the leaders now take on the Catsberg with a 43 second lead.
Cannondale muscle their way to the head of the field with Sky just behind them.
Ladagnous, Flecha and Bazayev have 52 seconds.
Alan Marangoni who rode the Classics last year for Cannondale is on the front for Sagan as the race towards the Kokereelberg begins with a twisting descent. If you're at the back now you might as well pack.
The three leaders have pushed their advantage out to 1:12.
The road narrows around a right hand bend and BMC and Sky flood the front with RadioShack just behind. That's the difference between those teams and Cannondale perhaps, they have the experience to know when to be at the front. Gilbert is currently setting the pace with Sagan now three or four rows back.
The lead has gone out to 1:33.
The peloton aren't too worried about Flecha despite the gap going out to 2 minutes.
Flecha is certainly doing the lion share of the work in the lead group and it's paying off with the advantage up to 2:05.
As Gilbert sprints into the foot of the Baneberg
Gaps immediately appear in the peloton as Hayman leads a chase group.
Gilbert's acceleration clips 10 seconds off the leader's gap as they run through the feedzone.
The Boonen, Gilbert group is around 30 strong with Sagan there, Brechel too.
The Dane is first into the feedzone, keen to avoid any crashes or trouble.
Blythe hits the front but the new is that Fabian Cancellara has pulled out at the feedzone.
He'll most likely be heading home for a few days in preparation for Flanders.
And Geraint Thomas has also pulled out too.
Gilbert has now drifted to the back of the peloton. We've not seen Cavendish in a while though so no indication if he's still with the leaders or not.
Boonen has crashed an is on the floor.
Peters is out of the car and with him.
Boonen is sitting up but his race looks over for sure.
Now he's on his feet as the three leaders start the Kemmelberg for the first time.
Boonen has started riding again as up ahead Flecha's class is showing and he opens up a small gap on his two other breakaway partners.
Will Omega wait for Boonen at this crucial moment. Seeing the Boonen crash he seemed to clip the curb and lose control.
As Boasson Hagen leads Sagan on the climb with a small gap behind.
As Flecha starts the descent.
The three leaders are back together again.
The peloton crest the top of the climb all together.
As Boonen continues on alone. There's little chance of him making contact at this point though.
The three leaders have 49 seconds as they race towards the Monteberg, which is just 2 kilometres away.
Peters has said that Boonen is complaining about soreness in his knee and leg after his spill.
There a few splits in the bunch on the Kemmel and they'll be hard to close at this stage. Still no sign of Cavendish as we have confirmation that Boonen has quit the race.
Luke Rowe takes over at the front for Sky with a number of teammates and riders from BMC close by. Flecha's posse have just 35 seconds left.
Boonen is complaining that he was pushed into the curb by a rider.
With the field fracturing BMC are looking to take full advantage. Cavendish and Greipel are both in the lead group. Confirmed.
And Haussler attacks off the front but it's worth noting that Sagan has four men with him in the front group.
Haussler has a small gap but the peloton aren't going to let him get too far up the road.
The IAM Cycling leader looks back, sees he's going no where and sits up.
Well, Haussler's opening a bit of gap now with Cannondale leading a small chase group.
The chase group has two Cannondale riders, Eisel and three or four other riders as they now make contact with Haussler. Amador is there too.
The Flecha group has just 17 seconds now.
The Haussler/Eisel move has been shut down as the bunch hits the Baneberg.
Brsechel launches an attack from the peloton and the Haussler move is still clear at the moment.
The Haussler/Eisel group have caught the Flecha move so we have 10 riders in the lead now with a 50 second gap.
Sagan is in the lead group with Bodnar a teammate.
Sagan is in the lead group with Bodnar a teammate.
50km to go and the Sagan group as it's now being called, has 1:04 on the peloton.
A big job for Bodnar here as he'll be tasked with extended the break's lead but it's Sagan who takes charge.
The lead has gone out to 1:34
The lead has gone out to 1:34 as the break take on the Kemmel for the last time.
Bazayev (AST), Bozic (AST)
van Avermaet (BMC)
Bodnar (CAN), Sagan (CAN)
Haussler and Popo are struggling as Flecha sets the pace.
Over the top of the climb and the chase has fragmented as Sagan sets pace at the head of the break.
Cavendish digs deep in the bunch as they crest the Kemmel, Hushovd, Boom, Greipel, Stannard are all there.
Sky are leading over the top so perhaps they're not happy putting Eisel up against Sagan in the sprint. That will play into Cavendish's hands.
Popo and Haussler have made it back to the break but there are a couple of passengers in Eisel and Vandenbergh as Breschel attacks again from the peloton.
Bodnar has a puncture and drops out of the lead group so Sagan is on his own. The Cannondale rider moves to the front straight away and the gap is now at 1'17
And with the Kemmel over it's Omega who move to the front and set the pace. Boasson Hagen is also in the Cavendish/Greipel group and Bodnas has made it back to the leaders. Impressive riding.
42km to go and the gap is at 1'18
BMC may be caught in two minds here because Van Avermaet is a decent sprinter and possibly their best option today.
Pozzato is also in the Cavendish group.
Debusschere has a flat and is dropped from the lead group.
Eisel slips back and has a word with the DS in the Sky car. The gap isn't getting any bigger so he might be asked to work in a bid to weaken Omega if the bunch does come back together. Saying that, we've seen Cavendish win on his own too.
Sagan is still taking turns on the break, along with Haussler so they certainly see this as their best chance of a win today.
Katusha and BMC flood the front of the peloton though and this will help the sprinters like Cavendish and Greipel.
Lotto finally join the party on the front of the peloton now.
And Van Avermaet has stopped taking turns so Sagan won't want to give him an easy ride to the finish. This could spell the end of the break even though their lead has moved out to 1'32
The leaders reach Ieper, included for the first time this year. They hold a lead of 1'29.
Vandenbergh sits at the back of the group. He's not been called back yet for the chase which is understandably given how many other teams have the same ambitions as Cavendish for the sprint.
30km to go with the gap at 1'28.
And now Susan is taking over until the finish.
Haussler sees the gap shrinking slightly and kicks up the speed.
Blanco, Sky, Lotto all pulling the field along in chase of that front group.
23 km to go, and the gap is 1:29. Still too early to know whether the gap will hold or not.
Lotto and Blanco leading the chase now.
Cannondale continues to lead the escape group. No surprise, as Sagan is certainly a hot favourite to win on this cold day.
The gap has actually picked up a few seconds, and is now at 2:34. We are getting ready to predict that this group will make it through to the end.
Once again that neon green of Cannondale pushing at the head of the break group.
Eisel at the rear of the group.
There are no more climbs left.
Haussler takes another turn in the lead, followed by Eisel.
Bodnar falls back to the team car to take off and deliver a jacket.
But he is of course quickly back up to Sagan's side.
There may be no more real climbs today, but that certainly doesn't mean that the course is now flat!
12 km and the gap is 1:25. If the chasing group really turns on teh speed, and holds it, then they have a chance of catching this group. But that is beginning to seem unlikely.
Well, the chasers finally realized it was time to get down to business. With 9 km to go, the gap has fallen to 1:02. It is still possible for them to catch the leaders but....
The gap is falling steadily now, but the break group isn't going to give up without a fight.
Lotto and Blanco at the head of the chase, and we caught a glimpse of an OPQS jersey near the front, too.
Once again it is Bodnar at the head of the lead group, pushing the pace as much as he can.
Six km and only 40 seconds. Who would have thought it?
Bodnar again. He is going to be tired this evening!
Popovych is at the other end of the group, and looks to be having trouble hanging on.
Bodnar has done his duty and now falls back out of the lead group.
4 km and 32 seconds....Haussler, Sagan and a third rider have a small gap.
They are caught and Sagan takes off solo -- and he will have an excellent chance!
Eisel leads the chase, but it may well be in vain.
Eisel, Van Avermaet and Popovych are the chasing trio. 3 km, and 40 seconds to the field.
Sagan has 12 seconds on the chasing trio.
Sagan increase his lead, up to 16 seconds with 2 km to go. He is copying Cancellara, with this solo move.
Flamme rouge and Sagan should easily have this one in his pocket.
Amador takes off in chase, or at least in chase of second place.
And SAgan easily cruises in to a solo victory!
Bozic took second place.
And Van Avermaet was third. Greipel won the sprint of the field, some 39 seconds after Sagan crossed the line.
Sagan is known for his victory celebrations, and today was no exception. No dancing this time, but a series of wheelies.
The first chasing group came in 28 seconds down, so Sagan had built himself up a good lead.
And here are the top ten finishers today:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 4:29:10
2 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:00:28
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
5 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
6 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky Procycling
8 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
9 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack Leopard
10 Andrei Amador Bipkazacova (Crc) Movistar
Thanks for reading along and be sure to join us for the spring season. And we will do our best to try and find some spring weather!