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Gent - Wevelgem: 204.5km

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Stephen Farrand
  1. 12:15:56 CEST

    Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of Gent-Wevelgem.

  2. 12:18:20 CEST

    The race has been underway for almost an hour but there has been little action so far as the riders head out to the coast.

  3. 12:19:32 CEST

    The 196 riders who rolled out of Gent face 204km of racing.

  4. 12:21:03 CEST

    This year, the course has been slightly modified to include a longer flat first half, as well as one additional climb. After more than 130km of racing, the riders will reach a circuit that includes eight short climbs, which will be tackled twice, before they head towards Wevelgem and the finish. Among the climbs is the dreaded Kemmelberg, whose descent sometimes proves to be even more decisive than its ascent.

  5. 12:23:54 CEST

    There 35 kilometres to the finish after the last climb - which makes it possible for a small peloton to come together again  and for a thrilling finale. Gent-Wevelgem is known as the sprinter's classic but these days does not end in a bunch sprint as often as imagined. In the last few years, only three larger group sprints have decided the winner: Tom Boonen in 2004, Thor Hushovd in 2006 and Oscar Freire in 2008. Depending on weather conditions and race circumstances, the race can be a battle of attrition especially if the wind breaks up the bunch in the finale.

    A split in the finale helped Bernhard Eisel (HTC-High Road) took the victory from a six-man group last year, after crosswinds had made life difficult for everyone. The Austrian will be back to defend his title, but has been ill in recent weeks. This year he will be riding with team captain Mark Cavendish who missed out on the race in 2010 and Milan-San Remo winner Matt Goss.

  6. 12:24:52 CEST

    The only rider not to start was Belarus' Aleksandr Koetsjinski (Katyusha).

  7. 12:26:32 CEST

    The big names riding include Gilbert, Boonen, Cavendish, Hushovd, Farrar, Eisel, Greipel, Bennati, Van Avermaet and Pozzato. Anyone of them could win today.

  8. 12:30:53 CEST

    Thanks for kicking off live Stephen. Sorry folks, we had a bit of trouble with the CN blimp this morning but it's all okay now.

  9. 12:31:25 CEST

    Conditions at the start this morning were close to perfect. Over-cast but no rain and no wind to speak of.

  10. 12:32:24 CEST

    There's a chance of rain later on today though. Last night we did have light showers - the first we've had since being in Belgium - we arrived on Monday.

  11. 12:34:39 CEST

    Stephen's already talked about the route for today's race so lets have a look through some of the favourites.

  12. 12:38:14 CEST

    Actually, before we do look at the big hitters for today, we bumped into George Hincapie  - himself a big hitter - and he confirmed to CN that he would be racing for one more season. So good news for all the BMC, American and Hincapie fans out there. He's 37 so he'll be pushing 39 when he final hangs up his wheels.

    You can read about this and watch a little video interview with George, right here. No backing down now, George, we've got this on film!

  13. 12:39:53 CEST

    And while we're on the subject of video, we spent yesterday's E3 with Skil-Shimano. We recorded a series of video throughout the day and you can watch them all right here.

  14. 12:43:17 CEST

    One last shameless plug of video and then we'll get back to the race (I promise). You can watch Fabian Cancellara's post-race press conference from yesterday, right here.

  15. 12:47:15 CEST

    So Eisel wears number 1 today, having won last year. A few of the HTC riders have a bit of a cold at the moment but they were in fine spirits at the start. Along with Eisel they have Cavendish and Goss on the start line and don't forget they've won this race three of the last four years. That's a pretty impressive record, even if two of the riders have now left the team.

  16. 12:48:44 CEST

    Hushovd is also racing today but after yesterday's exploits Garmin will be back Tyler Farrar. It's one of the biggest objectives of the season, according to Jonathan Vaughters, and Farrar was strong in last year's race, almost bridging to the lead group. If he can get over the climbs today he has to be a favourite.

  17. 12:49:56 CEST

    And there's also Boonen. Who knows what effect yesterday's race and Cancellara's win will have on him. But all of Belgium will be watching to see how he responds. Anything short of victory and questions will be raised - certainly from within the home press.

  18. 12:52:23 CEST

    The first hour of racing has been completed at an average of 51kph. Fast. All flat roads to start with and the bunch is all together.

  19. 12:57:41 CEST

    We spoke to HTC's Rolf Aldag at the start today and this is what he had to say:

     

    Let’s see how the race goes. Even Alex Rasmussen if he gets over the climbs and gets in a group is hard to beat in a sprint out of a group. We have to see.

    The biggest and most important thing is that we don’t lose control of the race. If we’re in a situation where we have to chase and puts guys on the front, then it’s not going to be funny anymore.


  20. 12:58:02 CEST

    On skipping Harelbeke for Gent-Wevelgem:

    We’ve won three out of four, but don’t tell anyone else or they might consider us as the favourite.

    I think that the balance in the last couple of years has been good for us. We’ve skipped Harelbeke. It’s a super nice race but we don’t have a team to do two such hard races in two days, so we really shifted our focus to Gent-Wevelgem and it paid off, but now I’ve seen a lot of teams do the same and copy that idea, and not bring the guys to Harelbeke, so it’s going to be more difficult, we’re going to have to deal with more fresh riders.

    On Cavendish’s form:

    I hope it’s good. He won in Oman and the positive news is that he is more stable that’s for sure. Last year he struggled really with getting together, but he’s a lot more stable right now. He has big goals with riding all three Grand Tours, and this is what he needs, to be very stable all season

  21. -53km remaining from 204.5km

    12:59:26 CEST

    Meanwhile we've had our first meaningful move of the race as Thomas Voeckler attacks. He's joined by Schmitz, Zingle, Van Vooren and Timmer. They have a minutes lead on the pack.

  22. 13:01:34 CEST

    We also spoke to Mike Sayers from BMC, who had this to say on today's race.

    "We’ve got as good a team as we could have for what is an important race, a WorldTour race. We’ve got all of our best guys here."

    "I think Belgium’s been going through summertime. It’s been great weather all week, perfect for training, perfect for doing the recon. Today is calm, a little chilly but not bad. I think it’ll just be the riders and the course that determine the winner."

  23. 13:02:13 CEST

    On Quinziato:

    "The only guy we’ll have next week who isn’t here is Quinziato, but he’s coming tomorrow for De Panne."

    "He wasn’t feeling 100% and we just wanted to give him extra rest and extra time to prepare so he’ll be here tomorrow"

    On Hincapie:

    "As you’ve seen up to this point, it seems to be pefect, so moving right along, no problem."

    On BMC being more aggressive:

    "The team’s getting stronger for sure. The team has strengthened itself on all fronts this year. Greg [Van Avermaet] has been a great addition to the team along with Quinziato, so I think every guy we added this year has brought something to the team: experience or aggressive riding or better knowledge or whatever, so I just think all around we’ve made the team better."

  24. 13:04:38 CEST

    The leaders have two minutes now.

  25. 13:08:37 CEST

    Situation
    Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Bram Schmitz (Veranda's Willems – Accent), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano)
    Peloton at 2 minutes
     

  26. -61km remaining from 204.5km

    13:09:36 CEST

    So it looks like we've got our break for the day. Voeckler raced yesterday too but he's clearly hoping to make the most of his strong recent form.

  27. 13:11:22 CEST

    One favourite we've not talked about today yet is Gilbert. We didn't catch him at the start but we did talk to his team boss, Marc Sergeant. Here's what he had to say.

    Marc Sergeant

    "Obviously it’s a race which is not as selective as yesterday but the middle section is pretty hard, it’s narrow, so something can happen. There can be a small group or a breakaway, and if there’s a sprint we still have André."

    On Cancellar's win yesterday:

    "It was astonishing. After all the bad luck he had, the effort he made was incredible. And it was so predictable, you saw he was so strong and he came back by doing the work himself, and then he had O’Grady to help him. It was great."

  28. 13:13:02 CEST

    We also talked to Jonathan Vaughters.

    "Today’s is one of Tyler’s big objectives for the year, but you saw yesterday a race can go a number of different ways. I know in the end Cancellara won but you could see for a while that we were playing a good card with Sep, so who knows exactly how all of this pans out today. In theory it’s a good opportunity for Tyler and for the team to win one of these things."

    On Haussler not racing G-W

    "It makes it harder. If you’re going for the win like Haussler was yesterday then I think it’s pretty tough. I think it’s difficult for sure. I think it’s hard when you’re absolutely flat out to try to win two days in a row like that. But then there’s guys like Roger Hammond who want to race both days, but again his job is a little bit different."

  29. 13:15:08 CEST

    We also talked to Ted King, now of Liquigas. He'll be working for Sagan today:

    "At the Giro di Sardegna I had a knee injury. I was working for Sagan and it was big to come away with the victory but it took me off the bike for a week, then two weeks’ therapy."

    "I just finished up Coppi e Bartali, so that was sort of a test for the knee. It came out fine, so I’m really excited for this week.
    Looking after Sagan. This might be his first classics, but the guy is a champion for sure in the making. It’s a tall order so I’ll be looking out for him most of the day."

  30. 13:21:01 CEST

    And finally we talked to Sky's Chris Sutton. He won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne a few weeks ago and says he's feeling really strong.

    Chris Sutton

    "I’m feeling pretty good, had a good few days. We did a recon of the Tour of Flanders and a recon of Gent-Wevelgem the other day, then a nice easy ride yesterday. Team spirit is high and everybody is raring to go and race hard. The team’s just going so well right now, we proved it again the other day in Waregem with G coming second and then Hayman coming second in the bunch sprint behind Farrar."

  31. 13:21:15 CEST

    "We’ll see what happens. I’m feeling pretty good but we’ve got so many cards to play, everybody’s going so strong. Flecha, Hayman, Ian Stannard, G… Hendy’s going great. He had a big win in Paris-Nice but then he got a bit sick after that so we’re not sure if he’s 100%, so we’re just going to talk out on the road and see what happens. If it comes down to the sprint and I’m there, then it’s all go for me. If I’m not feeling good then we’ll go for Hendy, but it could be a breakaway. G could be away solo or Flecha, or Stannard."
     

  32. 13:28:25 CEST

    Good work from the leaders by the way and they've got a gap of five minutes.

    Situation
    Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Bram Schmitz (Veranda's Willems – Accent), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator) and Albert Timmer (Skil-Shimano)
    Peloton at 5 minutes
     

  33. 13:30:12 CEST

    We've also put together a start line gallery from this morning. Here it is!

  34. 13:34:00 CEST

    Thoughts on today's racing, Cancellara, Hincapie, and predictions for the finish, ping them into me at http://twitter.com/dnlbenson

  35. -85km remaining from 204.5km

    13:38:35 CEST

    Already we have a reaction from the bunch and the gap is coming down. It's 3.20. We've not hit the first set of climbs yet, and they come around the 110km mark.

  36. -95km remaining from 204.5km

    13:49:06 CEST

    We've raced 94 km in two hours so the group and the peloton aren't hanging around. The leaders will hit the first set of climbs, starting with the Mont de Cats in roughly 10km.

  37. 13:51:12 CEST

    Weber_M @dnlbenson Be nice if George won but predict he will set up Van Avermaet. Problem is most may see today as only chance to Win - no Fabian

  38. 13:52:53 CEST

    Pozzato's first race in Belgium since last month but today is also Sagan's first experience of a semi-Classic/Classic. It will be interesting to see how he goes. Not many people are focussing on him today and his inexperience could be a factor but if he's strong and on form - which he is, then he'll be a factor in the race.

  39. 13:55:40 CEST

    And that long run in between the final climb and the finish - roughly 30km - will be crucial. If some of the dropped riders have even a sniff of coming back for the sprint, they will go full gas. Really if a small group wants to go clear and stay clear then they'll have to form before the final couple of climbs in order to build up a lead.

  40. 13:58:58 CEST

    DavidMcCormack @dnlbenson Cancellara has clearly hit peak condition. Seán Kelly says you can only keep that for 2wks though...and P-R is still 2wks away! Then again, Cancellara is so far ahead of the competition, he probably doesn't need peak condition to win.

  41. 14:06:29 CEST

    The lead is down slightly, it's 2.50 to the five leaders.

  42. 14:10:14 CEST

    The leaders are still working well together. Voeckler comes through and takes his turn on the front, followed by Timmer.

  43. 14:10:49 CEST

    The lead still comes down and it's 2.20

  44. 14:14:12 CEST

    au_sesquip @dnlbenson will the crosswinds play a part today?

    They could well do. It's not too windy out there but there is a slight cross wind. Teams like Rabobank will be looking to exploit that if they can but as ever positioning is going to be crucial, especially on the climbs. They come so quickly, one after the other, that there's little chance to recovery. If you want to win this race you have to pay attention and be at the front - the first 15-20 guys.

  45. 14:15:11 CEST

    Almost onto the first climb for the five leaders. Timmer is leading them. The gap is still at 2.20.

  46. 14:16:26 CEST

    The course change actually suits someone like Cav. The long flat run in will give him a chance to get back on if he's dropped. HTC do have a few cards to play. Their biggest problem maybe their health - a few of them are down with colds.

  47. 14:16:47 CEST

    Onto the Catsberg for the leaders!

  48. 84km remaining from 204.5km

    14:18:03 CEST

    The gap is coming down though. It's 1.47

  49. 14:19:03 CEST

    The rain has held off so far as Sky, BMC and the Shack lead the main field. The Shack have Hunter and McEwen here today.

  50. 83km remaining from 204.5km

    14:20:23 CEST

    Just 1.17 now is the gap. Hayman powering ahead on the front of the peloton.

  51. 14:22:19 CEST

    Hunt takes over and take a big turn on the front, he doesn't really make up much time but he does string things out and move some of the other Sky riders to the front as the road narrows. Smart riding from the experienced Englishman.

  52. 14:23:32 CEST

    Flecha moves up, with Greipel on his wheel. He's another man who could do well if it all comes back together for a sprint.

  53. 14:26:34 CEST

    The roads narrow but that doesn't stop the riders taking risks and jumping onto the pavements. Still 78km to go. The gap has gone back out to 1.52

  54. 14:27:52 CEST

    An Euskatel rider has a puncture and is forced to wait for the car. The five leaders, meanwhile are still plugging away.

  55. 14:28:51 CEST

    I jumped the gun a bit before, they're now on the Catsberg and who else but Voeckler leads them up. He's already putting the others into difficulty and someone is dropped.

  56. 14:29:36 CEST

    Schmitz is the man dropped and Timmer is finding it tough too. Voeckler still on the fron doing all the work.

  57. 14:30:26 CEST

    Timmer is dropped as the bunch now reach the climb. Lets see who has been caught out with poor positioning.

  58. 14:31:12 CEST

    The bunch come to a complete stop as a quick step rider is forced to stop. I think that's boonen. yes it is. What a bad time to have a problem with your bike.

  59. 14:31:55 CEST

    He's sitting down on the road as he waits for his team car. Quick Steps season just goes from bad to worse.

  60. 14:32:10 CEST

    Finally he gets a new bike and he's on his way.

  61. 14:33:16 CEST

    FDJ move up to the front and already the field is all over the place. Boonen is chasing back through the cars. No teammates with him though.

  62. 73km remaining from 204.5km

    14:34:17 CEST

    Back in the break and Voeckler has dropped two riders but the gap has gone out to two minutes.

  63. 14:35:33 CEST

    The main field is starting to come back together but Boonen is still off the back. No teammates but he's sheltering from the wind, behind his team car.

  64. 14:36:12 CEST

    He'll get back on but that's a big waste of energy and might of course miss an important move.

  65. 14:38:04 CEST

    Boonen is roughly 30km off the back of the bunch. Van Impe waits for him.

  66. 14:38:39 CEST

    Boonen has made it back to the bunch. Cancellara came back from things like this yesterday. What can Boonen do?

  67. 14:40:18 CEST

    FDJ and BMC setting the pace on the front. Both teams have options for today.

  68. 14:40:56 CEST

    Schmitz is back in the bunch now.

  69. 14:42:25 CEST

    We hit another climb and Voeckler again set the pace, his two companions more than happy for him to do all the work. The gap goes out to 2.20.

  70. 14:44:46 CEST

    The Frenchman puts down the hammer. Not sure why he's trying to drop these two other riders. Surely they'd be useful on the downhill and flat sections?

  71. 14:45:51 CEST

    FDJ looking really good. Chavanel, meanwhile patrols the front of the bunch.

  72. 14:46:49 CEST

    philgrant80 @dnlbenson personally there Is nothing that boonen or Gilbert can do to compare to what cancellara did yesterday Fabian is a machine

  73. 14:47:19 CEST

    An Astana rider runs wide but stays upright. Behind him the rest of the field are forced to stop.

  74. 64km remaining from 204.5km

    14:47:54 CEST

    And the gap goes up to 2.59

  75. 14:48:24 CEST

    Timmer is now caught by the main field.

  76. 14:50:44 CEST

    Zingle comes through and takes a turn on the less strenuous part of the circuit. They'll do all of this twice.

  77. 14:52:09 CEST

    Problem for Boom and he's at the back, calling for the team car.

  78. 14:52:48 CEST

    Ah he's waiting for Wynants who had a puncture.

  79. 14:53:41 CEST

    Rabobank have lost a little bit of their shine in recent weeks after the splendid start the season they had. Still very much contenders for today though.

  80. 14:55:44 CEST

    Daniel Oss on the front now, Gilbert too as the break tackle the Kemmelberg. Do I need to tell you who is leading the break?

  81. 59km remaining from 204.5km

    14:56:39 CEST

    Voeckler has a gap but more importantly Cav has a flat and takes Brammier's wheel. Big moment now as Cav will need to get back on.

  82. 14:56:57 CEST

    No rain by the way so the Kemmel is dry.

  83. 14:57:54 CEST

    Gilbert on the front and setting the pace, Flecha behind. The race has started.

  84. 14:58:29 CEST

    Boonen follows Flecha, Sagan is there too. Pippo as well. No break but things are stringing out

  85. 14:58:51 CEST

    Farrar near the front. Cav is still chasing but is on his own.

  86. 14:59:15 CEST

    Two BMC riders near the front, Ballan is one of them.

  87. 57km remaining from 204.5km

    14:59:55 CEST

    Thomas is there  too but Hayman is clear.

  88. 15:00:50 CEST

    Cavendish over the top. Maybe 30 seconds down on the bunch.

  89. 15:01:09 CEST

    A HTC rider has waited for him though. Possibly Renshaw.

  90. 15:01:23 CEST

    No, it's Danny Pate.

  91. 15:02:13 CEST

    Hincapie, Hayman and a Saxo rider are clear, with roughly 100 meters on the Gilbert group. It's Cooke.

  92. 15:04:05 CEST

    The bunch are now on the Monteberg, Hincapie setting the pace in the second group on the road. he's with Hayman and Cooke. More riders are trying to bridge over though.

  93. 15:05:03 CEST

    A Shack rider has latched onto the Cookie, Hayman group.

  94. 15:05:54 CEST

    Hushovd trying to make it to the second group .First time we've seen him today.

  95. 15:07:00 CEST

    Hushovd makes it to the second group too. Dangerous little move here but the bunch aren't letting them make much progress, the gap roughly 10 seconds.

  96. 15:09:47 CEST

    Boonen has made it over to this group now. The leaders have 1.11.

  97. 50km remaining from 204.5km

    15:10:37 CEST

    50km to go now. This group looks good. Gilbert is here too.

  98. 15:11:44 CEST

    Correction, it's Steegmans not Boonen in the second group.

  99. 15:13:06 CEST

    Gilbert's group has 20 seconds on the field as Voeckler gains goes on the attack.

  100. 15:13:22 CEST

    Situation:
    Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Steven Van Vooren (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator)
    Chasers: Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), George Hincapie (Team BMC), Matt Hayman (Team Sky), Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank), Gert Steegmans (Quickstep), Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maxim Iglinsky (Astana), Jelle Wallays (Topsport-Vlaanderen) at 1:15
    Peloton: just behind.

  101. 15:14:02 CEST

    Rabobank wont like this and they'll have to chase. HTC too if they've given up on Cav for today.

  102. 15:14:17 CEST

    Iglinsky goes now.

  103. 15:19:25 CEST

    tonydeebo @dnlbenson Reading the live coverage. are Cav and Goss on the McClarens again? I guess they won't use them for the big cobbles.

    They are. Eisel too.

  104. 43km remaining from 204.5km

    15:20:25 CEST

    The Gilbert group has been caught and the Belgian has a puncture.

  105. 15:21:04 CEST

    He's back with the peloton now.


  106. 15:22:38 CEST

    About to tackle the Kemmel again.

  107. 15:23:31 CEST

    Bozic and Maarten Tjallingii go clear as Thomas has a problem with his bike.

    Voeckler is going along now at the head of the race.

  108. 15:25:05 CEST

    The bunch are closing though, the gap is just 33 seconds.

  109. 15:25:54 CEST

    Flecha and Sagan are going now.

  110. 15:26:47 CEST

    it doesn't look like anyone can make a big difference. Van Avermaet leads a small group over the top but the gap is very small. Should all come back together.

  111. 15:28:19 CEST

    Voeckler still alone on the front. He has just 18 seconds. Van Avermaet and Sagan are caught. Bennati is up there. As Flecha attacks. he;'s brought back straight away though.

  112. 15:28:59 CEST

    Pippo shows himself on the front as Oss goes on the attack.

  113. 15:29:33 CEST

    Sky leading the chase though and it looks like this move wont stick.

  114. 15:29:59 CEST

    Just one one more climb before the finish, it's looking like a bunch sprint.

  115. 15:30:27 CEST

    Situation:
    Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar)

    Peloton: 11 seconds
     

  116. 15:31:05 CEST

    Stannard doing the work on the front, setting a good but not blistering pace. Is Sutton in here?

  117. 36km remaining from 204.5km

    15:31:27 CEST

    Nuyens attacks! BMC go with him

  118. 15:31:54 CEST

    But Stannard looks up, adjusts his speed and brings it back together.

  119. 35km remaining from 204.5km

    15:32:59 CEST

    All back together. Voeckler is caught.

  120. 15:34:19 CEST

    Now the question is who can control the bunch until the finish because we're going to see lots of attacks. We've got one now, with Chavanel there with three other riders. Stannard and two riders from Liquigas.

  121. 15:35:05 CEST

    Sky marking moves here. No real reaction from the bunch and the gap is growing.

  122. 15:36:05 CEST

    Sagan is with Chavanel and Stannard and Bodnar. This is a really good group. Bodnar will  bury himself for Sagan.

  123. 15:36:46 CEST

    Lotto on the front, and Gilbert attacks but he's not going to get clear like that.

  124. 15:37:59 CEST

    Cooke on his wheel. This could be that Greipel is in the bunch and Gilbert is just working for him. He's stringing the bunch out.

    Hushovd now on the front and setting the pace, for Farrar. The leaders have 12seconds. 

  125. 31km remaining from 204.5km

    15:39:30 CEST

    Sagan takes a turn on the front. The other Liquigas riders sit on the front and mark moves. Eisel moves up and takes a turn though. Goss will be in the bunch then, no sign of Cav since he was dropped. The gap goes up to 20 seconds.

  126. 15:40:56 CEST

    232 seconds now. 27 seconds. It's going up. The bunch need to react soon if they're to bring this back but right now they're not organised enough. FDJ setting the pace.

  127. 15:41:59 CEST

    Bak on the head of the peloton. The gap up to 37 seconds as Chavanel drives it on. Even Voeckler does a turn on the front of the bunch. HTC don't seem to have the numbers here, they'll need some help.

  128. 15:42:26 CEST

    The peloton has around 30-40 riders.

  129. 28km remaining from 204.5km

    15:43:04 CEST

    the lead is now 42 seconds.

  130. 15:45:22 CEST

    The bunch, lead by Lotto and HTC are finally clawing back to the four leaders. The gap is 37 seconds.

  131. 15:46:29 CEST

    Still not sure if Cav is in bunch. We've not seen him since he punctured.

  132. 15:48:07 CEST

    With Goss out of the race - he quit earlier, it's safe to assume that Cavendish is in this lead group. He must be why HTC are working so hard. Danny Pate was the man who brought him back when he punctured. How important was that role today

  133. 22km remaining from 204.5km

    15:49:25 CEST

    Saxo also setting the pace. Garmin happy to let the other teams do the work for now. The gap is still holding though, it's at 32 seconds with 22km to go.

  134. 15:50:21 CEST

    There's Cavendish. He is in there.

  135. 15:50:39 CEST

    Crash and Cav is down!

  136. 15:50:59 CEST

    Hunt and Hayman also down. .

  137. 15:51:37 CEST

    Cavendish was near the back, looks like a tangle of wheels with a Movistar rider. he's not happy.

  138. 15:52:06 CEST

    He's back on his bike and chasing.

  139. 15:52:39 CEST

    Again Cav is forced to chase. One teammates comes back for him.

  140. 15:53:25 CEST

    In fact that's not a teammate, it's someone from Topsport. Race over for Cavendish now. Surely he cant come back now?

  141. 15:53:57 CEST

    It's all on Eisel now for HTC.

  142. 18km remaining from 204.5km

    15:55:15 CEST

    27 seconds the gap. As I hand you back to Stephen Farrand for the finale.

  143. 15:56:02 CEST

    Hello there. 

  144. 16km remaining from 204.5km

    15:57:33 CEST

    There are just 16km to go now and yet again the race is balanced on a knife edge. 

  145. 15:58:02 CEST

    The crash that dealyed Mark Cavendish seems to have split the peloton in two groups.

  146. 15:59:03 CEST

    Gilbert now attacks from the front group of chasers. He's decided it's time to put his cards on the table. but he's not getting uch help for now.

  147. 16:00:09 CEST

    With the weather warm and dry, this year's Gent-Wevelgem has been a very tactical race. And there could be more mind games before the finish.

  148. 13km remaining from 204.5km

    16:01:45 CEST

    The front chase group is big and wiht plenty of team leaders but just isn't organised and fully committed to chasing. 

  149. 16:02:22 CEST

    Up front the four breakaways are still working smoothly. If it comes down to a sprint, Peter Sagan must be the favourite.  

  150. 16:03:43 CEST

    Stannard is also fast and Chavanel is no slouch in a sprint but it is likely to be a tactical finish, with Bodnar and Sagan chasing down any attacks.

  151. 16:04:17 CEST

    Behind it is now BMC that is leading the chase and upping the pace. Markus Burghardt has done a long turn, and so has Ballan.

  152. 9km remaining from 204.5km

    16:06:19 CEST

    We're inside the final 10km now. The tension is rising but the gap is holding at 22 seconds. Can the four stay away?

  153. 16:07:03 CEST

    The roads are wide and exposed, meaning the chasers can often see the break just in front. 

  154. 16:07:45 CEST

    The gap is gradually coming down thanks to the work by BMC.

  155. 6km remaining from 204.5km

    16:09:05 CEST

    Thomas  Voeckler is now doing his turn on the front and other riders are ready to do their bit.  This is going  to be close, very  close.

  156. 16:09:54 CEST

    Stannard is going hard on the front. He perhaps realises losing to Sagan is better than nothing.

  157. 4km remaining from 204.5km

    16:11:21 CEST

    There are huge crowds along the roads but that is not slowing the chase. The gap is now just nine seconds.

  158. 16:12:47 CEST

    There are about 30 riders behind, all waiting for the sprint. The gap to the four is just 10 seconds. As Bodnar sits up and is caught.

  159. 16:13:25 CEST

    Sagan, Chavanel and Stannard are still going for it. But the chasers are just 150 metres behind.

  160. 2km remaining from 204.5km

    16:13:52 CEST

    Stannard jumps and goes for it.

  161. 1km remaining from 204.5km

    16:14:34 CEST

    Stannard has a gap and is going for glory.

  162. 16:15:08 CEST

    Stannard has a 50 metres on Sagan and 50 mon the chasers. Can he do it?

  163. 16:15:26 CEST

    The sprinters are coming.

  164. 16:16:10 CEST

    Stannard is caught wiht 150m to go.

  165. 16:16:49 CEST

    The sprinters take control, with Farrar leading out, but Tom Boonen came through and timed his sprint perfectly to win.

  166. 16:17:56 CEST

    Boonen crossed the line with a huge smile on his face. That has taken the pressure off him and the Quick Step team. 

  167. 16:18:56 CEST

    There was a crash after the line with Leonard Ducque (Cofidis) tangling with Yoann Offredo (FDJ). Both seem okay.

  168. 16:19:31 CEST

    Boonen got an excellent lead out from Gert Steegmans.

  169. 16:19:55 CEST

    It seems the crash was caused by a television camera man.

  170. 16:21:04 CEST

    Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) was second, Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) was third and Andrei Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) made a late charge to ake fourth.

  171. 16:23:22 CEST

    That's about it from a sunny Belgium. With exactly a week to the Tour of Flanders, we know that both Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Tom Boonen (Quickstep) and most of the other big names for the classics, are all on form. It's going to be a great Ronde. 

  172. 16:27:48 CEST

    Before then most of the riders will ride the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, the three days of De Panne. We'll have lots of news, race shots and other galleries from each stage.

  173. 16:29:00 CEST

    That's al lfrom today's live coverage. We'll have a full report, a huge gallery of race photos and exclusive news on Cyclingnews very soon.