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Elite men: Ghent 198.9km

Complete live report

Live commentary by:
Stephen Farrand

The Belgian Classics start today with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The 199km race includes cobbles and the terrible Flemish climbs. With cold weather and possible snow, it's going to be a great day of racing.

  1. 11:24:43 CET

    Hello and good morning from Cyclingnews' live race coverage.

    We'll be covering all the action from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad from start to finish.

  2. 11:28:34 CET

    It's cold at the start in Ghent but there is a hint of some sun.

    However snow is affecting other races in Europe. We've just heard that the first edition of the Drôme Classic in the south of France has been cancelled due to snow.

  3. 11:34:45 CET

    And they're off!

    The 68th edition of the opening race of the Belgian season is underway.

  4. 11:35:25 CET

    It is  -1C at the start, with riders wrapped up in plenty of team clothes to keep them warm.

  5. 11:42:32 CET

    To prepare for all the action later in the race, read the excellent race preview by Barry Ryan. He's on the ground in Ghent and will have all the inside information for us very soon.

    www.cyclingnews.com/races/omloop-het-nieuwsblad-elite-2013/preview

  6. 11:52:07 CET

    The stage list is packed with big-name classics contenders, including Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Greg van Avermaert and Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team), Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernie Eisel (Team Sky) and Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cyclnig).  

    Watch out for 2012 winner Sep Vanmarcke (Team Blanco). The Dutch team is on a roll and the big fella could strike again.

  7. 11:53:01 CET

  8. 11:54:43 CET

    Who is your favourite to win?

    Let us know on the Cyclingnews Facebook page.

    www.facebook.com/cyclingnews

  9. 195km remaining from 198.9km

    11:55:47 CET

    The riders are still all together after the opening kilometres. Nobody seems to want to go on the attack in the cold conditions.

  10. 11:56:39 CET

    We spoke too soon!

    Andreas Schillinger (Team NetApp-Endura) is the first to attack.

  11. 12:03:37 CET

    Other riders are jumping across to Schillinger but the moves are pulled back by the peloton.  

  12. 185km remaining from 198.9km

    12:10:05 CET

    The 199km race route includes 12 climbs and 8 sections of cobbles. The first climb kicks in after 60km, with the first cobbles, just before that.

  13. 12:11:24 CET

    A new four-rider attack goes clear. 

  14. 12:13:25 CET

    The riders are: an Albert Timmer (Argos-Shimano), Benjamin Verraes (Accent Jobs), Jan Ghyselinck (CVofidis) and Blaz Jarc (NEtApp-Endura).

  15. 12:14:13 CET

    Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling) is trying to get across to the move, as the gap reaches 20 seconds.

  16. 12:15:34 CET

    The women's Omloop is also being held today. We'll bring you as much info as possible during the day.

  17. 173km remaining from 198.9km

    12:20:54 CET

    The chase is on with the peloton not letting the four go clear just yet. 

  18. 12:24:38 CET

    As they say in Italy: Gruppo compatto. All together.

    But who will attack next?

  19. 165km remaining from 198.9km

    12:29:07 CET

    More attacks! More riders trying to get into the early break of the day.

  20. 163km remaining from 198.9km

    12:33:26 CET

    Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano), Florian Vachon ( Bretagne-Seche Environnement), Julien Fouchard and Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Cyril Lemoine (Sojasun), Jérôme Cousin (Team Europcar) and Zak Dempster (NEtApp-Endura) are the seven in the move. They currently have 25 seconds.

  21. 154km remaining from 198.9km

    12:40:34 CET

    Other riders are trying to jump across to the breakaway. It's been a fast start to the race so far. And we haven't hit the climbs yet!

  22. 12:43:28 CET

    Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) have got across to the seven, forming a nine-rider breakaway.

  23. 12:45:42 CET

    The first hour of the race was covered in a leg-hurting 46.1km/h. Ouch!

  24. 12:47:25 CET

    The break now has more than a minute but risked being stopped by a level crossing. Fortunately the barriers rose just before the riders arrived.

  25. 13:03:20 CET

    The peloton has eased off and the gap now has five minutes.

  26. 140km remaining from 198.9km

    13:07:49 CET

    The break has covered the first cobbles of the day and is about to tackle the Leberg climb. 

  27. 13:10:14 CET

    Greg van Avermaert (BMC Racing Team) has a puncture but is quickly back up to speed.

  28. 13:12:46 CET

    Checkout Barry Ryan's photo gallery from the start in Ghent: www.cyclingnews.com/news/photos/start-gallery-omloop-het-nieuwsblad

     

  29. 135km remaining from 198.9km

    13:18:59 CET

    The break now has a lead of 4:45 on the peloton after the first climb.

  30. 13:23:50 CET

    Crash! We have a big stack up in the peloton.

  31. 13:24:56 CET

    Gert Dockx (Lotto Belisol) seems the most seriously injured. He's being treated by the race doctor.

  32. 125km remaining from 198.9km

    13:31:51 CET

    Dockx has  been forced to retire and is on his way to hospital for treatment.

  33. 13:37:25 CET

    Who is your tip to win today?

    Saturday morning’s edition of newspaper Het Nieuwsblad ranked its five favourites for victory in the race that bears its name as follows: 1. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-ISD), 2. Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol), 3. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), 4. Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), 5. Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco Pro Cycling).

  34. 118.9km remaining from 198.9km

    13:41:15 CET

    With some 80km covered, the race has now covered the first four climbs of the day. The Oude Steenweg is next.

  35. 13:47:34 CET

    The race speed was an average of 36.9km/h for the second hour, as the hills kicked in. The average race speed is now 42.5km/h. Pretty brisk for a cold day in Belgium!

  36. 13:51:07 CET

    The race has just crossed the river in Geraardsbergen, with the gap down to 4:18, thanks to Team Blanco picking up the chase.

  37. 110km remaining from 198.9km

    14:02:00 CET

    We are getting close to the half way point in the race and it is almost time for the feed zone.

  38. 14:03:21 CET

    Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) is one of the big favourites today. Barry Ryan spoke to him at the start.

    “Well, I hope that being picked as favourite doesn’t bring me bad luck,” Pozzato said. “My condition is good but it’s always hard to win because there are a lot of strong contenders. The cold? I’m not worried about it. It’s normal here, we’re in Belgium.”

  39. 14:15:46 CET

    The riders have now past through the town of Brakel as they towards the sixth climb: the Valkenberg.

  40. 88km remaining from 198.9km

    14:23:48 CET

    Speaking on the signing on podium in Ghent this morning, Taylor Phinney described himself as a “wildcard” for BMC in today’s race. The American was in fine form at the Tour of Qatar, and his team today includes Thor Hushovd and Greg Van Avermaet.

    “Thor is at a much higher level this year than last and Greg is going very well too,” Phinney said. “On a good day, we can have five or six guys up there in the final. Our tactic is the numbers we have and the strength that we have.”

  41. 14:26:19 CET

    The temperature may still be cold but the racing is warming up.

    The lead of the break has dropped to below four minutes.

  42. 14:35:21 CET

    The gap is melting slowly like snow on Belgian cobbles. Team Blanco is still leading the chase.

  43. 14:41:10 CET

    Tom Boonen isn’t the top favourite he often used to be at the Omloop due to his recent  problems. The Belgian star has somehow never won the Belgian opening classic. Last year Boonen came very close but he was beaten in the sprint by Sep Vanmarcke. At the start in Ghent Boonen talked about the cold and his different role in the team. “I’m wearing the warmest kit I have. I’m not afraid of the cold but I respect it. I know what it can do if combined with these distances. I expect 85 percent of the riders to become a spectator,” Boonen said. “We start like we always do, offensive. We’ll see who’s good in the team. I don’t have the big move in my legs but maybe in my hand, by staying behind with some others,” Boonen said. Boonen’s teammate Nikki Terpstra added that he likes the team tactic. “I always have to ride in the offensive if I want to achieve anything,” Terpstra said.

  44. 70km remaining from 198.9km

    14:43:26 CET

    The gap is down to below three minutes now. The race is about to get serious.

  45. 14:45:23 CET

    The peloton can smell the breakaway now and the big teams are gathering at the front.

  46. 14:45:55 CET

    Frédéric Amorison (Crelan - Euphony) takes a tumble but seems ok.

  47. 66km remaining from 198.9km

    14:48:30 CET

    The break is on the Kruisberg now and is splitting under the effort of Cousin up front. Will Clarke is the first victim.

  48. 14:49:20 CET

    Garmin-Sharp is now on the front behind. Position before the Kruisberg  is very important

  49. 14:52:14 CET

    The peloton is over the Kruisberg ut now there more climbs and more section of pave.

    Hold on to your seats. The race is about to explode!

  50. 14:58:59 CET

    Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is caught up in a crash and is holding his wrist. His race is over.

  51. 60km remaining from 198.9km

    14:59:58 CET

    Up front, the peloton is spread across the road as riders are picked up from the break.

  52. 59km remaining from 198.9km

    15:01:18 CET

    Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) tests his legs on the section of cobbles but then sits up and waits for the peloton.

  53. 15:02:55 CET

    The roads are little wider than a track now. The peloton will be squeezed here very soon.

  54. 15:04:23 CET

    The break splits on the Taaienberg. There are just five riders left up front now.

  55. 15:06:14 CET

    We have winner in the women's race: Tiffany Cromwell from the Orica-AIS team survived the terrible cold conditions to give the Australian team another important win.

  56. 15:07:17 CET

    The peloton is splitting into several lines of riders.

  57. 53km remaining from 198.9km

    15:10:38 CET

    It's time for the Taaienberg!

  58. 15:11:58 CET

    After the splits, the peloton is hesitating slightly.

  59. 15:13:22 CET

    Omega Pharma is looking to boss the racing.

  60. 50km remaining from 198.9km

    15:15:46 CET

    The peloton sweeps ruond a tight right turn and tackles the Varent climb. More and more gaps are opening in the pack.

  61. 15:17:07 CET

    Haussler was looking good is reported to have crashed now.

  62. 45km remaining from 198.9km

    15:21:40 CET

    Haussler crashed hard and was clearly in pain.

  63. 15:22:58 CET

    Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is now leading a small group but the peloton is just 22km behind.

  64. 43km remaining from 198.9km

    15:26:40 CET

    Fouchard and Sijmens (COF), Chavanel (OPQ), Cousin (EUC), Bandiera (IAM) and Van Hecke (TSV) lead the race at the moment but Thomas (SKY) Boom (Blanco) and Van Avermaert (BMC) are coming up fast. 

  65. 15:27:43 CET

    The Leberg is causing further splits and pain.

  66. 15:28:14 CET

    According to Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) the BMC team would be one of the strongest blocks out there in the cold to be reckoned with.

    "The strongest teams are BMC, Blanco and Omega Pharma-Quickstep,” Roelandts said. The former Belgian champion is the team leader for the Belgian Lotto-Belisol team and bridged up solo to the first chase group just a minute ago. “We already had some wins with five different riders. Everybody is in a good shape. I’m the team leader but that will not change my style of racing which is always based on my sensations.”

    The former Belgian champion is wearing a special helmet of which he said at the start that it was more aerodynamic and warmer.

  67. 15:29:05 CET

    The front group is coming together and could go clear if they work together.

  68. 15:29:56 CET

    Chavanel is still pushing hard slightly off the front as he starts the Leberg.

  69. 15:30:48 CET

    Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is leading the chase of Chavanel.

  70. 15:31:55 CET

    Behind Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) stops next to a team vehicle and calls it a day.

  71. 15:33:26 CET

    Just 30 or so riders remain in the main peloton.

  72. 15:33:52 CET

    Boonen, Boasson Hagen, Hushovd are there.

  73. 15:34:32 CET

    But the gap is 1:40 now. Their race seems over.

  74. 38km remaining from 198.9km

    15:35:13 CET

    Chavanel is pushing on alone up front, with the chasers at 20 seconds.

  75. 15:38:02 CET

    The chasers are letting Chavanel hang out front. This has become a very tactical race as the Molenberg begins.

  76. 35km remaining from 198.9km

    15:38:56 CET

    Greg Van Avermaert (BMC) is leading the chase and putting down a lot of power on the climb. He's gapped the others.

  77. 15:39:46 CET

    The Molenberg is the final climb of the race, but three cobbled sections remain, with a final section close to the finish in Ghent.

  78. 15:40:46 CET

    Vanmarcke and Boonen lead the peloton but their race is virtually over. They are 1:50 behind the leaders.

  79. 15:41:46 CET

    Up front Chavanel is now in the group with Eynants, Thomas, Bandiera, Paolini and Van Avermaert. There are 10 riders in total. 

  80. 15:43:13 CET

    Offredo is trying to inspire a chase behind but nobody else wants to help him. 

  81. 15:47:47 CET

    The selection has been made and these 10 riders will surely fight it out for victory.

  82. 15:48:05 CET

    Who is your tip?

  83. 15:49:14 CET

    Paolini is crafty and a fast finisher, Bandiera was on form in Oman last week, as was van Avermaert. Thomas showed his early season form in Australia and Chavanel is always classy. 

  84. 15:49:51 CET

    Roelandts cannot be ruled out, while Vandenbergh is a threat too.

  85. 15:50:51 CET

    Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Cofidis) is easy to spot in his yellow overshoes and helmet. Can he be the big surprise of the race?

  86. 26km remaining from 198.9km

    15:54:40 CET

    The better sprinters are happy to sit back and wait for the finish for now but riders like Thomas will have to split the group very soon.

  87. 15:55:09 CET

    We spoke too soon. Paolini and Vandenbergh have opened a slight gap.

  88. 15:59:46 CET

    The two are carving out a growing gap and behind they don't seem to have the strength or desire to chase them down.

  89. 16:00:53 CET

    Matteo Trentin is said to have broken his carpal bone when he crashed earlier. Ouch!

  90. 16:02:56 CET

    Paolini is pretty small and can sit nicely behind the much bigger Vandenbergh.

  91. 16:04:01 CET

    Thomas is doing a turn on the front behind but the gap is now 32 seconds as the riders hit the final section of pave.

  92. 16:04:52 CET

    There is one short section just before the finish but the pain is largely over now.

  93. 17km remaining from 198.9km

    16:07:22 CET

    The gap is up to 38 seconds now. It will surely come down to a two-rider sprint.

  94. 16:09:04 CET

    Stijn Vandenbergh is not a sprinter, while Paolini is fast and experienced. The Big Belgian will have to try a late attack if he hopes to win.

  95. 14km remaining from 198.9km

    16:11:47 CET

    Wynants, van Avermaert, Thomas and Garcia are trying to whip up a chase. The gap is down to 30 seconds but the two are still out of sight. 

  96. 16:12:45 CET

    Bandiera is also chasing now.

  97. 16:15:47 CET

    Luca Paolini finished 4th in 2010, 5th in 2011 and 12th last year in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Is it his time to win?

  98. 10km remaining from 198.9km

    16:17:13 CET

    We're inside the last 10km.

  99. 7km remaining from 198.9km

    16:21:26 CET

    The chasers are doing turns on the front but are clearly riding for third place now.

  100. 16:22:16 CET

    The only chance for the chasers is if Paolini and Vandenbergh play games in the final kilometres.

  101. 16:22:57 CET

    Vandenbergh is trying to make Paolini do more of the work. He will have to try an attack in the final kilometres.

  102. 5km remaining from 198.9km

    16:24:32 CET

    The team cars have now given final instructions to their riders. 

  103. 16:25:20 CET

    The riders are now close to Ghent now are still sharing the work.

  104. 3km remaining from 198.9km

    16:28:01 CET

    Vandenbergh makes an attack taking the inside line on a corner but Paolini is on him straight away.

  105. 2km remaining from 198.9km

    16:28:46 CET

    The chasers are still 50 seconds behind.

  106. 1km remaining from 198.9km

    16:29:44 CET

    Here we go. Final km!

  107. 16:30:48 CET

    The mind games begin, with the riders switching across the road.

  108. 16:31:15 CET

    Paolini has selected a smaller gear ready to jump after any attack.

  109. 16:31:33 CET

    Here we go!

  110. 16:32:19 CET

    Paolini leads it out all the way and wins!

  111. 16:32:49 CET

    Vandenbergh had little chance against his much faster rival.

  112. 16:34:41 CET

    Here's the sprint for third.

    Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) takes it well.

  113. 16:35:25 CET

    Paolini won by several bike lengths after accelerating all the way to the line.

  114. 16:35:49 CET

    Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was fourth and Gren van Avermaert (BMC) was fifth.

  115. 16:41:26 CET

    It looks like Davide Appollonio (AG2R La Mondiale) on the bunch sprint. But today was Paolini's day.

  116. 16:42:57 CET

    Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. We'll have a full report, a huge photo gallery of all the action and other interviews and news story very soon.

    We'll also be covering Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne live on Sunday. Don't miss it!