Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite 2017

February 25, 2017, Gent, Belgium, Road - WorldTour

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Barry Ryan

Live coverage of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 198 kilometres, starting and finishing in Ghent. 

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad startlist
Omloop Het Nieuwsblad preview
Six riders to watch on Opening Weekend
Tom Boonen to use custom Specialized Venge disc bike in Omloop – Gallery
Sagan evasive before Omloop
Van Avermaet: Boonen is as strong as I've seen him in years
 

  1. 11:20:05 CET

    Spring has sprung. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is perhaps the closest thing cycling has to baseball's Opening Day, as the peloton gathers in Ghent for the first classic of the new season, and the first race of the Belgian cycling year. The start line may no longer be in the evocative Sint-Pietersplein, but the religious overtones remain. The riders are currently being introduced in the great cathedral of Belgian cycling, 't Kuipke velodrome, before taking the start from the Citadelpark. The neutral start is at 11.35 local time, with the bunch due to hit kilometre zero at 11.45.

  2. 11:31:09 CET

    The route of Omloop is, as ever, a sort of Tour of Flanders lite. The race is more than 50 kilometres shorter than the Ronde, of course, while there are fewer hills in the finale. The last climb, the Molenberg, is some 35 kilometres from the finish, but there are three stiff sections of cobblestones by way of compensation. The running order is as follows:

     

    Hills:

    1 Leberg, 54km
    2 Berendries, 59km
    3 Tenbosse, 63km
    4 Eikenmolen, 69km
    5 Muur, 81km
    6 Valkenberg, 98km
    7 Kaperik, 117km
    8 Kruisberg, 129km
    9 Taaienberg, 139km
    10 Eikenberg, 144km
    11 Wolvenberg, 147km
    12 Leberg, 157km
    13 Molenberg, 163km

    Cobbled sectors:

    1 Haaghoek, 51km
    2 Haaghoek, 107km
    3 Donderij, 134km
    4 Ruiterstraat, 147km
    5 Karel Martelstraat, 149km
    6 Holleweg, 150km
    7 Haaghoek, 154km
    8 Paddestraat, 168km
    9 Lippenhovestraat, 171km
    10 Lange Munte, 178km

     

     

  3. 11:44:15 CET

    The bunch has rolled away from the start in Ghent and is making its way gently towards kilometre zero. The temperature is a chilly 6 degrees Celsius, and jackets and gloves are the order of the day, but, for now at least, the day is dry.

     

  4. 11:46:44 CET

    The women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is also taking place today. The race got underway twenty minutes ago in Blaarmeersen, Ghent, and is due to finish in the Citadel Park in the early afternoon.

     

  5. 11:47:37 CET

     The women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is also taking place today. The race got underway twenty minutes ago in Blaarmeersen, Ghent, and is finishes in the Citadel Park in the early afternoon.

  6. 11:53:07 CET

    • Etxx QuickStep

    It will undoubtedly shock our readers to learn that the loudest cheers in 't Kuipke before the start were for Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors), who is lining up for his final Omloop and, remarkably, still seeking his first-ever victory in the race. "The condition is good and the team is strong," Boonen told speaker Michel Wuyts. He may as well have said, "Just put me down for what I said last year." Tom Boonen poses with the custom Specialized Venge he'll use at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

     

  7. 198km remaining from 198.3km

    11:56:22 CET

    The peloton has reached kilometre zero and Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is officially underway. We're still more than 50 kilometres from the first hill, but there won't be any shortage of willing attackers hoping to form the morning break before the hellingen begin.

  8. 192km remaining from 198.3km

    12:02:23 CET

    The pace has been brisk through the opening kilometres, but as yet no break has formed off the front of the race.

     

  9. 184km remaining from 198.3km

    12:15:04 CET

    • Rainbow Jersey

    Sadhbh O'Shea was at the start in Ghent for Cyclingnews, and she reports that Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is not using disc brakes today, despite being pictured training on them in midweek. The world champion was his usual, flippant pre-race self when he met with the press on Friday afternoon. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is his first race since the Tour Down Under, with Sagan having spent much of the intervening period training at altitude at Sierra Nevada. 

    Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

     

  10. 12:18:39 CET

    • Team Katusha 2016

    An early abandon to report. Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha), a surprise third place finisher at Gent-Wevelgem last season, has packed inside the opening ten kilometres. Incidentally, on he day after that Gent-Wevelgem podium, we caught up with the affable Russian, who hails from Tolyatti, home of the Lada car, and you can read the interview here.

     

  11. 181km remaining from 198.3km

    12:21:05 CET

    Meanwhile, Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), winner of this race in 2006 and 2008, has been back to the team car with what appears to be a mechanical problem. The bunch is still together as it clips through Herzele.

     

  12. 173km remaining from 198.3km

    12:34:43 CET

    • Team Katusha 2016

    Still no successful breakaway to report through the opening 25 kilometres of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) is tucked safely near the front of the peloton. The Norwegian won three stages at the Tour of Oman last week, but insisted at the start that his Middle Eastern haul offered no guarantees for Opening Weekend. "I don’t know why I should not be good but it’s the first race in Belgium, it’s a different kind of racing and usually I always struggle in this race before being better tomorrow at Kuurne," Kristoff said.

     

  13. 165km remaining from 198.3km

    12:45:34 CET

    This was the exchange between Peter Sagan and a Belgian television station before the start in Ghent. Cycling's answer to Frost/Nixon.

    - How is your form?

    - I don’t know. It depends on the results and then we will see how it is going.

    - Are you looking forward to the Classics?

    - Yes, that’s why I am here.

    - Do you expect a duel with Greg Van Avermaet?

    - I will be racing a lot of riders in the peloton, not only him.

     

  14. 162km remaining from 198.3km

    12:46:56 CET

    Still no flurry of attacking off the front of the peloton, but it's hardly as though the bunch has called a piano. The pace remains brisk, though not excessively so.

     

  15. 12:51:15 CET

    • Etxx QuickStep

    Disc brakes have been the source of much controversy in Abu Dhabi this week, but Tom Boonen remains a devotee of the technology. While his Quick-Step Floors teammate Marcel Kittel has suspended his use of disc brakes for the time being, Boonen lined up at the start in Ghent with his disc braking system. His Specialized Venge features a custom paint job to celebrate his career, and you can see a gallery here.

     

  16. 158km remaining from 198.3km

    12:53:27 CET

    The Omloop Het Nieuwsblad peloton has covered a blistering 46.3 kilometres in the opening hour of racing, and still it is gruppo compatto. The impending climb of the Leberg might just alter that situation.

     

  17. 150km remaining from 198.3km

    13:00:10 CET

    • Crash

    There is a crash in the peloton ahead of the cobbled sector at Haaghoek, which precedes the Leberg. Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) is among those held up. It's not yet clear whether Boonen fell or was simply forced to stop, but in any case, he is back on his bike and back in the peloton just as it reaches the cobbles.

     

  18. 143km remaining from 198.3km

    13:09:35 CET

    • Attack

    The first break of the race goes clear ahead of the Leberg, meanwhile, as Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R La Mondiale) and Justin Jules (Veranclassic) forge clear. They have 40 seconds in hand by the top of the Leberg and pad that advantage out still further as they head towards Berendries, the second climb of the day.

     

  19. 141km remaining from 198.3km

    13:14:15 CET

    The lead of Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R La Mondiale) and Justin Jules (Veranclassic) remains at 40 seconds as they tackle Berendries. Another smooth climb, the Tenbosse follows almost immediately afterwards. The Tenbosse was, of course, where Johan Museeuw attacked to win the Tour of Flanders in 1998, all but using a television motorbike as an impromptu derny pacer as he approached the top of the climb.

     

  20. 13:16:12 CET

    Bagdonas and Jules extend their lead to 1:30 over the Tenbosse, while Leigh Howard (Aqua Blue) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) give chase ahead of the main peloton.

     

  21. 135km remaining from 198.3km

    13:21:41 CET

    Jens Keukeleire’s build-up to the Classics didn’t go to plan after a collision with a car resulted in a trip to the hospital for the Belgian, writes Sadhbh O'Shea. There were fears that he had broken his collarbone. Fortunately for Keukeleire, he didn’t suffer any serious injuries but he had to skip some training and it didn’t stop riders, including Philippe Gilbert, checking up on his condition on the start line.

    Keukeleire told Cyclingnews that there is still some lingering pain but he’s not too concerned about it today. “It still hurts a little bit but it’s the legs that need the work and not the shoulders,” he said.

    A stalwart of the Classics, Keukeleire knows the roads well and he believes the stretch between climbs 9 and 13, the Taaienberg and the Molenberg will be the key as they try to put Orica-Scott sprinter Magnus Cort Nielson into the right position.

    “I think, like every year, on the Taaienberg it will be crucial to be on the front,” he explained. “Everything in between the Taaienberg and the Molenberg it will be important to really race and after that we’ll see who is still there from the team. With Magnus Cort Nielson we have a really good person for the finish. After the Molenberg we’ll see if he’s still there and maybe work to go with him in the sprint.

    “I think if it’s still a decent group then with him there then we have a really good chance to finish it off. When we’re in the final, if he’s still there then that’s the card we have to play.”

     

  22. 132km remaining from 198.3km

    13:26:58 CET

    Howard and Van Hecke's chase effort has been joined by Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot) on the Eikenmolen. The four-man group is 1:00 behind Bagdonas and Jules, with the peloton a further 30 seconds back.

     

  23. 132km remaining from 198.3km

    13:29:05 CET

    Howard and Van Hecke's chase effort has been joined by Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot) ahead of the Eikenmolen. The four-man group is 1:00 behind Bagdonas and Jules, with the peloton a further 30 seconds back.

     

  24. 132km remaining from 198.3km

    13:29:12 CET

    Howard and Van Hecke's chase effort has been joined by Mike Teunissen (Sunweb) and Brian van Goethem (Roompot) ahead of the Eikenmolen. The four-man group is 1:00 behind Bagdonas and Jules, with the peloton a further 30 seconds back.

     

  25. 13:33:18 CET

    • Team Sky 2016

    Team Sky has two time champion Ian Stannard in their line-up along with Luke Rowe, and have high ambitions for today’s finish, writes Sadhbh O'Shea. Directeur sportif Servais Knaven finished on the podium of the race back in 2000 and was in a confident mood ahead of the start.

    “The weather is nice, not too warm, not too cold. There’s some good winds, which will make the race hard and the roads should be dry most of the time. For safety, it’s all looking good,” he told Cyclingnews.

    “The plan is to try to win the race. It doesn’t matter to me who wins, but we’ve got Luke and Ian who are our leaders so they will be protected all day. Behind them, we have a strong group with Gianni Moscon, Danny van Poppel and [Lukas] Wisniowski, so we have a strong group just behind the leaders.

    “It’s hard to predict the race but I expect that it’s going to be hard from the Taaienberg and then we will have to see if it’s a small group going away or if it’s maybe a group of 25. After that, we have to make up the balance and tune the tactics.”

  26. 126km remaining from 198.3km

    13:37:27 CET

    • Climb

    The bunch is safely over the Eikenmolen. Next on the agenda is the fifth of the day's climbs, the mighty Muur van Geraardsbergen. Even in February, and hours from the finish line, the stardust remains. 

     

  27. 124km remaining from 198.3km

    13:39:23 CET

    Bagdonas and Jules have waited for Teunissen, Howard, Van Hecke and Van Goethem, so we now have a six-man group at the front of the race. There has been a distinct slackening of the intensity in the main peloton, meanwhile, and the escapees now hold an advantage of 4:40.

     

  28. 119km remaining from 198.3km

    13:50:46 CET

    • Crash

    There has been another crash in the peloton ahead of the Muur, with riders from Quick-Step, Lotto Soudal and Sunweb involved, though Sporza does not report any significant consequences. The break's lead, meanwhile, is nudging northwards towards the 8-minute mark.

     

  29. 117km remaining from 198.3km

    13:51:58 CET

    • Team Sky 2016

    Team Sky lead the peloton through Geraardsbergen and onto the Muur. 

     

  30. 113km remaining from 198.3km

    13:58:57 CET

    The bunch safely navigates the Muur, albeit with a deficit of eight minutes to the six escapees. There are ten miles or so to the day's sixth climb, the Valkenberg.

     

  31. 107km remaining from 198.3km

    14:08:55 CET

    While the six leaders plough are 8 minutes clear of the bunch, Guillaume Boivin (Israel Cycling Academy) is gamely giving chase alone, though he the Canadian is some five minutes down on the break.

     

  32. 101km remaining from 198.3km

    14:18:20 CET

    The leaders reach the Valkenberg, still with an advantage of 8 minutes on the bunch. Over at the Abu Dhabi Tour, meanwhile, Rui Costa (UAE Emirates) has won the mountaintop finish ahead of Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin).

     

  33. 14:26:47 CET

    Some details of today's summit finish at Abu Dhabi Tour are available here, with a full report to follow in due course. 

     

  34. 94km remaining from 198.3km

    14:28:19 CET

    We're past the halfway point at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The break's lead has dropped by half a minute to 7:30, but there is no real urgency as yet in the main peloton.

     

  35. 14:31:49 CET

    And with that, another minute has been knocked off the break's lead. Boivin, quite sensibly, has knocked off his own, lone chase effort, and has dropped back into the peloton, which now trails the leaders by 6:25.

     

  36. 83km remaining from 198.3km

    14:36:38 CET

    The peloton is stretched out as it rattles across the cobbles at Haaghoek for the second time. The war of attrition is beginning in earnest.

     

  37. 14:41:25 CET

    The peloton duly splinters on the Haaghoek, though it appears none of the principal contenders have been caught out.

     

  38. 77km remaining from 198.3km

    14:46:03 CET

    The crosswind on the Haaghoek helped to scatter the bunch into distinct groups. The first part of the peloton is now 5:25 down on the leaders.

     

  39. 14:47:51 CET

    • Crash

    Zak Dempster (Israel Cycling Academy) has crashed and it looks as though the Australian's race is over.

     

  40. 14:49:00 CET

    Zico Waeytens (Sunweb) is another rider who has gone off the road in the front of the peloton, though the Belgian has climbed out of the ditch and is giving chase.

     

  41. 14:51:27 CET

    The six leaders are over the Kaperij, the day's seventh climb. Andriy Grivko (Astana), Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) have attacked off the front of the bunch and are giving chase. This trio is 4:16 down on the break, with the bunch 5:24 down.

     

  42. 70km remaining from 198.3km

    14:57:04 CET

    Trek-Segafredo lead the peloton in support of Jasper Stuyven, while Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) chases back on after a puncture. There are around 60 riders in the main body of the peloton, 5:37 down on the six leaders. The Grivko group is 3:48 down.

     

  43. 14:59:21 CET

    Onto the Kruisberg for Bagdonas, Van Goethem, Jules, Teunissen, Howard and Van Hecke, 5:18 the margin.

     

  44. 64km remaining from 198.3km

    15:07:59 CET

    The speed is ratcheting up in the peloton, which has been split in two by a crash that saw Jacopo Guarnieri come down. Greg Van Avermaet's BMC team have taken up the reins and have increased the tempo significantly on the run-in to the Taaienberg, where the finale begins in earnest.

     

  45. 62km remaining from 198.3km

    15:09:57 CET

    • Crash

    A major crash in the peloton on the cobbles at Donderij, as the speed continued to increase ahead of the Taaienberg. A lof of riders have been caught up in this, including Tom Boonen. The Belgian clearly went down, his shorts are torn. Though he doesn't appear to be hurt, he has his arm raised looking for a bike change. 

     

  46. 15:11:16 CET

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) also went down in that crash, which occurred very close to the front of the bunch. Boonen has received a bike change and is giving chase. Only 25 riders or so avoided getting caught up in or caught behind that crash, so it will be fascinating to see if Boonen manages to bridge back up.

     

  47. 15:12:47 CET

    The bunch is broken into shards as riders give chase in ones and twos. Boonen latches onto a group featuring three Katusha riders as he approaches the foot of the Taaienberg. 

     

  48. 15:14:29 CET

    Trek-Segafredo are upping the pace at the head of the bunch ahead of the Taaienberg, eager to ensure there's no way back for Boonen, Kristoff and the others caught behind. The break is now just 2:44 ahead, having shown signs of weakening on the Taaienberg.

     

  49. 58.5km remaining from 198.3km

    15:15:52 CET

    Onto the Taainenberg for the reduced bunch. Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) accelerates up "Boonen's" right-hand smooth gutter, with Van Avermaet, and Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) on his wheel. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) looks to get on terms with Luke Rowe (Sky).

     

  50. 15:18:24 CET

    Over the top of the Taaienberg, Van Avermaet, Sagan, Vanmarcke and Stuyven exchange turns at the front of a very strung out bunch. Indeed, by the base of this descent, we could have an elite group of ten riders or so. They are 2:08 down on the fragmenting leading group.

     

  51. 55km remaining from 198.3km

    15:20:01 CET

    Sagan, Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and Stuyven are the chief drivers of a rather elite group of 10 riders. They are the third group on the road as things stand, 2:02 down on the early escapees, but this could well be the crucial move.

     

  52. 54.5km remaining from 198.3km

    15:22:52 CET

    The Van Avemaet-Sagan group is now on the Eikenberg, and has swelled to 15 riders or so. Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe are also on board for Team Sky, while they have picked up Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Grivko and Boudat. There are no Quick-Step riders in this group...

     

  53. 52km remaining from 198.3km

    15:27:46 CET

    Sagan puts in a fierce acceleration ahead of the Wolvenberg and suddenly only five riders remain on his wheel. The world champiion leads the second group on the road, with Van Avermaet, Gougeard, Vanmarcke, Boudat and Grivko for company. They are 1:11 on the leaders, and 25 seconds clear of a disorganised chasing group featuring Rowe, Stannard and a clutch of Lotto Soudal riders.

  54. 50km remaining from 198.3km

    15:30:54 CET

    Sagan is not getting much help in this chasing group, but for the time being the world champion isn't overly concerned and he continues to pile on the pressure as they hit the cobbles at Karel Martelstraat. They're 57 seconds down on the leaders, while the Stannard group is 1:24 back. Boonen, we understand, is three minutes down.

     

  55. 47km remaining from 198.3km

    15:34:07 CET

    The situation after the cobbles at Holleweg, with 47 kilometres and two climbs to come. Bagdonas, Van Hecke, Jules, Teunissen and Van Goethem are at the head of the race. Sagan, Vanmarcke, Grivko, Van Avermaet, Boudat and Gougeard are 41 seconds down. A larger group, featuring Stannard, Rowe and Matteo Trentin is 1:15 back... Boonen and the men caught in the crash are 2:50 back.

     

  56. 15:35:11 CET

    Leigh Howard, incidentally, was dropped by the early break somewhere between the Taaienberg and the Wolvenberg. The five leaders are struggling now, while Sagan has finally hit upon some allies in the second group, with Vanmarcke putting his shoulder to the wheel to help.

     

  57. 15:37:10 CET

    Team Sky are attempting to marshal a chase in the sizeable third group, and Jasper Stuyven seems willing to contribute. When only Sagan was working ahead, they had every chance of - eventually - latching back on, but with Vanmarcke et al now seemingly committed to the pace-making, it might be a rather stiffer task. 

     

  58. 15:39:20 CET

    Despite enduring two crashes this afternoon, Boonen remains in the race, but he is in the fourth group on the road and will end his career without winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

     

  59. 15:40:26 CET

    The Sagan group has shed Boudat and Grivko, and they are are about to catch the five leaders. The Sky group, which Sporza is swelling into a peloton, is now 43 seconds back.

     

  60. 43km remaining from 198.3km

    15:42:45 CET

    There are now nine riders at the front: Sagan, Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet, Gougeard, Badgonas, Van Goethem, Jules, Van Hecke and Teunissen. The main peloton trails at 35 seconds, as the race approaches the Leberg.

     

  61. 15:43:47 CET

    Sagan is briefly distanced by the leading group when he absent-mindedly rides onto the grass verge, but he is quickly back up to speed. The first pedal stroke the world champion has put askew all afternoon long.

     

  62. 40km remaining from 198.3km

    15:44:59 CET

    A 40-second lead for the nine leaders with 40 kilometres to go, but the bunch behind has expanded significantly, but Sky seem to be the only team performing the bulk of the heavy lifting. 

     

  63. 15:47:06 CET

    Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) has won the women's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, soloing to victory in Ghent ahead of Chantal Blaak and Annemiek van Vleuten. A report will follow here.

     

  64. 37.5km remaining from 198.3km

    15:48:11 CET

    Sagan puts the frighteners on the rest of the front group with an acceleration on the flat ahead of the final climb, the Molenberg, which kicks up at 7%. 37 seconds the gap to the bunch.

     

  65. 36km remaining from 198.3km

    15:49:26 CET

    • Climb

    Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) leads onto the Molenberg and strings out the front group. Van Avermaet is promptly onto his wheel.

     

  66. 15:50:18 CET

    Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet open a small gap, but Sagan is live to the danger and bridges across. 

     

  67. 15:51:40 CET

    And then were five. Sagan, Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke, Teunissen and Jules remain in front after the Molenberg.

     

  68. 15:52:22 CET

    In the main bunch, Zdenek Stybar (Quick-Step Floors) jumps ahead on the Molenberg and his effort brings fewer than ten riders clear in pursuit of the Sagan group.

     

  69. 15:53:45 CET

    • Etxx QuickStep

    We understand that Tom Boonen has abandoned the race, though we await official confirmation. 

     

  70. 15:55:56 CET

    Vanmarcke impressed on the Molenberg, and though he would hardly be expected to beat Van Avermaet or Sagan in an eventual sprint finish (and we're still a long way off), he did out-sprint Boonen to win this very race five years ago. "I’m not nervous. I’m relaxed and happy to be here," he said before the start. "To win here you need some luck. I’m targeting the monuments. If today doesn’t go well then that’s not abnormal. This race was always a great race but due to the WorldTour story it’s been cast in the shadow; that’s over now."

     

  71. 30km remaining from 198.3km

    15:57:35 CET

    Like the Franco Ballerini, Vanmarcke seems to look more stylish on cobbles than on smooth roads. He puts in a fierce effort on the Paddestraat that sheds Jules and puts Teunissen in difficulty...

     

  72. 15:58:58 CET

    And then there were three.... Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet and Sagan form a very elite front group after the Paddestraat. The Stybar-Stannard chase group is at 32 seconds and struggling to gather any momentum.

     

  73. 28km remaining from 198.3km

    16:00:22 CET

    Sagan leads Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet onto the Lippenhovestraat. They are 32 seconds clear of the chase group, which is being led by Jasper Stuyven.

     

  74. 16:01:29 CET

    Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar take up the reins in the 15-strong chasing group, but they're not making much inroads into the Sagan group's lead.

     

  75. 16:03:42 CET

    Van Avermaet dropped a bottle on the cobbles but manages to pick up a fresh one - and a gel - as he comes off that sector. That could be a crucial detail. The Olympic champion, incidentally, has yet to force the pace like Sagan and Vanmarcke, but he looks relatively comfortable.

     

  76. 25km remaining from 198.3km

    16:05:01 CET

    There are 11 riders in the chasing group, including three from Quick-Step - Stybar, Trentin and Philippe Gilbert, as well as Sky's Luke Rowe. They remain 28 seconds down on the elite front group.

     

  77. 24km remaining from 198.3km

    16:06:19 CET

    Gilbert puts in a long turn at the head of the chasing group, but still they make no dent in the advantage of Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet.

     

  78. 22km remaining from 198.3km

    16:08:34 CET

    Situation: Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet are 30 seconds clear of a 12-man chasing group made up of Oscar Gatto, Fabio Felline, Jasper Stuyven, Frederick Backaert, Oliver Naesen, Adrien Petit, Zdenek Stybar, Philippe Gilbert, Matteo Trentin, Luke Rowe, Jurgen Roelandts and Alexis Gougeard.

     

  79. 21km remaining from 198.3km

    16:09:48 CET

    Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet approach the final cobbled section at Lange Munte. Van Avermaet takes a long turn to bring them there, but we can probably expect Vanmarcke to try to force the issue on the cobbles themselves.

     

  80. 20km remaining from 198.3km

    16:11:06 CET

    There's no place to hide on the Lange Munte, and the chasing group  can see the three leaders even though the gap remains 30 seconds.

     

  81. 19km remaining from 198.3km

    16:12:08 CET

    Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet have split pace-making duties on the Lange Munte, and they retain a lead of 28 seconds.

     

  82. 18km remaining from 198.3km

    16:13:28 CET

    Gilbert and Trentin lead the chasing group across the cobbles, and there is considerably more cohesion to their pursuit now, even if the official time check stays around the half-minute mark.

     

  83. 16:14:14 CET

    Sagan's face betrays signs of suffering for the first time as he flicks an elbow and asks Van Avermaet to come through at the end of the Lange Munte.

     

  84. 17.5km remaining from 198.3km

    16:16:10 CET

    Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet swing right after the Lange Munte clutching a lead of 26 seconds over the chasing group. It's going to be a drag race all the way back to Ghent: there will be precious little room for tactical manoeuvring in the finale at this rate.

     

  85. 16km remaining from 198.3km

    16:17:10 CET

    Vanmarcke, Van Avermaet and Sagan remain committed to their efforts at the head of the race, and they are exchanging turns neatly. The gap is stable at 29 seconds.

     

  86. 13.5km remaining from 198.3km

    16:19:20 CET

    The chasers have dovetailed well in the last ten kilometres, but they've barely clawed back a metre from the three leaders. Sagan, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke seem to be on another level this afternoon, though they can't afford to relent just yet.

     

  87. 12km remaining from 198.3km

    16:22:27 CET

    Sagan avails of the opportunity to stretch his hamstrings as he sits at the rear of the trio of leaders. The Slovak is the favourite in the event of a sprint, but he was beaten by Van Avermaet here a year ago, while Vanmarcke won a three-up sprint in 2012.

     

  88. 10km remaining from 198.3km

    16:23:36 CET

    The spirit of the chasers seems to have been broken. Van Avermaet, Vanmarcke and Sagan stretch their lead out to 38 seconds. The winner will come from this trio.

     

  89. 9km remaining from 198.3km

    16:24:31 CET

    The chasers slacken the pace and start to think about sprinting for WorldTour points. 40 seconds the gap.

     

  90. 8km remaining from 198.3km

    16:25:38 CET

    Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet remain whole-hearted in their efforts as the road widens on the approach to Ghent. 

     

  91. 7km remaining from 198.3km

    16:27:17 CET

    At one point do Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet start to think about working Sagan over, or will they bring the world champion to the finish line in Ghent? Sagan is far from unbeatable in such situations. As well as his defeat at Omloop a year ago, he was also soundly beaten by Michal Kwiatkowski in a two-up sprint at E3 Harelbeke.

     

  92. 6km remaining from 198.3km

    16:28:07 CET

    Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet have 54 seconds in hand, but still they continue to share the pace-making duties.

     

  93. 16:29:11 CET

    Van Avermaet leads the break into the final 5 kilometres as the tension ratchets upwards. 

     

  94. 4.5km remaining from 198.3km

    16:29:59 CET

    Vanmarcke tries to skip a turn to the annoyance of Van Avermaet and Sagan. The trio remain together, but an attack seems inevitable.

     

  95. 4km remaining from 198.3km

    16:30:38 CET

    Vanmarcke looks to be biding his time before pre-empting the sprint. Van Avermaet forces him to take the reins at the front...

     

  96. 3km remaining from 198.3km

    16:31:33 CET

    Sagan leads the break into the final three kilometres, then swings over and locks himself onto Vanmarcke's rear wheel.

     

  97. 2.5km remaining from 198.3km

    16:32:18 CET

    Sagan tightens the clasp on his shoes in preparation for the finale...

     

  98. 2km remaining from 198.3km

    16:33:30 CET

    Into the final two kilometres and the three leaders remain together. Van Avermaet sits on the front and looks anxiously over his shoulder at Vanmarcke.

     

  99. 1km remaining from 198.3km

    16:34:06 CET

    Sagan leads into the final kilometre. Van Avermaet is on his rear wheel and Vanmarcke sits at the back of the group...

     

  100. 16:34:45 CET

    Sagan slows the pace on the front, and, predictably, neither Van Avermaet or Vanmarcke is mind to come past him. A tense, three-up sprint awaits.

     

  101. 16:35:34 CET

    Vanmarcke comes past Sagan to open the sprint from distance, but Van Avermaet comes around him...

     

  102. 16:35:52 CET

    Sagan tries to get back on terms, but he won't make it...

     

  103. 16:36:36 CET

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ahead of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) takes third.

     

  104. 16:39:21 CET

    Sagan lost a length to Van Avermaet as the finishing straight curved right and never made up the ground. Olympic champion Van Avermaet takes his second successive Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win, and will start to feel that he might just have Sagan's number. That said, the world champion was impressive in forcing the winning move and will probably not be unduly disappointed with how his afternoon panned out.

     

  105. 16:40:50 CET

    Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) clipped away to take fourth place ahead of Oscar Gatto (Astana), Luke Rowe (Sky) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale).

     

  106. 16:44:53 CET

    • Team BMC Racing 2016

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) describes his thoughts at claiming a second straight win at Omloop. “It’s an amazing feeling. Last year I started my year with a big victory. It’s always nice to come back and win your first race on home ground. For me it’s the perfect start of the season," Van Avermaet says. Inevitably, he is asked if this augurs well for the Tour of Flanders, where he has some unfinished business. "Hopefully, it’s my biggest goal, but it will be a hard race," Van Avermaet says.

     

     

  107. 16:46:11 CET

    Brief Results
    # Rider Name (Country) Team Result 1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing     2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe     3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac     4 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo     5 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana     6 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky     7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale     8 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo     9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors     10 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie    
  108. 16:48:44 CET

    Result:

    1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
    2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
    3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
    4 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
    5 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana
    6 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
    7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
    8 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
    9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
    10 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie

  109. 16:51:44 CET

    Our man in Flanders Brecht Decaluwe has some interesting news from the Trek-Segafredo team bus. Directeur sportif Dirk Demol is seeking out the commissaires to query the result. He said that riders were warned they would be excluded if they went off the road to ride on the pavement, rather than riding across the cobbles. According to Demol, while his team, including fourth-placed Fabio Felline, adhered rigorously to the directive, the three leaders did not... Demol is reportedly going to inquiry whether the race jury will revise the result accordingly... Watch this space...

     

  110. 17:02:27 CET

    Elsewhere, not for the first time, it was a disappointing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad for Quick-Step Floors. Matteo Trentin (9th) was their highest finisher after Boonen was forced out by two crashes. We expect Boonen will be fit enough to race Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne tomorrow. Both Quick-Step and Boonen have made a habit of bouncing back in the second instalment of the Opening Weekend.

     

  111. 17:05:04 CET

    Lotto Soudal manager Marc Sergeant has also complained to the UCI about riders using pavement rather than riding on cobbles, but the commissaires has deemed that Van Avermaet et al covered the route in full, and have ruled that there will be no change to the result. Van Avermaet is confirmed as the winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, though the polemic will doubtless rumble on.

     

  112. 17:05:32 CET

    Result:

    1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing 4:48:04
    2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
    3 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Cannondale-Drapac
    4 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 00:00:44
    5 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Astana 00:00:50
    6 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
    7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
    8 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
    9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:54
    10 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie 00:00:57
     

     

  113. 17:47:58 CET

    Thanks for following our live coverage of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures will follow here, while Brecht Decaluwe and Sadhbh O'Shea will have all the news and reaction from Ghent, including word on the polemic surrounding riders using the pavement to avoid racing across the cobbles. We'll be back with more live coverage on Cyclingnews tomorrow from Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

     

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