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Tour of Flanders: 256km

Complete Live Report

Live commentary by:
Daniel Benson

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage from the Tour of Flanders.

  1. 10:00:54 CEST

    The Tour of Flanders – Ronde van Vlaanderen – Vlaanderens mooiste – whatever you call it, it is here! We are expecting an especially interesting race today, with a new course and several hot favourites.
     

  2. 10:03:01 CEST

    And they'e off!

  3. 10:03:53 CEST

    Big crowds in Brugge to watch the neutralized start.

  4. 10:05:40 CEST

    We have sunshine today, and lots of it. Fairly cool though.

  5. 10:07:17 CEST

    They are finally out of the narrow city streets, which were lined with fans.

  6. 10:10:10 CEST

    The race this year will exclude the Muur van Geraardsbergen, a very controversial move.   We will have our finish in Oudenaarde instead of Meerbeeke, where the race has ended since 1973.

  7. 10:12:57 CEST

    The field is of course still all bunched together awaiting the "real" start.

  8. 10:15:40 CEST

    Any second now the racing will start. How long until we have our first escapee?

  9. 10:18:41 CEST

    Now the race is officially open!

  10. 10:19:33 CEST

    And a NetApp rider is the first to charge away!

     

  11. 10:19:43 CEST

    It is Andre Schulze.

  12. 10:21:20 CEST

    He is not getting away. Nor is anyone else, although there are lots of attempts.

  13. 10:22:45 CEST

    A Katusha rider is the next to go,or at least to try. 

  14. 10:26:13 CEST

    The Katusha rider was Isiachev, but he has been caught again.

  15. 10:32:10 CEST

    The race ends with three laps of a closing circuit which inludes the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. 

  16. 10:35:22 CEST

    We start out today with 90 flat kilometers before the fun starts: the Nokereberg, Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Molenberg, Rekelberg, Berendries and Valkenberg climbs. And then comes that circuit course with more climbs!
     

  17. 10:37:25 CEST

    Who is the top favourite here?  Tom Boonen, who else?  The Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider is absolutely on fire this year, leading the pro ranks this season with seven wins, including Gent-Wevelgem and the E3 Prijs.

    It's hard to believe but he only had two wins in the entire 2011 season.

  18. 10:39:11 CEST

    Many are called, but few are chosen...... lots of riders trying to get away, but with no success so far.

  19. 10:39:38 CEST

    Forgot to say earlier, this is Susan starting things off.  Dan will be along later.

  20. 10:41:37 CEST

    Ordinarily one would say that Fabian Cancellara is the other top favourite here today, but...... Yes, he won Strade Bianchi in impressive fashion, but...... Seems to be a pattern here.

    We don't want to say the RadioShack-Nissan rider is struggling this year, but....... Or perhaps he is simply a victim of his own success?
     

  21. 10:43:27 CEST

    The peloton has learned that it must not allow Cancellara to take off alone on one of his patented breakaways. If he gets away, the rest of them may as well pack up and go home. 

    He is a marked man now, and the field will do its best to send someone with him. Just look at Milan-San Remo and what happened there.

    The same applies of course to Boonen. Both he and Cancellara will be marked today, and so we have the chance that someone else entirely might take the win.

  22. 10:46:23 CEST

    A group of riders has established a very small gap.  It includes Tyler Farrar of Garmin, who could be dangerous.

  23. 240km remaining from 256km

    10:47:26 CEST

    It is actually 15 riders and here they are: Anders Lund (SAX), Gert Dockx (LTB), Manuel Belletti (ALM), Pello Bilbao (EUS), David Boucher (FDJ), Vladimir Isaychev (KAT), Massimo Graziato (LAM), Pablo Lastras (MOV), Maarten Tjallingii (RAB), Tyler Farrar (GRM), Sven Vandousselaere (TSV), Baptiste Planckaert (LAN), Tom Veelers (ARG), Andreas Schillinger (APP), Daniel Schorn (APP)

  24. 10:50:00 CEST

    The race was first held in May 1913, with 27 riders (and five support cars). The next year had only 47 riders.  It was not run again until 1919, due to World War I.

  25. 10:53:17 CEST

    For many years the race was held on the same day as Milan-San Remo, which is why only one non-Belgian rider won until the date was changed in 1949.

  26. 230km remaining from 256km

    10:54:33 CEST

    The escape group now has 29 seconds.  Not a huge gap, one must say.

  27. 10:57:03 CEST

    And here the list of riders in tehe group, with "real" team names instead of those confusing abbreviations: 

    Anders Lund (Team Saxo Bank), Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol), Manuel Belletti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Boucher (FDJ-Big Mat), Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha Team), Massimo Graziato (Lampre-ISD), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Baptiste Planckaert (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano), Andreas Schillinger (Team NetApp), Daniel Schorn (Team NetApp)

  28. 225km remaining from 256km

    11:00:28 CEST

    Well, well, perhaps this group will actually do something.  The gap is nearly a minute now.

  29. 11:03:09 CEST

    The only team with two riders in the break is NetApp.  The German ProConti team is really mixing it up with the big boys this year. They dominated the recent Settimana Internazionale and have gotten a number of impressive wildcard invitations, including to the Giro d'Italia.
     

  30. 11:06:53 CEST

    Four riders have won the race three times:  Fiorenzi Magni, Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman and Johan Museeuw.  Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder have the chance to join that elite circle.

    They are two of only six riders to have won this race two years in a row. Boonen did it in 2005 and 2006, Devolder in 2008 and 2009.

  31. 225km remaining from 256km

    11:08:22 CEST

    225km to go and a gap of 2:24.

  32. 11:10:59 CEST

    Boonen or Cancellara?  Our Barry Ryan took a look at the duels between the two over the years.  Read about it here.

  33. 11:15:12 CEST

    Not at all surprisingly, Belgian riders have won this race more than riders of any other nationality, 67 times. Italy has 10 wins, the Netherlands 9, France 3, Germany 2, Switzerland 2, and the UK and Denmark 1 each.

  34. 11:17:58 CEST

    3:05 now.  Have we noticed that there are no RadioShack or Omega Pharma-Quick Step riders in the break?

  35. 11:20:43 CEST

    Remember Team Sky? They aren't sending big names like Cavendish or Wiggins, but how about Eisel, Flecha and Boasson Hagen? The British team has had a low-key build-up to this race, but don't forget about them!

  36. 11:22:48 CEST

    They are really zipping along here, covering 48.7km in the first hour.

  37. 11:25:21 CEST

    Ten riders have won both Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year.  The most recent to accomplish that have the opportunity to do so again this year: Tom Boonen (2005) and Fabian Cancellara (2010).

  38. 47km remaining from 256km

    11:27:02 CEST

    The gap is growing again, now up to 3:42.  Seems to be the group of the day - or at least the group of the early part of the day.

  39. 11:31:33 CEST

    Michele Bartoli won here in 1996.  He has the fondest memories of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and is sorry to see it gone.  By the way, he too sees today as a race between Boonen and Cancellara.
     

  40. 11:34:31 CEST

    The gap keeps on going up, now at 4:20.

  41. 11:38:37 CEST

    Philippe Gilbert – wait a minute, that name sounds vaguely familiar.  By this time last year he already had three wins before finishing ninth in this race before exploding into greatness in the Flemish Classics. 

    This year?  “It’s just difficult to know where I am now and what I can do," Gilbert said.

  42. 11:42:25 CEST

    Looks like it will be a while before there is any real action in the race. Right now the field is just content to let the field go, and there is still a ways to go before the climbs start.

  43. 11:45:48 CEST

    Can you imagine throwing nails on a road where a major bike race is taking place? Of course not.  Sadly, not everyone thinks like we do. Someone wants to protest the change in route by endangering the riders's life and limb. Hard to believe.
     

  44. 190km remaining from 256km

    11:48:51 CEST

    190km still to go and the gap is at 4:55.  We still have 40km to go before the first "helling", though.

  45. 11:52:35 CEST

    Fabian Cancellara is riding a pretty nifty Trek Domane today.  Of course Cyclingnews took a look at it!

  46. 12:00:30 CEST

    It's hard to remember that Peter Sagan is still only 22 years old.  But don't make the mistake of counting him out of today's race! He says he is ready to take on Boonen.

    22 years old – yikes, how good will he be when he grows up?
     

  47. 12:08:16 CEST

    “I coulda been a contender!” Oh wait, that is something else.  But who are the contenders here today?  Other than Cancellara and virtually all of Omega Pharma-QuickStep?  Fortunately for us, Dan Benson considered that very question right here.

  48. 175km remaining from 256km

    12:13:27 CEST

    The gap is at 5:40 and Omega Pharma-QuickStep has now sent four riders to the head of the field to lead the chase.

  49. 12:17:42 CEST

    We have a new team in the race today.  Or at least, a team with a new name.  Project 1t4i has become Argos-Shimano.

  50. 12:18:19 CEST

    That's it for me at the moment.  Here's Dan, to take you up into those lovely climbs!

  51. 12:19:50 CEST

    Susan again:  Omega Pharma-QuickStep has pulled out of the lead work.  Who will take over?

  52. 12:22:16 CEST

    Garmin-Barracuda has taken on the responsibility.  With a little help from Rabobank and Astana.

  53. 165km remaining from 256km

    12:23:57 CEST

    The chase work -- by whomever -- seems to be working.  The gap has fallen for the first time and is now down to five minutes.

  54. 12:27:05 CEST

    Here is Dan now.  Really.  This time for sure!

  55. 12:28:43 CEST

    Dan here, taking over from Susan

  56. 12:31:53 CEST

    Just a quick correction from earlier. Daniel Schorn is Austrian. And not German.

  57. 12:35:17 CEST

    Here's our startline gallery from this morning. Flanders is perhaps the best race start in the world. The crowds are huge and in an age of modern sportsmen being so removed from fans it's great to see them get so close to the public, and from talking to the riders at the start there's a real sense of genuine excitement.

  58. 148km remaining from 256km

    12:36:32 CEST

    Our break, consisting of Anders Lund (Team Saxo Bank), Gert Dockx (Lotto-Belisol), Manuel Belletti (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel-Euskadi), David Boucher (FDJ-Big Mat), Vladimir Isaychev (Katusha Team), Massimo Graziato (Lampre-ISD), Pablo Lastras (Movistar), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Baptiste Planckaert (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano), Andreas Schillinger (Team NetApp), Daniel Schorn (Team NetApp) has a lead of 5:31, with 148km left to race

  59. 12:38:43 CEST

    • GreenEdge Cycling Team's 2012 Jersey

    Lund and Dockx have been in a number of breaks this spring but right now they're being chased down by a GreenEdge led bunch. The peloton have just gone through the feedzone.

  60. 12:39:53 CEST

    Easy race for QuickStep so far. Garmin are keeping tabs on the chase but not assisting GreenEdge.

  61. 12:41:46 CEST

    And the break have hit the first climb of the day, the Taainberg. The two Netapp riders hit the front and set the pace. From there we've got another 15 climbs to go.

  62. 12:42:00 CEST

    After somehow managing to fly under the radar in the build-up to his second place finish at Flanders last year, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is on everybody’s list of favourites this time around, even if he was adamant that Tom Boonen is his team’s leader.

  63. 12:42:30 CEST

    Chavanel:

    “I’m a level below Boonen in the team. The two big favourites are Boonen and Cancellara, and I’m among the first of the outsiders,” Chavanel said before the start. “I can profit from having Tom Boonen in the team, depending on the circumstances.”

     

  64. 12:42:43 CEST

    The French champion was reluctant to saw where he might go on the offensive this afternoon. “We have a lot of possibilities,” he said. “I hope chance smiles on us. The Tour of Flanders is a great race.”

  65. 12:44:44 CEST

    The gap has dropped as the bunch race towards the first climb, it's down to 4:44

  66. 12:46:04 CEST

    A crash near the back of the field on the climb but nothing serious. Boom on the front, taking some revenge for his crash on this very same climb in Omloop. Garmin, with Bauer, are also near the front.

  67. 12:46:39 CEST

    Cancellara ran wide on the corner coming into the climb but he recovered well enough.

  68. 12:50:54 CEST

    Onto the Eikenberg now for the 15 leaders. Farrar is sitting tight near the back of the group. He's finished in the top ten here before, on a different course, but he's one of the biggest danger men present. It gives Garmin no pressure to chase and therefore save their legs for later in the race. Once we get onto the finishing circuits we should expect the likes of Omega and Liquigas to really take charge of the race. 

  69. 12:51:32 CEST

    GreenEdge's Goss was dropped a few minutes ago in a small group but it looks like he's back on now.

  70. 12:52:03 CEST

    Fabian Cancellara lines up as the man most likely to break Flemish hearts by denying one of the home favourites victory, but he was careful to pay tribute his hosts at the start in Bruges.

  71. 12:52:24 CEST

    Cancellara:

    When you see the people here and on the road, you see that this is a place that lives for cycling. It’s a special way of racing here, and a pleasure to ride on this parcours,” he said. “In the end of the day, I have an ambition and that ambition is to win. That’s the plan after many weeks of sacrifice.

     

  72. 139km remaining from 256km

    12:53:30 CEST

    And Quickstep send two men to the front. The bunch are back on fairly wide and exposed roads. These are best places to move up but it does take risks. It's a lot harder to move up position on the climbs.

  73. 12:55:01 CEST

    Vacansoleil have now positioned their riders on the front of the bunch. Can Devolder pull off a real shock and take the race? He's a two-time winner after all.

  74. 12:55:25 CEST

    And Flecha has a flat rear tyre and has to wait for a car.

  75. 12:55:36 CEST

    No teammate with him.

  76. 12:56:42 CEST

    Goss still isn't back with the bunch yet, he's chasing hard.

  77. 12:59:08 CEST

    There's another crash at the back of the bunch, Koren hits the deck but he's swiftly back up.

  78. 13:01:06 CEST

    Interesting, Terpstra has a problem with a wheel and a teammate stops and helps. That's a sign that the Dutchman is a protected rider today.

  79. 13:03:07 CEST

    Flecha has made it back to the bunch, but he's right at the back for now. The bunch hit a 800m stretch of cobbles, and they're all strung out. Lastras has a small gap on the riders in the break but it's just a few meters.

  80. 13:07:20 CEST

    Tuft sets the pace in his Canadian national kit. While Devolder is hanging near the back. Already. Vanmarcke takes a new bike.

  81. 13:09:16 CEST

    One of the man leading the way in the peloton on the Eikenberg was Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM). Last year the Belgian finished seventh and this year he’s got a lot of ambition to improve on that result as he said at the start in Bruges. “The form is good so without bad luck that should work out, top-5 should be possible. Chavanel, Boonen and Cancellara are the favorites. Whethere I will anticipate or follow depends on the sensations during the race but especially Chavanel will not break away without me,” Leukemans said.

  82. 13:12:46 CEST

    Konovalovas has a flat but is being paced back by his team car. Europcar - they've had a poor start to the season - are on the front now.

  83. 13:15:32 CEST

    Lund leads on the Molemberg with Veelers very quickly taking over for the Argos-Shimano team. Back in the bunch, Gilbert is on the front, Bennati on his left.

  84. 13:19:06 CEST

    Tankink has crashed and there's a split in the fielf. And another crash and a Shack rider comes down. The bunch are now on the Molenberg. Rabo, with Boom then Breschel, Cancelara has a flat.

  85. 13:19:38 CEST

    Boom is riding well, Eisel is also near the front and looking comfortable.

  86. 13:21:45 CEST

    Boom's pace has caused a split. He's away with a number of riders including Hayman.

    Cancellara has to stop again and adjust his bike.

  87. 13:24:57 CEST

    It wouldn't be a Belgian race without Cancellara having some form of mechanical trouble.

    Farrar takes a pull on the front of the break, their advantage 4:02

  88. 13:26:31 CEST

    Matthew Hayman (Sky), Tomas Vaitkus (Greenedge), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Aliaksandr Kyuschinski (Katusha), Alexandre Pichot (Europacar) are some of the riders in the second group on road.

  89. 13:30:48 CEST

    The six riders in the counter-attack are Matthew Hayman (Sky), Tomas Vaitkus (Greenedge), Lars Boom (Rabobank), Aliaksandr Kyuschinski (Katusha), Alexandre Pichot (Europacar) and Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM).

    That's a pretty strong group.

     

     

  90. 13:34:54 CEST

    Devolder has been caught off the back of the bunch, to pace too high at the moment.

  91. 110km remaining from 256km

    13:37:20 CEST

    Sagan is back with his team car. It looks like a problem with his bike. Either that or bad legs.

  92. 13:39:12 CEST

    QuickStep put three men - including Chavanel on the front - they're trying to make it as hard as possible for Cancellara to move up and for Devolder to come back.

  93. 13:41:14 CEST

    The peloton begin the Rekelberg, not the toughest climb on the course but the pace remains high. The break are on the Berendries.

  94. 13:43:11 CEST

    The Hayman group have come back and the Australian is with Boasson Hagen, Stannard, and Flecha. Eisel is there too.

    Gilbert makes another cameo on the front of the bunch as well.

  95. 106km remaining from 256km

    13:43:43 CEST

    106km left and the gap is 3:22

  96. 13:46:05 CEST

    Barry Ryan may or may not have placed 40$K of CN funds on Devolder last night.

  97. 13:47:44 CEST

    Hayman has another slight gap on the field.

  98. 13:48:56 CEST

    While home hopes rest of Tom Boonen, his former QuickStep teammate Filippo Pozzato reckons that the Belgian is not quite at the same level as he has been in the past.

    “I think that the number one favourite is Cancellara. It might seem strange for me to say it, but in my opinion Boonen isn’t as strong in other years. Everything’s going well for him because he’s still fast in the sprint. He’s certainly very strong, of course, but there were other years when he’s been stronger.”


  99. 13:49:14 CEST

    Always a shrewd analyst, Pozzato expects that Cancellara and Omega Pharma-QuickStep would share the burden of controlling the race according to the circumstances. He hinted that Farnese Vini-Selle Italia will have more of a watching brief until the finale.

    “I think that QuickStep is the strongest team of all so they’ll have the biggest responsibility as a team. Cancellara is the strongest rider of all, so he’ll have the biggest individual responsibility. We have to be see how they play the cards and try and make as few mistakes as possible to try and beat them.”

    Like many, Pozzato feels the new finale will be significant harder than the previous finish in Meerbeke, and he also noted that the atmosphere would be even more intense on the race’s two principal climbs.

     

  100. 13:49:33 CEST

    “I think it’s definitely a lot harder, and it will be more spectacular too. When you think of all the people who will be there on the Kwaremont and Paterberg, it’s going to be like being in a stadium. It’s going to be harder than other years, because here if you make a mistake you’ll pay for it dearly later on. All those climbs in the finale will become every tougher, so you just have to try to make zero mistakes and have super legs.”

  101. 100km remaining from 256km

    13:50:41 CEST

    Sagan has a new bike. No fall, it seems like a mechanical problem. He doesn't have  a single teammate waiting for him though.

  102. 13:54:20 CEST

    The break are on the Valkenberg and there are few tired legs out there no longer taking any turns. The bunch have eased off slightly, well aware of the tough section they have coming up. Once over the Valkenberg, there's roughly a 20km gap until the Kwaremont.

  103. 13:58:41 CEST

    Another group has slipped clear of the field, as up ahead Lastras has a bike change.

  104. 14:00:30 CEST

    O'Grady and Hayman both present but the bunch isn't letting this one go and it's coming back together.

  105. 92km remaining from 256km

    14:02:37 CEST

    Hushovd and Bennati try and go clear but they're brought back. Sutton takes a chance and goes on the other side of the road. He gets a gap but he's on his own.

  106. 14:06:43 CEST

    More bike problems for Lastras, who has to stop and change again. The Spaniard is coming back though.

  107. 14:09:08 CEST

    There's an Euskaltel car in the middle of the field. A lot of riders arent too happy. Not the best bit of driving we've seen, although I really cant talk. The car finally has enough room to come through and go around the bunch. Phew.

  108. 14:10:41 CEST

    Netapp are giving it a go with their car now. They're probably car that's couldn't move up to the break earlier in the race and this is their only chance.

  109. 14:12:59 CEST

    Astana take over on the front of the bunch as we head towards the Kwaremont. Cancellara is at the back, perhaps another problem with his bike or a puncture. He's coming back though.

  110. 14:14:02 CEST

    http://www.directvelo.com/actualite/2040-baptiste-l-autre-planckaert.html

  111. 14:14:41 CEST

    Team bosses can complain about safety and radios all they want, but really, some of them drive like idiots.

  112. 81km remaining from 256km

    14:15:44 CEST

    81km left and the gap is 2:40

  113. 14:17:00 CEST

    Maes brings Boonen back to the bunch. Not sure what the problem was there for the former world champion.

  114. 14:18:55 CEST

    Katusha, Astana, Rabobank all pressing on the front of the bunch, trying to get the best position before we hit the Kwaremont. Watch where Klier goes, he knows these road so well. Teammates call him Satnav.

  115. 77km remaining from 256km

    14:23:18 CEST

    Our Topsport rider in the break has popped as we hit the Kwaremont for the first time today. The bunch are 1:47 behind. Farrar sets the pace.

  116. 14:24:44 CEST

    Half the bunch come to a complete standstill on the climb, with Boom just rejoining after a flat.

  117. 14:25:42 CEST

    Hayman leads them on the climb. Breschel, Van summeren, Hagen and Ballan all near the front.

  118. 14:26:13 CEST

    Boonen is following Cancellara about 20 riders back, Pippo on Boonen's wheel.

  119. 14:28:05 CEST

    It's everyman for himself in the peloton as they fight for position on the climb.

  120. 14:29:25 CEST

    Cancellara orders a man to the front and moves up with him. Gilbert is also here.

  121. 74km remaining from 256km

    14:30:10 CEST

    74km to go and the gap to the break is 1:34

  122. 14:31:32 CEST

    Farrar let Lund take a pull but he's back on the front of the break again as we close in on the top of the Kwaremont.

  123. 14:31:54 CEST

    The bunch now at the foot of the Paterberg.

  124. 14:32:22 CEST

    The favourites have all moved a bit closer to the front, Pippo, Cancellara, Breschel, Boonen all there.

  125. 14:32:45 CEST

    Breschel leads.

  126. 14:33:08 CEST

    And an attack from Marcato.

  127. 14:33:50 CEST

    Devolder again right at the back of the bunch and almost falling over another rider.

  128. 14:35:41 CEST

    There are maybe 60 riders left in the peloton after those two climbs with BMC taking the race by the scruff of the neck now.

  129. 14:36:11 CEST

    A Sky car has broken down on the cobbles and gets a push.

  130. 69km remaining from 256km

    14:36:47 CEST

    69km to go and the gap is 1:15. Marcato is back with the bunch it seems.

  131. 14:37:38 CEST

    The Koppenberg is next. We'll see who really wants to win the race in the next few kms. Back with the cars and there's a massive jam after the Sky car broken down.

  132. 14:39:23 CEST

    Freire is also near the front of the bunch. Surely today's race is too hard for the Spaniard?

  133. 14:40:11 CEST

    Gilbert on the front with Hincapie and Ballan, BMC are at least showing their faces on the front . So far Omega have turned away from doing too much work on the front.

  134. 14:41:01 CEST

    The break is now on the Koppenberg.

  135. 14:41:57 CEST

    Lund and Lastras share the pace but they're really grinding away. Lund looks over and gets out of the saddle and there are some gaps appearing in the lead group again.

  136. 14:42:54 CEST

    Three BMC riders spread out along the front of the bunch as they get to the climb. Again it looks like Breschel is on the front as well.

  137. 14:44:31 CEST

    Cancellara is on Gilbert's wheel. Boonen a little further back.

  138. 14:45:24 CEST

    And there's an attack. Chavanel attacking over the top just as the pace slowed and Bennati was straight on his wheel. The battle begins.

  139. 61km remaining from 256km

    14:50:43 CEST

    Cancellara has crashed.

  140. 14:51:36 CEST

    He has teammates around him but it doesn't look good. He's come down in the feed zone. He sitting up but it looks like his race is over.

  141. 14:52:12 CEST

    Now he's lying down again.

  142. 14:52:37 CEST

    The bunch are now on the next climb but we'll bring you more on Cancellara as we get it.

  143. 14:53:40 CEST

    It's certainly the end of the race for the RadioShack man. Up ahead and QuickStep move up to the front of the bunch with BMC. Steegmans take over.

  144. 14:54:09 CEST

    This changes the race entirely. Boonen and his men will have to control the race a lot more from now on.

  145. 14:55:42 CEST

    Hayman, Tankink and Vansummeren surge forward but they're brought back.

  146. 59km remaining from 256km

    14:56:47 CEST

    59km to go and the gap is 1:44.

  147. 15:00:24 CEST

    Hushovd sets the pace on the front of the bunch but he can't do anything when Europcar attack and riders come over the top. The bunch are picking up riders from the break. Vellers the latest one.

  148. 15:01:49 CEST

    Passing live over to Barry Ryan now.

  149. 55km remaining from 256km

    15:04:56 CEST

    A shade under 10km to the next helling, the Kruisberg, and the pace is really beginning to pick up ahead of the grand finale. Thomas Voeckler is the Europcar rider off the front of the main peloton, but he'll hardly last long alone out there.


  150. 15:06:53 CEST

    Voeckler is duly swept up, and it's Thor Hushovd setting the pace on the front, with Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Chavanel and Steegmans keeping a close eye on proceedings. With Cancellara out of the picture, it will be fascinating to see who steps up to go toe to toe with Omega Pharma.

  151. 15:08:42 CEST

    The remnants of the break have 51 seconds in hand over the main group, but the gap is beginning to ebb away in spite of Tyler Farrar's best efforts.

  152. 15:09:45 CEST

    Christian Knees is now trying to string things out in the main group. Sky have been quite active today, even before Cancellara's crash, with Hayman particularly impressive.

  153. 15:11:37 CEST

    It's still a little stop-start in the main peloton, however. No team seems particularly keen to expend too much energy ahead of the daunting finale. Remember there are six hellingen inside the final 46km of racing.


  154. 15:11:57 CEST

    It's still a little stop-start in the main peloton, however. No team seems particularly keen to expend too much energy ahead of the daunting finale. Remember there are six hellingen inside the final 46km of racing.


  155. 15:13:32 CEST

    Assan Basayev (Astana) shoots off the front of the main peloton and Anthony Geslin (FDJ-BigMat) comes across for company as they approach the Kruisberg. 42 seconds the gap to the break.

  156. 15:14:24 CEST

    Signs of life from Philippe Gilbert as the Kruisberg begins. He's led the chase across to Bassayev and Geslin, bringing Bjorn Leukemans with him.

  157. 15:16:05 CEST

    Voeckler, Oscar Gatto and Yaroslav Popovych have also come across with Gilbert and Leukemans. An interesting chase group is forming on the Kruisberg, with no representation from Omega Pharma-QuickStep.


  158. 15:18:18 CEST

    Leukemans forces the pace on the Kruisberg, helping his group make come to within touching distance of the break, but the main peloton is breathing down their necks. It looks as though it will all come back together ahead of the second ascension of the Kwaremont.

  159. 15:18:57 CEST

    Meanwhile, Matti Breschel (Rabobank) looked in difficulty at the back of the peloton on the Kruisberg.

  160. 45km remaining from 256km

    15:20:49 CEST

    A lull in proceedings in the main peloton with 45km to go. All the remaining favourites are together in a group of about 50 riders, while David Boucher (FDJ-BigMat) has slipped clear alone, 10 seconds in front.

  161. 15:23:23 CEST

    Matti Breschel looks to have recovered as Maarten Tjallingii sets the pace on the front of the peloton for Rabobank.


  162. 15:24:51 CEST

    • Crash

    Nasty looking crash for Sebastien Langeveld (GreenEdge). He tried to move up along the side of the peloton by riding on the pavement and a fan stepped out in front of him. He lost a wheel and hit the ground hard.


  163. 15:25:39 CEST

    Langeveld is sitting up at the roadside, but his challenge and probably his race are over.

  164. 40km remaining from 256km

    15:26:58 CEST

    David Boucher's rally peters out with 40km to go, and he accepts the congratulations of his teammate Frederic Guesdon as he is assumed back into the peloton. It's all back together at the foot of the Oude Kwaremont.

  165. 15:28:20 CEST

    Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) hits the front on the Kwaremont. The race starts here. It's a long, steady effort from the Belgian, but it's lining things out. Ballan, Boonen and Pozzato are next in line behind him.

  166. 15:28:58 CEST

    Chavanel comes over the top of Vanmarcke closer tot the top of the Kwaremont, and Peter Sagan is promptly onto his wheel.

  167. 15:30:18 CEST

    Chavanel now sets the pace on the Kwaremont, with Sagan on his wheel. Ballan is looking very comfortable in third, and Boonen and Pozzato are similarly untroubled just behind. Further back, the pace is beginning to tell.


  168. 15:31:41 CEST

    Chavanel's pressing has brought around 20 riders clear. This is the first major selection of the race. Vansummeren, Gatto and Luca Paolini are also up there.

  169. 36km remaining from 256km

    15:33:58 CEST

    Paolini looks to get clear of that select group ahead of the Paterberg, and he brings Flecha and Pichot clear with him. The trio has 6 seconds over a group of around 20 riders as they approach the base of the climb.

  170. 15:36:28 CEST

    Flecha hits the front as the Paterberg begins, but the real drama is behind, as there is a crash in the main group. Vansummeren hit the barrieres and a number of riders were caught up including Sagan and Breschel. Boonen, Terpstra, Chavanel and Pozzato avoided the fall and are leading the pursuit of the leaders.

  171. 15:38:37 CEST

    Boonen, Vanmarcke, Pozzato, Ballan, Chavanel, Terpstra and Sagan have joined the leaders in front. An 11-man group on the front with three Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders and Fabian Cancellara out of the race. It's the ideal situation for Patrick Lefevere's men.

  172. 15:39:14 CEST

    Susan Westemeyer will take over live all the way to the finish in Oudenaarde.


  173. 15:40:07 CEST

    Susan back again.  I am just as happy to have missed all those crashes and hope we don't have any more from here on.  Ok, guys?

  174. 15:42:21 CEST

    To recap, we have about 11 riders in a lead group.  Edvald Boasson Hagen and Oscar Gatto are chasing, but not looking lucky at the moment. 

    Another big field is giving furious chase, but frankly, we suspect that our winner will come out of the lead group, which contains most if not all of the remaining favourites.

  175. 27km remaining from 256km

    15:44:18 CEST

    It looks like our group is:  Tosatto, Ballan, Boonen, Chavanel, Terpstra, Flecha, Guarnieri, Paolini, Sagan, Vanmarcke, and Jerome.

    The latter has now taken off and has a small lead.

  176. 15:44:48 CEST

    It looks as if he has 10 seconds on the Boonen group, with EBH and Gatto at 40 seconds.

  177. 15:45:42 CEST

    Nope, EBH/Gatto have been absorbed by the chasing field.

    They are getting close enough to make Boonen nervous.

  178. 15:47:22 CEST

    Jerome is pulling away, with 17 seconds on the Boonen group, the field at 45 seconds.

    Terpstra tries to jump from the Boonen gropu, takes Chavanel and a few others with him.

  179. 15:47:50 CEST

    The group looks to be coming back together.

  180. 15:49:35 CEST

    Jerome slurps down a power gel, to give him the extra energy to get away.

    Must be working, he now has 20 seconds.

  181. 15:51:54 CEST

    The lead group is: Matteo Tosatto (Team Saxo Bank), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Jacopo Guarnieri (Astana), Luca Paolini (Team Katusha), Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) and Vincent Jerome (Team Europcar)

  182. 15:52:28 CEST

    They have a 13 second gap to leader Jerome.  The Sky-led field its at 33 seconds.

  183. 15:53:21 CEST

    Boonen sends Terpstra up the road.  Boonen really does not what to come to the finish line with all these people around him, he wants his teammates to help dump them all.

  184. 15:54:02 CEST

    Terpstra, who just won Dwars Door Vlaanderen, has caught Jerome, and the rest of the group is not far away.

  185. 15:55:21 CEST

    The chase group has now caught the Boonen group.  Marcus Burghardt of BMC leads the chase of the two leaders now.

  186. 19km remaining from 256km

    15:56:17 CEST

    Burghardt is now nearly to the two leaders, with the field a few seconds behind him.

  187. 15:56:48 CEST

    We are approaching the Kwaremont again.

  188. 15:57:23 CEST

    2200m long, with 1500m cobbles, and a few really steep sections.

  189. 15:57:50 CEST

    Ballan leaps into the lead and bounces his way up the cobbles.

  190. 15:58:52 CEST

    Ballan is building up a nice little lead. 

  191. 15:59:24 CEST

    Pozzatto and Boonen aren't happy with this development and take off in chase.

  192. 17km remaining from 256km

    16:00:25 CEST

    Some major gaps developing. Pozzato and Boonen have now caught Ballan.

  193. 16:00:50 CEST

    Wouldn't that be a dream finale, with those three sprinting for the win?

  194. 16:01:26 CEST

    A group of 10-15 are now 14 seconds behind the trio.  Luca Paolini jumps to try to catch them.

  195. 16:02:58 CEST

    Paolini is really driving along and is now only 7 seconds back.  But using up a lot of power along the way...

  196. 16:03:46 CEST

    Ballan, Boonen and Pozzato are working well togehter on this narrow lane.

  197. 16:04:02 CEST

    More cobblestones:  the paterberg!

  198. 16:04:26 CEST

    Again, Ballan leads the way.

  199. 16:04:48 CEST

    Up they go, it is really steep right here.

  200. 16:05:12 CEST

    Is Boonen falling back?

  201. 16:05:50 CEST

    No, he is with the other two again as they leave the cobbles.

  202. 16:06:11 CEST

    13km to go.  Sagan has jumped from the chasing field, but may have left it too late.

  203. 16:06:50 CEST

    Paolini has been caught, and Sagan is now at 21 seconds.

  204. 16:07:28 CEST

    Gallopin drops out of the chase group with a mechanical. RadioShack-Nissan is really having no luck today.

  205. 16:08:43 CEST

    The three leaders are stll working well together, but keeping a wary eye on each other as well.

  206. 16:09:05 CEST

    Popovych leads the small chasing group, and they will get Sagan soon.

  207. 16:10:08 CEST

    The gap is now 25 seconds. We think Sagan can forget it.

  208. 16:10:44 CEST

    Sagan is dogged, though, must one say.

  209. 9km remaining from 256km

    16:11:54 CEST

    Nine km and now 28 seconds.

  210. 16:13:02 CEST

    The three leaders are all taking turns with the lead work, doing perfect tradeoffs.

  211. 16:13:26 CEST

    Who is the better sprinter, Ballan or Boonen?

  212. 16:14:09 CEST

    Ordinarily one would pick Boonen, but he had some problems on that last climb.  Will he be missing that last little bit he needs to win a sprint?

  213. 16:14:31 CEST

    Sagan gives up and falls back into the field.

  214. 7km remaining from 256km

    16:15:09 CEST

    With 7km and 40 seconds, we think the three leaders will be the podium.

  215. 16:15:28 CEST

    The gap is now 52 seconds!

  216. 16:16:27 CEST

    Anther potential disadvantage for Boonen is that he is up against two Italians.  Would they have a motivation to work together against him?

  217. 16:16:59 CEST

    Ballan is leading and looks back to Pozzato to take over, which he does.

  218. 4km remaining from 256km

    16:17:43 CEST

    Four km to go, and the gap is 1:03.

  219. 16:18:39 CEST

    Will one jump?  Or will it cme to a sprint?

  220. 16:19:00 CEST

    With 3km, Ballan tries to go.  The others were right there with him, though.

  221. 16:19:20 CEST

    These three know each other so well, they have a pretty good idea of what each will do.

  222. 16:20:23 CEST

    Ballan goes again, and Boonen closes the hole, with Pozzato behind him, but letting the Belgian do the work.

    Two km to go now.

  223. 16:21:11 CEST

    Both Boonen and Ballan have won this race, of course  But not on this course, of course.

  224. 16:21:47 CEST

    Pozzato leads, and slows thigns down.  So Ballan jumps immediately. All go with him under the last km marker.

  225. 16:22:05 CEST

    Cat-and-mouse games now.  Slow riding...

  226. 16:22:22 CEST

    500 meters.  who will open?

  227. 16:22:48 CEST

    Ballan still ahead, then boonen, then Pozzato.

  228. 16:23:10 CEST

    Ballan opens, but Boonen powers his way past.

  229. 16:23:37 CEST

    It is too obvious to Ballan that he has no chance and he hangs back. 

    Boonen takes it!

  230. 16:23:54 CEST

    Pozzato stayed with him to take second, with  Ballan third.

  231. 16:24:13 CEST

    Is Boonen the Phil Gilbert of 2012?

  232. 16:25:05 CEST

    All nice and fancy, our top three:

    1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quickstep
    2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia
    3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing

  233. 16:26:02 CEST

    Yet another win for Omega Pharma-QuickStep.  They are really dominating things this year.  Incredible.

  234. 16:27:49 CEST

    Greg Van Avermaet won the sprint of the field.

  235. 16:28:38 CEST

    Boonen now becomes only the fourth man ever to win this race three times.  The last to do so was Johan Museeuw.

  236. 16:30:25 CEST

    The field finished 38 seconds back.  As we said, Van Avermaet was fourth and Sagan was fifth.  That will not make the Liquigas rider happy.

  237. 16:32:02 CEST

    Looks like three Omega Pharma-QuickStep riders in the top ten:  Boonen, Terpstra and Chavanel.  How muh more dominant can you be?

  238. 16:35:15 CEST

    This most recent victory moves Boonen to the head of the UCI WorldTour rankings.  Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) drops to second.

  239. 16:36:08 CEST

    1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quickstep
    2 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Farnese Vini - Selle Italia 0:00:00
    3 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing 0:00:01
    4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing 0:00:38
    5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:38
    6 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma - Quickstep 0:00:38
    7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha 0:00:38
    8 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar 0:00:38
    9 Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank 0:00:38
    10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma - Quickstep 0:00:38

  240. 16:37:09 CEST

    That's it!  What could have been more exciting?

    We hope that none of the crashed riders were seriously injured, and hope they all get well again soon.

  241. 16:37:39 CEST

    Join us again next week for Paris-Roubaix. And thanks for reading along!