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On the start line at Flèche-Wallonne

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Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) is using the O'Symetric chain rings

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) is using the O'Symetric chain rings
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) has a pre-race chat

Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) has a pre-race chat
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Andreas Kloden (RadioShack)

Andreas Kloden (RadioShack)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) speaks about his chances of victory

Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) speaks about his chances of victory
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Oscar Freire and Robert Gesink (Rabobank

Oscar Freire and Robert Gesink (Rabobank
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Mavic is providing the neutral service support at Flèche Wallonne

Mavic is providing the neutral service support at Flèche Wallonne
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Thomas Lövkvist (Team Sky)

Thomas Lövkvist (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) is ready to race

Simon Gerrans (Team Sky) is ready to race
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Liquigas-Doimo riders are about to sign on

The Liquigas-Doimo riders are about to sign on
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Philippe Gilbert awaits his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates

Philippe Gilbert awaits his Omega Pharma-Lotto teammates
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Ag2r-La Mondiale sign on

Ag2r-La Mondiale sign on
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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French national champion Dimitri Champion (Ag2r-La Mondiale

French national champion Dimitri Champion (Ag2r-La Mondiale
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Recognise this guy? It's Laurent Jalabert

Recognise this guy? It's Laurent Jalabert
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Cadel Evans (BMC) is popular in Belgium

Cadel Evans (BMC) is popular in Belgium
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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World champion Cadel Evans (BMC)

World champion Cadel Evans (BMC)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Karsten Kroon (BMC)

Karsten Kroon (BMC)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador's custom decorated Specialized bike

Alberto Contador's custom decorated Specialized bike
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Milram van is compact but has everything a team needs

The Milram van is compact but has everything a team needs
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alejandro Valverde's Pinarello (61)

Alejandro Valverde's Pinarello (61)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Acqua & Sapone team only had a camper van

The Acqua & Sapone team only had a camper van
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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A detail of the special Pinarello saddle post

A detail of the special Pinarello saddle post
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Team Sky's Pinarello bikes await their riders

Team Sky's Pinarello bikes await their riders
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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There was a big crowd for the mid-week race

There was a big crowd for the mid-week race
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Mavic use yellow Colnago bikes

Mavic use yellow Colnago bikes
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador's car got as much attention as the man himself

Alberto Contador's car got as much attention as the man himself
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Cadel Evans' special BMC bike

Cadel Evans' special BMC bike
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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You can always spot the BMC soigneur

You can always spot the BMC soigneur
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Team Sky bus arrives in Charleroi

The Team Sky bus arrives in Charleroi
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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The Team Sky Pinarello bikes

The Team Sky Pinarello bikes
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Alberto Contador (Astana)

Alberto Contador (Astana)
(Image credit: Richard Tyler)
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Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) rolls up to the start in Charleroi

Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) rolls up to the start in Charleroi
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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French veteran Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) signs an autograph

French veteran Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) signs an autograph
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is a favourite for Flèche Wallonne

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) is a favourite for Flèche Wallonne
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A member of the Garmin-Transition staff checks the Felt bikes

A member of the Garmin-Transition staff checks the Felt bikes
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alberto Contdor (Astana) was mobbed at the start of Flèche Wallonne

Alberto Contdor (Astana) was mobbed at the start of Flèche Wallonne
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions)

Dan Martin (Garmin-Transitions)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Fabian Wegmann (Milram) adds some protection against the cold

Fabian Wegmann (Milram) adds some protection against the cold
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Flèche Wallonne peloton is ready to start

The Flèche Wallonne peloton is ready to start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Chris Horner (RadioShack) looked relaxed before the start

Chris Horner (RadioShack) looked relaxed before the start
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was at Flèche Wallonne

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was at Flèche Wallonne
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) is riding the Ardennes Classics

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) is riding the Ardennes Classics
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Chris Froome (Team Sky)
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Team Sky get ready to roll

Team Sky get ready to roll
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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BBox Bouygues Telecom are using the Colnago CX-1

BBox Bouygues Telecom are using the Colnago CX-1
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Omega Pharma-Lotto had a gear of 41x25 for the Mur de Huy

Omega Pharma-Lotto had a gear of 41x25 for the Mur de Huy
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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BMC went for a gear of 39x25 for the Mur

BMC went for a gear of 39x25 for the Mur
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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A detail of Philippe Gilbert's Mavic wheels

A detail of Philippe Gilbert's Mavic wheels
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Gilbert has a Mavic SSC and Continental tyre combo on his race bike

Gilbert has a Mavic SSC and Continental tyre combo on his race bike
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Philippe Gilbert's spare bike has deep section rims fitted

Philippe Gilbert's spare bike has deep section rims fitted
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The Mavic SSC rim is deep and has a very thin profile

The Mavic SSC rim is deep and has a very thin profile
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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What's in the Omega-Pharma-Lotto cooler?

What's in the Omega-Pharma-Lotto cooler?
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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The BMC bikes await their riders

The BMC bikes await their riders
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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Bauke Mollema prefers to ride without Shimano lever hoods

Bauke Mollema prefers to ride without Shimano lever hoods
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)
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They're off! The Flèche Wallonne peloton rolls out of Charleroi

They're off! The Flèche Wallonne peloton rolls out of Charleroi
(Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

The 197-rider peloton gathered in Charleroi for the start of the 74th Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday as the Classics shift back into Belgium for the first time in a fortnight following Paris-Roubaix and t It was appropriate that the race began just south of the home of the European Union (Brussels) as Spain's cycling stars attracted the most attention at the start of the French-organised, Belgian race.

The commotion at the start caused by the presence of Alberto Contador (Astana) was matched only by the cheers that rang out as Amstel Gold Race winner Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) strode onto the stage. Held in the Walloon region of Belgium, Fleche and Sunday's Liege-Bastogne-Liege form a home-coming for the 27-year-old Wallonne cycling star. World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) was also popular, as was Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and was another local hero Maxime Monfort (HTC-Columbia).

Amstel's start list was severely impacted by the effects of the Icelandic volcano, but with teams and riders adapting to current travel restrictions, most of the scheduled field was able to get the race underway just before 11:30a.m. CET. Some of the Cofidis riders who competed in Turkey failed to make it and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) stayed on after Amstel Gold Race to complete their rosters. Bradley Wiggins was on hand to ensure that Team Sky commenced the race with their full list of eight riders. Sky were one of the teams most representative of the shift in rosters that occurs at this time of the year, with Wiggins, Thomas Lövkvist, Steve Cummings and Chris Froome all starting their first major Classic of the season.

While team selections had been adapted for the Ardennes, so had the gear selections of the riders in the field. Philippe Gilbert was obviously feeling strong as he opted for a 41/25 low-range combination, while his former teammate and World Champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) had preferenced a more conventional 39/25. The BMC mechanic told Cyclingnews that some of the less experienced members of the team would be running 39/27 to cope with the 9.3 per cent gradient of the Mur de Huy. We will find out who had the right gear selection and the legs to turn it later today.

Cyclingnews' live coverage of the race has already began from atop the Mur de Huy and there will be full coverage and interviews after the race.