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On the start line at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The Belgian cycling season is officially underway. 171 riders have left the centre of Ghent for to tackle the nine climbs and nine sections of pave that make up the 204.4km Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race.

It was raining in Ghent at the start but that will only add to the excitement and drama of the first race of the year on the twisting country roads of Flanders.

The 66th edition of the 'Omloop' began at 11:30, with the women’s race starting a few minutes before. Both races will finish back in Ghent’s St Peter’s Square later today.

The men’s start list includes almost all the best classics riders in the sport with only Fabian Cancellara and Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar missing from the start list. The first two are saving themselves for later in the spring, while Farrar will focus on Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne race on Sunday, as world champion Thor Hushovd leads the Garmin-Cervelo team in Omloop.

Cyclingnews was at the start to capture the special atmosphere of Flemish cycling with a unique photo gallery.

There is also live coverage of the race throughout the day, and  a full race report, racing photograph gallery and rider interviews after the finish.

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