Blue skies and warm sunshine greeted the spectators at the start of the 98th Scheldeprijs, in Belgium. As the riders and team buses gathered in the city centre of Antwerp, local hero Tom Boonen (Quick Step) soon became the centre of attention, even receiving a police escort to the race.
Ahead of the peloton lay 205.4 kilometres of racing. The course generally favours a bunch sprint, with the finish circuit in the Antwerp suburb of Schoten giving the sprinters' teams plenty of opportunity to organise their lead-outs.
With many of the Paris-Roubaix favourites using the race as training, a sprint off between defending champion Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo), André Greipel (HTC-Columbia), Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano), and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) was the prediction on many people's lips.