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Start gallery: Tour of Flanders

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A wall of noise greeted Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) before the start.

A wall of noise greeted Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) before the start.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp).

Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Sharp).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida) greets UCI president Pat McQuaid at the start in Bruges.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida) greets UCI president Pat McQuaid at the start in Bruges.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tony Gallopin is an important support for Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard).

Tony Gallopin is an important support for Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was the centre of attention in Bruges.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was the centre of attention in Bruges.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) in Bruges.

Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) in Bruges.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Matt Goss and Bernhard Eisel share a quiet word before the Tour of Flanders.

Matt Goss and Bernhard Eisel share a quiet word before the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has a word for Norwegian television on the start line.

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has a word for Norwegian television on the start line.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Last-minute checks for Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Last-minute checks for Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Kevin Hulsmans (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) has a wealth of experience.

Kevin Hulsmans (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) has a wealth of experience.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Adam Blythe was a late call-up to the BMC team for the Tour of Flanders.

Adam Blythe was a late call-up to the BMC team for the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Daniel Oss (BMC) has a freer role than expected.

Daniel Oss (BMC) has a freer role than expected.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard) is a double winner of the Tour of Flanders.

Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard) is a double winner of the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Gedimias Bagdonas (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has his hellingen marked for the Tour of Flanders.

Gedimias Bagdonas (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has his hellingen marked for the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) lines up for the Tour of Flanders.

John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) lines up for the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) in Bruges for the Tour of Flanders.

Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) in Bruges for the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) has high hopes ahead of the Tour of Flanders.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) has high hopes ahead of the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Ian Stannard (Sky) was wrapped up against the elements.

Ian Stannard (Sky) was wrapped up against the elements.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Geraint Thomas (Sky) rides to sign on.

Geraint Thomas (Sky) rides to sign on.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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No race is more important for Crelan-Euphony than the Tour of Flanders.

No race is more important for Crelan-Euphony than the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The start in Bruges' Markt is one of cycling's great occasions.

The start in Bruges' Markt is one of cycling's great occasions.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Sagan flanked by his Cannondale teammates.

Peter Sagan flanked by his Cannondale teammates.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Sagan heads to the start of the Tour of Flanders.

Peter Sagan heads to the start of the Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Ted King (Cannondale) has an important role to play for Peter Sagan.

Ted King (Cannondale) has an important role to play for Peter Sagan.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Cannondale will aim to support Peter Sagan.

Cannondale will aim to support Peter Sagan.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida) rides to sign on in Bruges.

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida) rides to sign on in Bruges.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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The beauty of the Tour of Flanders is the rapport between the riders and the public.

The beauty of the Tour of Flanders is the rapport between the riders and the public.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) will hope to make an impact in Flanders.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) will hope to make an impact in Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is one of the main favourites.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is one of the main favourites.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) heads to sign on.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) heads to sign on.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Manuel Quinziato (BMC).

Manuel Quinziato (BMC).
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) rides to the start of his ill-fated 2013 Tour of Flanders.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) rides to the start of his ill-fated 2013 Tour of Flanders.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)
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Stijn Devolder (RadioShack-Leopard) reporting for duty.

Stijn Devolder (RadioShack-Leopard) reporting for duty.
(Image credit: Daniel Simms)

The start of the Tour of Flanders is like no other in cycling, and huge crowds gathered in Bruges on Sunday morning to cheer on the contenders for De Ronde.

As ever, the most raucous roars were for reserved for Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but the Belgian champion’s race would prove to be short-lived. The peloton had scarcely left Bruges when Boonen was involved in a crash and forced to abandon.

Boonen’s ill fortune will have disappointed his legions of fans, but for all of their partisan support, the passion of the Flemish public is universal. Home contenders like Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) can always rely on vocal encouragement, but so too can the visitors such as Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida).

The great race is 100 years old in 2013, and on the evidence of Sunday morning in Bruges, the enthusiasm of the Flemish people for the Tour of Flanders remains undimmed.