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Startline gallery: Gent-Wevelgem

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Oscar Freire (Katusha) shares his thoughts before the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

Oscar Freire (Katusha) shares his thoughts before the start of Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Philippe Gilbert's health is the subject of much concern for BMC.

Philippe Gilbert's health is the subject of much concern for BMC. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Stuart O'Grady (GreenEdge) shares a joke with Thor Hushovd (BMC).

Stuart O'Grady (GreenEdge) shares a joke with Thor Hushovd (BMC). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan).

Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) at the start in Deinze.

Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) at the start in Deinze. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Fabian Cancellera (RadioShack-Nissan) is always in demand at the start in Belgium.

Fabian Cancellera (RadioShack-Nissan) is always in demand at the start in Belgium. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) is in fine form.

Kevin Hulsmans (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) is in fine form. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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The peloton lines up in Deinze for Gent-Wevelgem.

The peloton lines up in Deinze for Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Bernhard Eisel (Sky) won this race in 2010.

Bernhard Eisel (Sky) won this race in 2010. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Luca Paolini (Katusha) has a lot of classics experience.

Luca Paolini (Katusha) has a lot of classics experience. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Jeremy Hunt (Sky) will be an important part of Cavendish's Gent-Wevelgem challenge.

Jeremy Hunt (Sky) will be an important part of Cavendish's Gent-Wevelgem challenge. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Mark Cavendish (Sky) enjoys racing in Belgium.

Mark Cavendish (Sky) enjoys racing in Belgium. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i) will be hoping for a sprint.

Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i) will be hoping for a sprint. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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George Hincapie (BMC) stretches before the off.

George Hincapie (BMC) stretches before the off. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) en route to the start.

Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale) en route to the start. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) at Gent-Wevelgem.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) at Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Danger man. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) can win in several ways.

Danger man. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) can win in several ways. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) renews his relationship with the classics in 2012.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) renews his relationship with the classics in 2012. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Matt Hayman (Sky) primed for action on the cobbles.

Matt Hayman (Sky) primed for action on the cobbles. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Philippe Gilbert and George Hincapie (BMC) ride to the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

Philippe Gilbert and George Hincapie (BMC) ride to the start of Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Alessandro Ballan (BMC).

Alessandro Ballan (BMC). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel (Sky).

Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel (Sky). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Thor Hushovd (BMC) before the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

Thor Hushovd (BMC) before the start of Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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Baden Cooke and Svein Tuft (GreenEdge).

Baden Cooke and Svein Tuft (GreenEdge). (Image credit: Barry Ryan)
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World champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) before the start of Gent-Wevelgem.

World champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) before the start of Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: Barry Ryan)

Belgium’s annual festival of cycling moved on to Deinze on Sunday for the start of Gent-Wevelgem, where the sprinters will hope to be to the fore later this afternoon. After E3 Harelbeke saw a larger than anticipated group come to the finish together, however, the fast men may not have it all their own way over the 235km course.

That said, with the likes of Mark Cavendish (Sky), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Marcel Kittel (Project 1t4i), Matt Goss (GreenEdge), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) all lining up, there will be no shortage of teams looking to keep things under control on the flat run-in to the finish in Wevelgem.

Defending champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won E3 Harelbeke on Friday, and looks to be in great form ahead of next week’s Tour of Flanders. Gent-Wevelgem is another important stage in his preparation for De Ronde, and he will once again clash swords with his eternal rival Fabian Cancellara, whose RadioShack-Nissan team also includes the dangerous Daniele Bennati.

Much attention will also be paid to the performance of Philippe Gilbert, who has struggled with illness in recent weeks. The Belgian champion does not fancy his chances on this course, but he will be looking for significant signs of improvement with the Tour of Flanders just one week away. For today, his BMC team’s efforts are likely to be focused on Greg Van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd.