Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 98th Scheldeprijs. The peloton is racing a 205.4 kilometre route that will see them journey Antwerp, Belgium up towards the Dutch border, before returning to contest three 16.4 kilometre circuits around Schoten.
The peloton have been racing for just over an hour now - having covered an incredible 50.3 kilometres in the first 60 minutes of racing. At present, we have a group of eight riders out in front of the peloton. They have an advantage of 4:47 over the main group.
The leaders managed to get away after around an hour of racing - given the pace it's not too much of a surprise it took so long! They've build a reasonable advantage for themselves, but it will be tricky for them to stay away on a day like today.
Julian Berard (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Han Feng (Skil-Shimano) made an unsuccessful attempt to bridge across to the leaders. There's some strong riders in the lead group, including Niko Eckhout (An Post Sean Kelly) and Mathew Hayman (Sky).
Cyclingnews caught up with Mathew Hayman at the Sky team hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium this week. You can read a facinating feature about the Australian's formative years as a professional in Holland by clicking here.
For those wondering what conditions are like around Antwerp today - they're, well, in a word: Marvellous. The sun is shining on the peloton today, which meant there were plenty of grins on the start line this morning.
Not quite shorts and t-shirt weather just yet, but it's not far off.
110km remaining from 205km
The peloton are currently racing through Lille. The leaders have covered 94 kilometres in the first two hours of racing today.
One race has already wrapped up today - the morning stage at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe. Lance Armstrong might have left the race due to illness, but Anthony Ravard (Ag2R-La Mondiale) nabbed the first French win of the four day race today.
Here at Scheldeprijs, the leaders have continued to extend their advantage over the peloton, they now have a gap of more than six minutes.
Cyclingnews grabbed a HUGE gallery of images from the start line in Antwerp this morning. Check them out by clicking here.
Unsurprisingly, when the Saxo Bank team lined up on the podium at the start of the Scheldeprijs this morning most attention went to Fabian Cancellara, winner of the Tour of Flanders last Sunday. The Swiss champion isn't expected to be in the mix for the victory on Wednesday afternoon though. The team's leader in the Scheldeprijs is Baden Cooke.
Matti Breschel told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé, "It's all for Baden today."
The Australian sprinter moved to Saxo Bank this year and so far he's more than happy with his results. "I had great results but I'm here to gain form ahead of Sunday. My job In Flanders was to help Fabian [Cancellara] but I was knocked away rather early so I'm using this race hoping to improve ahead of Roubaix. Of course, if I'm feeling fine and it comes down to a bunch sprint I'll have a go," Cooke told Cyclingnews.
Word came through this morning that Edvald Boasson Hagen has been forced out of Sky's team for Paris-Roubaix due to a nagging achillies injury. He'll be replaced by Greg Henderson, who's racing at Scheldeprijs today.
The leader's advantage seems pretty stable around the six minute mark. It's dropped, but only by a fraction to 6:07
The situation as it is now is building towards a very, very fast finish. The is traditionally a sprinters race, so the teams of the fast men will have to do a lot of work to drag the leaders back.
72km remaining from 205km
The leaders' advantage is starting to drop now. They're still working well together and have over five minutes. They hit a short section of cobbles, and Niko Eckhout elects to take the smoother bike path on the left hand side of the road.
There's a lot of magenta and blue on the front of the peloton. Lampre-Farnese Vini are lined out ahead of the peloton, which is stretched across the road and a bike path.
68km remaining from 205km
The peloton is streaking in towards Schoten for the finishing circuits. They've just passed through the town of Sandhoven and are running on the 44 km/h time schedule set out by race organisers.
David Appolonio (Cervelo TestTeam) is sitting on the front of the peloton, but he's not doing it all on his own. HTC-Columbia, Milram, Lampre and Garmin are all contributing to the chase.
There is a 1700 metre section of cobbles just before the peloton start the first of the finishing circuits. Realistically, that's the biggest obstacle on today's course. The peloton are climbing a gentle slope at the moment, but the suburban roads are smooth, so there's not too much to trouble the riders.
Danny Pate (Garmin-Transitions) is on the front of the peloton now, tapping out a steady cadence. Lars Bak of HTC-Columbia, is on his wheel. BMC have begun to mass on the right hand side of the peloton.
Last year's sprint finish resulted in a massive pile-up, which only a handful of riders were able to avoid. No reports of any major crashes today...touch wood, it'll stay that way.
A lot of riders' modus operandi for today is to stay out of trouble, with Paris-Roubaix just four days away.
In the breakaway, Gregory Joseph (Topsport Vlaanderen) has just swung off the front, allowing Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team) to roll through. They are taking short turns at the front to keep the pace high.
62km remaining from 205km
Adam Hansen (HTC-Columbia) is chasing back on to the peloton, he's just stopped for a wheel change - a rear puncture. It means the US squad is top and tailing the peloton, with Geert Dockx currently riding at the head of the main group.
The earlier Sunny weather has given way to greyish skies now. At the moment it doesn't look as though it will rain, but in Belgium, you never can be too sure.
The road surface matches the colour of the sky. The riders are racing along the distinctive concrete surface favoured by road builders in Belgium.
58km remaining from 205km
In contrast, the leaders - 3:40 ahead now - are racing along a section of dual-carriageway. Jonas Ljungblad was off the back of the group, but he's probably just paid a visit to the team car. He resumes his place in the paceline.
The peloton are really dedicating themselves to the task of pulling back the breakaway. The distinctive nervous twitch at the sides of the peloton is on display as riders jostle for position towards the front of the peloton.
Meanwhile, the leaders are on the cobbled sector of Broekstraat (1700m). Strangely, Mathew Hayman drops off the pace as the cobbles start, but he's not going ot lose contact with the group.
Stuart O'Grady leads the peloton on to the Broekstraat. Boonen pops his head out from around 15th wheel and has come straight to the front of the peloton. A little bit more training for the pave of Paris-Roubaix. Hincapie's up the front too.
This is more of a self-preservation thing than an attack for these guys, no-one want's to risk missing Roubaix due to an incident on the only cobbles of the day.
53km remaining from 205km
The cobbles have lined the peloton right out now and they're making quick work of this chase. The leaders have just over 2:30 now.
The peloton are riding past a canal, which is passing swiftly on their left hand side. Euskaltel have appeared at the front, led by espoir World Champion Romain Sicard. HTC-Columbia are the constant presence.
There's a Saxo Bank rider towards the front of the peloton with a pretty heavily bandaged left knee - that wasn't there at the start. We'll find out who it is for you as soon as possible.
The leaders have just crossed the finish line for the first time, they'll see it three more times as they take in the three 16.4 kilometre finish circuits.
A little bit of a correction on those cobbles, there will be further passage of the Broekstraat - once more according to the race handbook.
The peloton have themselves just passed the finish line and have headed out on the first of the finishing circuits.
Martijn Maaskant has crashed. He overshot a corner with four or five other riders. He's already carrying an injury - he has stitches in his elbow from a crash at the Tour of Flanders. He lets out a sigh as he dusts himself of and remounts.
Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank) has abandoned. Cyclingnews spoke to him yesterday and he was feeling good, so it's likely he's acheived what he needed to today in his preparation for Paris-Roubaix.
Maaskant (Garmin-Transtitions) has also called it quits after his crash, just moments ago.
44km remaining from 205km
The gap is pegged at 2:30 now. The peloton has affairs under control, so they'll maintain this situation as status quo for now - they don't want to risk a counter attack too early.
A frantic wheel change is going on between two Ag2R riders, Kristoff Goddart has taken a rear wheel from Ben Gastauer, and is now frantically chasing to get back on terms with the peloton. He tries to hitch a ride on the back of the Quick Step team car, but they're going too fast and he is forced to do the work himself.
Tour of Flanders winner Fabian Cancellara has been riding at the back of the peloton for a while now. He's just made a trip back to the Saxo Bank team car to grab a bidon. He and his teammates are all riding their Paris-Roubaix bikes today - plenty of tyre clearance on display.
38km remaining from 205km
Lars Bak leads the peloton's charge onto the cobbles of the Broekstraat.
2:39 up the road, Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team) has lost contact with the breakaway group.
There's a crash on the pave! Tom Boonen is looking for his team car, his jersey is torn down the right hand side of his back, but he's on his spare bike now and is making his way slowly along the cobbles.
An Euskaltel rider was lying on the ground clutching his right leg. He looked to be in a lot of pain.
Boonen's changing his right shoe on the fly. No rush as the mechanic gives him a push while he straps up. Not surprisingly, it's taking Boonen a LONG time to do the velcro and plastic straps of his shoe up.
He's motorpacing on the back of the Quick Step team car now.
Boonen's back int he team car convoy now, Maarten Wynants has dropped back to give his captain a hand.
33km remaining from 205km
Ahead, the leaders are just coming through the finish for the second time today. David Boucher leads them across the line.
Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team) rides solo across the line, the peloton is probably only about 30 seconds from catching him.
29km remaining from 205km
The peloton flys through the corner that Martijn Maaskant crashed on earlier. Everyone makes it safely through this time around. Garmin-Transitions have lifted the pace and the break's lead is ticking away regularly now.
The peloton - one long line of it - have caught Stewart (BMC) now.
Jos Van Emden (Rabobank) is motorpacing on the back of the commissare's car...not too often you see that sort of thing!
The gap to the leaders is just about to tick below two minutes - oops, there it goes. 1:58.
26km remaining from 205km
The peloton are racing along a smooth, flat suburban road now. They take a slight right hand turn and drive up a shallow gradient. HTC's Matt Goss and Lars Bak have been doing a lot of work to pull things back for Andre Greipel.
There's a lot of experience in the leaders group. No panic. They're still swapping short turns.
23km remaining from 205km
Back onto the cobbles now for the leaders. It must be the single most energy sapping surface in road cycling. The vibration through your hands has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Bernhard Eisel adopts the top of the handlebar technique as he leads the peloton across the pave, 1:33 back.
Change in the make up on the front of the peloton, HTC and Garmin-Transitions have given wat to a mixture of Milram, Saxo Bank and Topsport Vlaanderen jerseys. Regardless, the time gap is still dropping swiftly.
Borut Bozic is pacing his way back onto the peloton, not certain how he ended up there. He could be a dark horse for the win today. Asked by the MC at the start this morning how long it had been since he'd won a race, he replied, "Too long!"
20km remaining from 205km
Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) is now the man on the front of the peloton, there's a flash of a yellow and black Wilier as Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) makes his presence known for the first time in the race.
18km remaining from 205km
The leaders aren't going to retain that status for too much longer. They're riding on smooth roads, but so is the peloton. Andre Greipel's assumed a position at the back of a line of HTC jerseys.
16km remaining from 205km
The leaders have crossed the finish for the penultimate time now. Again, it's Boucher who leads them across, but the peloton does the same just 20 seconds later.
And here is Susan again, to take us to the end of the race.
The field charged over the finish line only 20 seconds behind the leading group.
16km remaining from 205km
Rabobank has taken over the lead work now.
The lead group feels the pressure and starts to fall apart. One rider takes off and the rest eye each other.
It is Hayman of Sky who has taken off. He has built up quite a nice lead!
The blue and orange Rabo jerseys at the head of the field have given way to the blue and white of Quick Step. And up front Hayman is gathered in again.
The lead work changes hands again, as Columbia takes its turn. Boonen is visible near the front now. Hopefully he didn't lose too much in his chase back to the field after his crash earlier.
11km remaining from 205km
Only 10 seconds now between the two groups.
Two riders are caught by the peloton, with three fighting valiantly to stay free.
They put up a good fight but the last escapee was caught right at the 10km marker.
Cancellara is in a small group about 10 seconds behind the peloton.
8km remaining from 205km
Boonen is following closely on the heels of the HTC-Columbia train.
A Vacansoleil rider has now moved to the head of the field.
7km remaining from 205km
A right hand turn and the canal is again on the riders' left.
Interestingly enough, if Greipel wins here today, it would be his first win ever in Belgium.
5km remaining from 205km
Lots of positioning going on here....
We have a lot of Vacansoleil and Quick Step at the front. Where is HTC-Columbia?
3km remaining from 205km
Now Sky has taken over the lead work.
Sky pulls the group around another corner. They are flying now!
Just passed under the 2km banner.
One Sky rider leads the parade under the flamme rouge.
Boonen comes out to open the sprint! With Farrar n his wheel.
Farrar passes the Belgian champion and keeps on going for the easy win!
Boonen looks to have pretty much stood up and stopped as Farar passed him in the finale. Looks like he went too early.
And whatever happened to HTC-Columbia? They disappeared off the radar, and were nowhere in sight
The Garmin-Transitions youngster beat two old hands: Robbie McEwen of Katusha was second, with Milram's Robert Förster claiming third.
Congratuations to our podium: Farrar, McEwen and Förster!
Thanks for joining us today, and be sure to come back and read along Sunday as we take on "The Hell of the North" -- Paris-Roubaix.
Thanks for joining us today, and be sure to come back and read along Sunday as we take on "The Hell of the North" -- Paris-Roubaix.
1. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions)
2. Robbie McEwen (Team Katusha)
3. Robert Förster (Team Milram)
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