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Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne - live coverage


Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne.

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the riders have left the centre of Brugges for the official start outside the city.

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In the four years since the race has been a one-day Classic, the winner has been either a sprinter or late attacker, and it's no surprise that plenty of quick finishers will be lining up in Brugge to take the start.

Patrick Fletcher and Barry Ryan are on the ground in Belgium and will have all the latest Classics news, plus interviews and analysis post-race. 

The sun was out at the start in spectacular Brugge and with little risk of cross winds, a rip-roaring sprint finish is expected.   

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A total of 159 riders started the race. 

The non-starters are: 

Mikkel Honoré (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)

Szymon Sajnok (Cofidis)

Julien Morice (B&B)

Samuele Zoccarato (Bardiani)

William Levy (Uno-X)

The riders face a 8.8km transfer from Brugse Markt to Torhoutsesteenweg for the official start. 

There were several punctures during the  roll out and a bike change for Sam Bennett.

When the flag dropped for the official start, there was an immediate attack. 

Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen) and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) have quickly opened a 30-second gap.  

QuickStep confirmed that Mikkel Honoré wouldn't start today due to a mild upper respiratory tract infection that developed overnight. 

That leaves the team down to six riders as they try to set-up Mark Cavendish for the win.

The peloton has let the trio of attackers go clear. They now lead by 1:30.   

The sprinters took top-billing at the start.

The big-name sprinters line-up for the start of the Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish won Milano-Torino last week and is favourite today. 

Mark Cavendish (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This was the roll out from central Brugge.

The riders roll out of the start of the Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This graphic shows who are the favourites for the race based on the XOO-Cycling Prediction Game data.

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The trio have extended their lead to 2:40. The sprint teams appear to be playing bluff about who should lead the chase.

The one and only.... Mark Cavendish took centre stage at the team sign-on.

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This was the fast start to the race.

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Wow! The sprinters' teams are not willing to commit to the chase of the trio. 

The gap is up to 7:00. 

Finally, Iljo Keisse goes to the front to start the chase for QuickStep. 

Nobody has a better view of the action that Belgian TV motorbike journalist Renaat Schotte. 

He's already alongside the breakaway trio. 

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Sam Bennett is riding the Classic Brugge-De Panne in his new Bora-Hansgrohe colours and with his new lead-out train as he seeks to defend his title at the Belgian Classic after a slow start to 2022 due to illness and a lack of racing fitness and sprint power. 

Despite a disintegrating relationship with Belgian team boss Patrick Lefevere last summer, the Irishman has said that his time at the team was "great".

Click below to read the full story after Bennett spoke to Flemish newspaper Nieuwsblad.

Sam Bennett: I had great years at QuickStep (opens in new tab)

Irish Sam Bennett of BoraHansgrohe at the start of the third stage of 80th edition of the ParisNice eight day cycling stage race from Vierzon to DunlePalestel 1908 km Tuesday 08 March 2022 BELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images)

Today's race is sprinters' showdown. 

Caleb Ewan, Fabio Jakobsen, Wout van Aert and Jasper Philipsen are absent but nearly every other sprinter is riding and looking to win.

The average speed of the first hour of racing is 43.3 km/h.  

The work of the peloton has cut the lead to 4:50 as the sprint teams realise they cannot let the trio gain too much time.  

The sun is out in Flanders and so the riders can enjoy the racing in shorts and short sleeve jerseys. They will be hoping for weather like this for the next four weeks.  

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At Intermarche Gerben Thijssen, Barnabas Peak and Biniam Girmay are all fast and all in good form. 

Sporza suggest they will have to play Rock, Scissors, Paper to decide who is the protected sprinter.

Hopefully the team has a more formal strategy.   

155km to go

The race is heading towards De Panne and will pass through the finish area in less than 20km. 

Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl, Bora-Hansgrohe and Alpecin-Fenix are leading the chase, with Nils Politt doing the work as he tries to build his form for the Classics after recent illness.   

Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) lead the peloton

(Image credit: Getty Images)

These are the three attackers: Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen) and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).

The early break at Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the pandemic-delayed edition of 2020, Yves Lampaert escaped to claim a solo win in De Panne, but the three other editions of this iteration of the event have ended in bunch sprints, with Elia Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen and Sam Bennett emerging victorious on Veurnestraat.

In his race preview, Barry Ryan rightly called it 'The sprinters' showdown'  

The Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne is not what it used to be. Before Flanders Classics rearranged the furniture of the Belgian Spring to its liking in 2018, this was a three-day event that had proudly served as the final warm-up for the Tour of Flanders since 1977.

The Ronde organisers, however, wanted the build-up to their marquee event to themselves, and so Dwars door Vlaanderen, another race from their stable, was shifted to the Wednesday before the big day with the blessing of Belgian Cycling.

Under the stewardship of the late Bernard Van De Kerkhove, the Vélo Club De Panne had, in the manner of Asterix’s indomitable village, held out for years against such a move. The organisation bowed to the inevitable four years ago, agreeing to swap weeks with Dwars door Vlaanderen and downsizing from a stage race. Perhaps as a quid pro quo, the race was upgraded to WorldTour level the following year.

The new-look race skips the cobbles and hills of deepest Flanders, preferring instead to follow a more straightforward route from Bruges towards the plat pays of the North Sea coast, immortalised in song by Jacques Brel. 

The 207km race sets out from the Markt in Bruges, which served as the grand backdrop for the Tour of Flanders start before Antwerp took over in 2017. 

After trekking southwest for 60km or so, the race hits a 45.1km finishing circuit around De Panne and Veurne, which is tackled three-and-half-times. The obstacle comes not so much from the terrain as from the elements. The roads in the finale, especially in the marshy area of De Moeren, are wickedly exposed to the North Sea wind, and the multiple changes of direction on the local circuit offer ample opportunity to create echelons.

The read Barry Ryan's full preview, click below.

The sprinters' showdown: Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne Preview (opens in new tab)

DE PANNE BELGIUM MARCH 24 Arrival Sam Bennett of Ireland and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Celebration Jasper Philipsen of Belgium and Team AlpecinFenix during the 45th Oxyclean Brugge De Panne 2021 Men Classic a 2039km race from Brugge to De Panne OxycleanClassic on March 24 2021 in De Panne Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

A small crash sees Adrien Petit and Jelle Wallays go down. 

Jumbo-Visma are without Wout van Aert but have talented 20-year-old sprinter
Olav Kooij in their line-up. 

Add his name to the long-list of contenders.

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135km to go

It's time for three laps of 45.1km around De Panne. The loop visits the coastline, goes inland and near the border with France but all on pan flat roads.

The map of the 2022 Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne

(Image credit: Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne)

It's lunch and drink time in the peloton.

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As the riders visit the exposed De Moeren area of the circuit, there is some wind and so the tension is riding in the peloton. 

The break's lead has fallen to 3: 20. The race is coming alive and the speed is rising. 

There are apparently risks of a protest by farmers in the De Moeren area. They could happen on any of the laps of the De Panne circuit.

The pace is still high in the peloton. 

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110km to go

We're nearing half distance now. 

Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen) and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) lead by 4:30 as the peloton enjoys the Belgian spring sun.

Mark Cavendish spoke pre-race, on the chances of a sprint finish.

“There’s a big, big chance of sprint finish here," he said in the mixed zone.  

"It’s not an easy circuit and the wind could pick up, fortunately not like the year when Yves won alone and the wind blew it to bits. 

“It should be pretty straight forward sprint, not easy of course. The run in to the finish should lead to quite a chaotic bunch sprint.

"I won many stages at the Driedaagse De Panne but it’d be nice to win it as a one day race too."   

95km to go

The trio are only 2:50 ahead now. They quickly opened a 7:00 gap but the peloton has shared the workload to bring them back under control. 

These are the three attackers.

The early break at Minerva Classic Brugge-De Panne

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alpecin-Fenix are leading the peloton as the break passes through the finish area, with two laps to go.   

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The peloton is at 2:00 and spread across the road as they also ride through the finish.

The break and the peloton are perhaps playing games, riding at a steady pace before accelerating for the final kilometres. 

Haussler: Mohoric is a freak, anything is possible for him

'As soon as I saw him at the top of the Poggio I knew he was going to win Milan-San Remo'

SANREMO ITALY MARCH 19 Matej Mohoric of Slovenia and Team Bahrain Victorious competes in the breakaway during the 113th MilanoSanremo 2022 a 293km one day race from Milano to Sanremo MilanoSanremo on March 19 2022 in Sanremo Italy Photo by Tim de WaeleGetty Images

(Image credit: Tim de WaeleGetty Images)

82km to go

2:45 between the breakaway and the peloton right now. 

Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Dmitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) still out front.

Alpecin-Fenix, Bora-Hansgrohe, QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Arkéa-Samsic all at the front.

Sam Bennett will be testing out his new Bora-Hansgrohe lead-out train again today. He's here with Nils Politt, Ryan Mullen, Danny van Poppel and Jordi Meeus.

Sam Bennett: I had great years at QuickStep

It's a quiet period of the race. Little action going on at the moment as the sprint squads control the gap.

71km to go

No wind blowing across the road at the moment when usually we might see some threatening to rip the race apart as this stage as the riders race over exposed roads.

Sonny Colbrelli: I know I've been lucky but I don't want to end things like this

Italian could return home from hospital by the weekend

Eventual second placed Italian Sonny Colbrelli of Bahrain Victorious C rides during the mens elite race of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad oneday cycling race 2042km from Gent to Ninove on February 26 2022 Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMAN Belga AFP Belgium OUT Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBelgaAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: DAVID STOCKMANBelgaAFP via Getty Images)

Gonzalo Serrano (Movistar) has hit the deck. He's the only rider who has crashed and he hasn't got back up from sitting on the tarmac yet. 

60km to go

2:10 back to the peloton at the moment. Little change as the riders roll on.

The break suddenly sprint for a special prime.  

Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) surged away to win it, apparently winning a life-time supply of ebikes. 

The peloton passes through a feed zone, with Trek riders on the front grabbing bidons.  

With 57km to go, riders are taking on late drinks and food. 

From the air we can see the sprinters packed together in the peloton, protected by teammates. 

The riders are in the final kilometres of the circuit and so some sprinters are moving to the front to study the run-in to the finish on the final lap.

In an hour or so, on the final lap, positioning and timing will be vital. 

The peloton is in the sand dunes and country roads of Koksijde.  

50km to go

As we near the final lap, the pace in the peloton is increasing, with Iljo Keisse doing a lot of the work. 

Nils Politt is also giving it big licks on the front. There's a real sense that this is a trial run of the finish for the final lap.

Just 40km to go now. The speed is up after the finish area but still on technical, narrow roads.

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Riders take to the footpath on a roundabout to try to move up and stay safe. 

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The fight for position was because the riders are now on a single-lane concrete road.

Puncture for a Uno-X rider.

34km to go and the rider hit the De Moeren exposed roads. 

There is a slight breeze from the riders' right but not enough to split the peloton. 

Nils Politt is again on the front, going deep to work on his form for the Classics and to protect Sam Bennett's hopes in the sprint. 

QuickStep are wisely on on the front, leading the peloton and keeping Cavendish safe and well-placed. 

Meanwhile, up front in the break... 

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However the break is being swept up with 30km to go. 

Battaglin has already eased-up and been caught. 

30km to go


A couple of riders go down into the ditch. 

Fortunately nobody is hurt. 

However the speed and tension will be even higher. 

The race is all together after Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauzen) and Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) were caught.

Some riders are off the back after the crash split the peloton.

It's a real fight for position as the road turns left and right, with lots of traffic furniture.

25km to go

Here come Lotto Soudal. They move up to the front for the first time to set-up Arnaud De Lie.

Another crash!!!

Two Movistar riders were involved, as was a race marshal. 

Traffic furniture splits the peloton but they squeeze back together.  

There is another squeeze going through the centre of Veurne. Stay safe everyone.

20km to go

Lotto Soudal are committed here but there is still a long way to go considering the speed and fighting for position to come. 

Teams are trying to stay united and up front to protect their sprinters.

The road widens on  highway but everyone is trying to move up.

Here come Trek-Segafredo. They move up to the front along their right of the road. 

Groupama also move up with Demare.

There is lots of bumping and moving up for position.

QuickStep appear to have opted for a later strategy and only move up now, on a wide road.  

Cavendish is not with leadout man Morkov at the moment but the Dane is trying to move up to do his vital job.

The average speed is up to 55km/h. Ouch!

Riders are on two roads and the bike path! 

Bingoal try to take over in the chaos. 

It's full gas racing but the riders are taking risks to stay up front.  

Position is vital in the final 10km. 

10km to go

Most teams are opting for 2/3 rider leadouts, so they can stay up front and react as a unit.  

BikeExchange take over now as the pace and fighting for position eases slightly.  

The riders are back on the main road but there will be another squeeze soon.

The tension is high now. 

Such is the speed, riders are being spat out from the back. 

Lotto again take control. but do they have the team strength to control all the way to the finish? 

5km to go

Buckle-up for a sprint finish!

The road is again down to one lane. 

Where are QuickStep?  

Riders are flooding the bike path as well as the road.

3km to go.

UAE are there for Ackermann.

The narrow roads line out the peloton. 

There's a front group of only 40 riders. They will fight for the win. 

Crash! Ackermann goes down.

Last km! 

Here comes QuickStep for  Cavendish.


Cavendish sits up. 

It's a close sprint. 

Dylan Groenewegen was there, Merlier too.

It needs a photo finish but it looks like Merlier.

Bouhanni was also there, with Max Walscheid just behind.

It's Merlier. Just. With a bike throw. 

The lack of wind and other factors lead to a high-speed and nervous finale and sprint.

This is Merlier's third win of 2022 after a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and last week's Danilith Nokere Koerse. 

The official photo finish shows that Merlier won by a tyre's width. 

“I’m happy with this win. It’s my third victory of 2022 and my second WorldTour win. I’m proud of it,” Merlier said.

This is the photo finish.

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This is the sprint shot.

Belgian Tim Merlier of AlpecinFenix L wins before Dutch Dylan Groenewegen of BikeExchangeJayco at the finish of the mens elite race of the Classic BruggeDe Panne oneday cycling race 2079km from Brugge to De Panne Wednesday 23 March 2022 BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER Photo by KURT DESPLENTER BELGA MAG Belga via AFP Photo by KURT DESPLENTERBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: KURT DESPLENTERBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images)

Watch the sprint finish here. 

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Merlier came along the barriers, passing Olav Kooij, who went too early. 

Groenewegen came down the middle of the road but lacked a little bit of speed and perfect bike-throw.


Tim Merlier takes top stop of the podium as the sun sets over the De Panne coastline.

He also wins a Minerva bike. 

This is another shot of the sprint finish.

Minerva Classic Brugge De Panne 2022 46th Edition Brugge De Panne 2079 km 23032022 Tim Merlier BEL Alpecin Fenix Dylan Groenewegen NED Team BikeExchange Jayco photo Nico VereeckenPNSprintCyclingAgency202

(Image credit: Nico Vereecken/PNSprintCyclingAgency)
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This is what Tim Merlier said after his win:  

"I launched quickly, and I was a bit lucky that the door didn't close. I felt Groenewegen coming and had to 'snake' as we say, but in the end, it was just enough.

"The run-up to the sprint was actually indescribable. If they would show pictures of that... I'm glad I got to the finish safely. I knew the dangerous parts. A fresh peloton is always dangerous, of course.

"We're not allowed on the bike path, but sometimes you just can't do anything else when you have to swerve. That makes it extra dangerous, because you want to get off as soon as possible.

"Scheldeprijs is also coming up, but I'm quite satisfied with the season I've already ridden. It's my third win already and I'm quite proud of that."

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For more photographs, our growing race report and the results, click on our report page below. 

Merlier beats Groenewegen in Classic Brugge-De Panne photo finish (opens in new tab)

Belgian Tim Merlier of AlpecinFenix L wins before Dutch Dylan Groenewegen of BikeExchangeJayco at the finish of the mens elite race of the Classic BruggeDe Panne oneday cycling race 2079km from Brugge to De Panne Wednesday 23 March 2022 BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER Photo by KURT DESPLENTER BELGA MAG Belga via AFP Photo by KURT DESPLENTERBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images

(Image credit: KURT DESPLENTERBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images)

This is the top ten: 

1 Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 4:45:41
2 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) BikeExchange-Jayco
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Arkea-Samsic
4 Maximilian Walscheid (Ger) Cofidis
5 Olav Kooij (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
6 Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
7 Simone Consonni (Ita) Cofidis
8 Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Bahrain Victorious

It's a busy day of racing but we've got reports and photos from all the action. 

Click here to see our report and gallery from the Coppi e Bartali race.  (opens in new tab)

Thanks for joining us for live coverage. We'll be back on Thursday for live coverage of the women's Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne race.

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