Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium.
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Hello and welcome to our live coverage from Dwars door Vlaanderen. Despite the terror attacks in nearby Brussels on Tuesday, the race is going ahead, with riders about to lie-up for the start and a minute silence to remember the victims of the attacks.
Our reporters Barry Ryan, Sadhbh O'Shea and Brecht Decauwler are at the start in Roeselare.
Many riders are wearing black armbands in memory of the victims of the attacks.
Trek Segafredo directeur sportif Drik Demol apparently told his riders that it was up to them to decide if they want to race or not. They all wanted to race and the team is in action today.
Fabian Cancellara will travel by car to Belgium today after training at home in Switzerland.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 10:53:55
The riders have now rolled out and the race is underway.
@DwarsdrVlaander Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 11:06:59
@wielerman Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 11:09:35
After the minutes silence the race is underway and we have the first attacks to form the early break of the day.
Light rain is falling in Belgium today as the race heads Tielt, where the women's race is also underway.
Cyclingnews will have reports from both races after the finish.
The terror attacks meant several teams were unable to field full teams in the race and Giant-Alpecin -who were due to race with six riders due to their pre-season training accident, were unable to start as their riders were unable to reach Belgium.
For a full start list from the race, click here.
It's a busy day of racing with stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya also underway in Spain. The finish at the La Molina ski station should see the overall contenders emerge, with Chris Froome expected to clash with Alberto Contador, Tejay van Garderen and many others.
Cyclingnews will have a full report, photo gallery and exclusive news later today.
A group of riders have opened a gap but the peloton is not letting them get away.
Today's Dwars Door Vlaanderen is the first race of the spring and marks the start of the cobbled Classics in Belgium. On Friday there is the E3 Harelbeke, then Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Next week sees the Three Days of De Panne act as the count down to the 100th Tour of Flanders on Sunday April 3.
@wielerman Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 11:27:18
The rain is now falling harder on both the men's and women's race, making for a tougher day in the saddle.
177km remaining from 199km
After a fast opening 30 minutes of racing, the break of the day has yet to form.
@KenSommer Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 11:37:09
After 35 km we have a break of six riders.
The riders are Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jesper Asselman (Roompot) Victor Igor Manakov and Boev (Gazprom), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Alex Kirsch (Stölting).
The gap is now 2:00. We have the break of the day.
The break now has a lead of 4:00 as the rain turns heavy. It's going to be a hard day out front and in the peloton.
While we await the first sector of cobbles and climbs, why not listen to the latest Cyclingnews podcast.
After Milan-San Remo we spoke to Sean Kelly, Michael Matthews and his Orica DS Matt White.
Click here to listen to the latest podcast.
The first climb in the men's race is the Kwaremont and comes after 92km. It is the first of 12 climbs today.
The average speed for the first hour is close to 44.5Km. The break now leads the peloton by 5:00.
The six-rider break has passed through the finish are in Waregem and now leads by 6:30.
The riders in the peloton are wearing rain coats and eating lots of food to fight the cold and wet conditions.
The Orica-GreenEdge and Lotto Soudal teams are leading the chase at the front of the peloton, ensuring the gap to the break does not get too big.
2013 winner Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) spoke to Cyclingnews after he signed on in Roeselare.
“I didn’t have any difficulties getting here. I had a flight that was going to Lille, so I had no problems. But of course I heard about my colleagues who had various issues in getting here on time, but thankfully it seems that most of us made it."
“It’s awful that a tragedy like this has taken place. You can feel the sadness in the air here. I think it’s right that we’re racing, to try to overcome this sad moment as best we can."
“Today I will have a bit of space because Peter [Sagan] isn’t here. It’s a race that I like and a race that’s always gone quite well for me, so I’ll try again this year for a result.”
Giacomo Nizzolo and his Trek-Segafredo teammate Niccolò Bonifazio had to alter their travel plans following the terrorist attacks in Brussels yesterday, eventually reaching the team hotel near Bruges at 1:00am in the morning.
“I had a flight from Milan that was due to arrive in Brussels around 1pm. In the end, I got in to Charleroi late last night and I made it to the hotel for around 1am or so. I slept a bit less than normal but it won’t change much for me today. It’s not a problem,” Nizzolo told Cyclingnews on the start line.
“We’re used to racing in a festive atmosphere in Belgium, so it’s certainly very different, very sad. I think the best argument for racing today was to show that we’re not going to let ourselves be intimidated.”
@TrekSegafredo Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 12:36:42
The Movistar team has been left with just four riders for today’s race, with the remaining four unable to make it to Belgium after yesterday’s terror attacks. Jasha Sutterlin is one of those who is riding today, and he was very subdued as he spoke to Cyclingnews ahead of the race.
“I don’t know. It’s a crazy time now, also with the terror in Paris. We can be lucky that it hasn’t happened in the races,” he told Cyclingnews. “It’s a little bit difficult because we have just four riders and we will try to give our best for the race and for the team. We have Andrey [Amador] who is a good rider for the classics and [Juan Jose] Lobato and we will try to work for these two guys.
“We will stay in the peloton first and we will just see what the other riders are doing. For sure, we will be working for the final 50 kilometres and that’s it.”
@Etixx_QuickStep Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 12:44:58
The race is passing through Harelbeke at the moment, which will host Friday's E3 Harelbeke race.
124km remaining from 199km
The break is working hard and fighting any chase by the peloton. The six-riders lead is now up to 7:45.
@DwarsdrVlaander Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 13:10:56
The rain has stopped now but there are still big great clouds above the riders.
Lotto Soudal are backing Jelle Wallays in today's race. The 26-year-old is the defending champion having won in a tactical Davy vs. Goliath 2015 edition.
He and then-Topsport Vlaanderen teammate Edward Theuns surprised some of the WorldTour teams by getting into the final four-man breakaway then undoing Michal Kwiatkowski and Dylan van Baarle.
The move earned both those riders WorldTour contracts. Theuns now rides for Trek-Segafredo.
95km remaining from 199km
The effort of Etixx-Quickstep is starting to really eat into the advantage of the leaders. What was more than seven minutes is now just an advantage of 5:44.
A reminder, our leaders are: Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Jesper Asselman (Roompot - Oranje Peloton), Alex Kirsch (Stölting Service Group), Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18), Igor Boev (Gazprom-Rusvelo), and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert)
@Etixx_QuickStep Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 13:35:19
As you can see from the photo, the riders are all wearing black armbands for the victims of the Brussels bombings. It's been an emotional day for the entirety of Belgium, but it's great to be able to enjoy sport and not think about terrorists for a while.
89km remaining from 199km
The riders are starting to shed their rain jackets now that the rain stopped. But up ahead, the leaders are getting some sprinkles again so it might be premature.
Although there was great concern that the peloton would be decimated by the travel problems caused by the bombings in Brussels, there are only 21 riders missing from the race. Giant-Alpecin, who are down in numbers because of the training camp crash in January, were the only team to withdraw entirely.
4:49 now with 88.5km to go.
The peloton are on a wide open road, but the riders are still trying to move up between parked cars and the bike path. It's a little bit dodgy, but mild by Belgian racing standards.
86km remaining from 199km
The peloton are on the Kattenberg now, the cobbles aren't too bad on this climb and it's not very steep. They are spread all across the road, clearly not in full pursuit of the leaders as the rain resumes.
But, the gap is coming down steadily still, now 4:08 with 86.2km to go.
Belgian champion Preben Van Hecke takes a dig on the Holleweg, a 1500m stretch of cobbles. He gets a small gap with a Cofidis rider and one oether.
An Etixx rider has a puncture at the same time. It's Wisniowski.
84km remaining from 199km
It's Van Bilsen for Cofidis, and an Orica-GreenEdge rider has come across to mark this move.
The pavé is strewn with bottles as the peloton leaves the Holleweg. There's now five riders with a slight advantage, a Lotto-Jumbo rider has gone across, and Direct Energie is chasing furiously.
All this activity is bad news for our breakaway, who now have just 3:26 with 83km to go. The five riders ahead of the field are about to be caught.
Asselman leads the breakaway on the Haaghoek, a 2km section of rough pave. The Roompot rider looks comfortable tackling the cobbles.
81km remaining from 199km
In the peloton behind, the Etixx-Quickstep team has resumed control after that flurry of attacks, and the pace slows down. Still, the gap to the leaders continues to drop - now 3:18.
Crash in the peloton - a rider in red went into the ditch on the road side.
The verges on the roadsides in Belgium are frought with danger, as Michael Schär has discovered. The BMC rider went head over heels into the gully.
80km remaining from 199km
Topsport Vlaanderen is helping with the chase over the Haaghoek, pulling back a few more seconds from the leaders - now at 3:00
We have an attack on the Haaghoek from a LottoNl-Jumbo rider.
It's Tom Van Asbroeck - oooof! But he loses some of his lead by overcooking a corner.
There's a crash behind on the same turn from a Trek rider.
Fumiyuki Beppu wasn't as lucky as Van Asbroeck. The Lotto rider skirted a short post by a centimeter, but Beppu hit it and went down.
A Topsport rider is going across to Van Asbroeck.
76km remaining from 199km
The Topsport rider is Jonas Rickaert, but we're not sure if the Lotto rider is Van Asbroeck or Mike Teunissen. We think it's Teunissen, the former cyclo-cross U23 world champion. Certainly his skills around that turn would support that.
The leaders have 2:48 on the peloton, but the two attackers are getting about 23 seconds now.
The chasers are on the Berendries, a tough little climb that kicks up to 14% - the peloton can see them and are letting then dangle a little.
73km remaining from 199km
Another near pile-up in the peloton as the road narrowed, but this time everyone stayed upright, though some lost positions. The chase of two is gaining time thanks to that, they now have almost 40 seconds, while the leaders are another 2 minutes up the road.
We've got an Orica-GreenEdge rider bridging that 40s gap to the chasers.
Teunissen looks behind in a bend and sees the Orica rider, has a brief conversation with Rickaert that they'll wait for him.
72km remaining from 199km
It's none other than Luke Durbridge - the former U23 world champion in the time trial made short work of bridging that gap.
We are hearing that race leader Nacer Bouhanni has abandoned Volta a Catalunya. He said yesterday that he wasn't feeling well but won the stage anyhow.
71km remaining from 199km
The leaders are on the Valkenberg, the 8.1% average, 12% max will bite for sure. Their lead is still dwindling, now 2:33 to the bunch and 1:58 to the trio chasing.
69km remaining from 199km
The chasers are really making up time now, thanks to Durbridge. They have one minute on the peloton and 1:39 to the leaders.
@DwarsdrVlaander Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 14:17:42
62km remaining from 199km
The race is coming back together for a thrilling finale.
It's time for the Eikenberg, the sixth of 12 climbs today.
It is steep and cobbled, causing the break to switch to the gutter.
Riders are falling out of the back of the break, including Gougeard of Ag2r.
The peloton is still 2:30 back, as Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) leads the way onto the Eikenberg.
The peloton is lined out as they cross some exposed Flemish fields.
@guyvdl Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 14:33:18
52km remaining from 199km
The Taaienberg is next, with the peloton lined out in the gutter.
We have a split, with 30 or so riders in the front peloton.
The surge by the peloton has cut the gap to 1:40.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) is active on the front of the peloton. This is the real race for victory now.
45km remaining from 199km
A select group has formed out of the peloton but they are being chased down.
The peloton attackers have caught the chase group that includes Australia's Luke Durbridge. They are just a minute behind the early break of the race.
We have 15 or so riders in the front group.
They are working to chase the break but also looking behind to control the chasers.
It's almost time for the Oude-Kwaremont climb.
Jens Keukeleire is in the move for Orica-GreenEdge as the riders take turns to do the work on the front.
The peloton is 25seconds back. The Oude-Kwaremont will be decisive for their chances.
35km remaining from 199km
The four riders in the break are still working smoothly together but look tired and are struggling to set a decent speed, especially on the cobbles of the Oude-Kwaremont.
@BMCProTeam Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 14:57:41
The Oude-Kwaremont has helped the chasers close the gap even more, its just 30 seconds now.
Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) has bravely hit out alone but the peloton is coming across to sweep them up.
The peloton is splitting as the cobbles make a big difference on the riders' tired legs.
Behind the peloton is lined out.
Next up is the Paterberg (700 meters, 12% average gradient), in this tough finale.
Van Melsen hits it first but the chasers are only 30 second behind him.
2013 winner Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) leads the line of riders in the gutter. He looks strong and ups the pace.
The Paterberg has shaken out the chasers, with five riders chasing.
28km remaining from 199km
In the five are Durbridge, Gatto, Maes, Devenyns but other riders are joining them.
There are ten riders in the front group now, with Van Avermaet (BMC) in the group behind them at 30 seconds.
Two Bora-Argon 18 and two Orica riders are leading the attacking group, working to keep the likes of Van Avermaet and Gaviria at a distance.
It's illegal under UCI rules but the riders are now riding on the dirt track at the side of the road.
They do it to avoid the cobbles and line out their rivals.
Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) is riding well today and has attacked. He's joined by Thwaites, Gatto and others.
They have Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) just ahead of them as other riders come back up to them.
21km remaining from 199km
It's almost time for the Vossenhol climb. We can expect more attacks here.
It is 1400m long and will hurt Van Melsen's legs.
Behind the Lotto Soudal riders are leading the chase and
Tiesj Benoot quickly goes off the front, sparking another group.
Benoot is one of many riders to wear black tape on his arm in memory of the Brussels attack victims.
After early rain, the roads are now dry.
Filippo Pozzato (Southeast) is in the chase group. WE spoke to him at the start.
"I had to change plans a few times yesterday. I was supposed to go to Brussels first, then to Charleroi and eventually I flew to Lille, but we made it here in the end. “
It’s a bit different today. They told us it was possible to race today and we put our trust in the authorities that it’s safe to do so. But there’s certainly an unusual atmosphere today, it’s different to what you expect in Belgium. There’s not the same atmosphere or excitement in the crowd.”
“I’m feeling good. Saturday was a longer race and you don’t have to fight as much for position in the finale, which probably suited me well. But the legs are good, so I’m hopeful I can go well here too."
As Van Me;sen is caught, these are the new leaders on the road: Nikolas Maes (Etixx), Luke Durbridge (Orica), Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon 18), Giacomo Nizzolo, Loic Vliegen (BMC) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert).
15km remaining from 199km
The group has only 25 seconds on the chasers. This race is still wide open.
Team strategy will decide if the attack stays away. Maes has Gaviria behind and Vliegen will surely have to wait for Van Avermaet.
Durbridge has opted not to wait and attacks again.
But he is chased by Nizzolo and the gap to the chasers is only 15 seconds.
There are close to 30 riders in the chase group.
Upfront Vliegen has a little try and so perhaps has the freedom to ride for himself today.
Scott Thwaites (Bora) is again up front and looking strong.
Benoot also attacks but the others are quickly on his wheel.
Durbridge goes again and then so does Benoot. But the chasers can see them.
Direct Energie is leading the chase behind, riding for Bryan Coquard, who also does a turn on the front.
10km remaining from 199km
Gruppo compatto, as they say in Italy. The two groups come together and we have a totally different finale.
Attack by Van Avermaet!
He is going for it as they hit the Nokereberg, the last climb of the race.
Van Avermaet doe not have a big lead but his attack has smashed the peloton.
He is going deep and is committed to this attack.
There are four chasers behind him but they are losing ground.
Stuyven and Thwaites are chasing but Nikki Teprstra drags up Gaviria to the front too.
Greg van Avermaet now has a 10-second lead. This will be close.
4km remaining from 199km
The chasers seem to have lost conviction and speed. Van Avermaet is also out of sight.
Lotto Soudal pick up the chase but it could be too late.
3km remaining from 199km
Van Avermaet has his arms on the tops of the levers as he tries to give it everything to stay away alone.
2km remaining from 199km
But the gap is falling. It is now eight seconds. They can see Van Avermaet now.
This is too close to call!
A corner and kick up helps Van Avermaet. But they can almost touch him
Van Avermaet is caught in sight of the finish!
It's the Bussen!
Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) wins the sprint by half a wheel, ahead of Coquard (Direct Energie).
A gutted Van Avermaet was caught in the final 300 metres.
Gaviria started the sprint early but faded and was soon past by several riders.
Coquard thought he had won, only to see Debusschere beat him to line.
Here is the provisional result:
1 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
2 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
3 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
4 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela
5 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
6 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Tinkoff Team
8 Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon 18
9 Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx - Quick-Step.
Pozzato was also a threat but struggled to find a way through to the line.
Debusschere came up on the left of the road and passed Gatto to then beat Coquard with a bike throw to the line.
The photo finish showed that Coquard had sat up at the line, perhaps thinking he had won.
@inrng Wed, 23rd Mar 2016 15:57:04
Thanks for joining us for live coverage from Dwars Door Vlaanderen. We will have a full report, photos and news stories from the finish on Cyclingnews very soon.
Join us on Friday for full coverage of E3 Harelbeke race as the cobbled Classics in Belgium continue.
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