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Gent - Wevelgem 2017

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Good morning.  We're in Deinze for the start of the 2017 edition of Gent-Wevelgem. The start will take place in just under half an hour and right now riders are busily signing on in the brisk spring conditions. Ahead of the peloton is one of the most important one-day races of the season and we'll be bringing you live coverage throughout the day.

Belgian broadcasters, Sporza have this morning billed this as Sagan versus Gaviria, giving both riders three stars (that's the max). Tom Boonen, Greg Van Avermaet and Arnaud Demare have two, while John Degenkolb, Michael Matthews, Alexander Kristoff, Jurgen Roelandts and Sonny Colbrelli have one a piece. 

Roughly 15 mins from the rollout here in Deinze with most of the peloton having signed on and made their way to the start line. As per normal, there's a huge turnout from fans. Peter Sagan, twice a winner here, and the defending champion, is close to the front. He and Kuznetsov are the only survivors from last year's winning break to be on the startline this morning. Fabian Cancellara has since retired and Sep Vanmarcke, second last year, has been ruled out through illness. 

Matteo Trentin has just made his way to the start line. QuickStep have Boonen, Gilbert and Gaviria in their ranks but Trentin may also have his own chance. He penned a blog for us last night, all about the Classics and the one ingredient he's been lacking in recent weeks. Luck. Read it here.

You can find our official start list right here.

The roll-out has started and the peloton is heading through the neutralized zone. The official start is around four minutes away. A few riders on the front, laughing and chatting but that will all change in the next few minutes. It looks like we have a tailwind, and there will certainly be attacks from the gun as the early break tries to establish a lead over the bunch. 

It's the Wanty - Groupe Gobert team who sit on the front now. They're leading the bunch as a mark of respect for Antoine Demoitié, who died after being struck by a motorcycle during last year's event. In another show of respect theorganisers of the race are not using bib number 192, the number Demoitié raced in last year.

The flag has dropped and we are officially racing at the 2017 edition of Gent-Wevelgem.

A point to prove? Having lost Sep Vanmarcke in the build up to the race through illness, the Cannondale Drapac team are the first attackers. They've already volleyed two men off the front of the peloton as they look to make the race. The men in green are missing their Belgian captain and Taylor Phinney but they still have a few cards to play. Langeveld was once considered a contender for these races and Bettiol has a few top-tens to his name already this season.

The strongest all-round unit in the race has to be QuickStep Floors. You really have to look hard to find the weak link in that team and they can win from a number of positions. No Gilbert, but they have Boonen, and Gaviria for the sprint, Terpstra, Lampaert, Stybar and Trentin for late moves, and Vermote and Keisse to do some early work. It's impressive but can they see of Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet?

242km remaining from 249km

Wave after wave, the attacks keep coming but so far the peloton has jumped on anything that's moved. We could be in for a tense and incredibly fast opening hour of racing. 

Team Sky do not have the depth of QuickStep but the British team do have Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe to lead the line. This race probably doesn't suit Stannard as well as say Flanders or Roubaix but he needs a result for confidence if anything. So far, since his European season started in February, his best result was 14th place in Kuurne. 

Still no break from the bunch as we see another volley of attacks come from the front. Each move is being shut down almost immediately. 

235km remaining from 249km

While we wait for the day's early break to form, why not take a look back at last year's race highlights video. Click here.

228km remaining from 249km

Bora are all here for Peter Sagan, as you'd expect. If it comes down to a sprint it will be interesting to see if he has a leadout man. Bennett is here but the distance might be an issue for him. Either way, Sagan has a pretty robust unit around him. 

No Cavendish for Dimension Data today but the team do have two former race winners in the ranks with Edvald Boasson Hagen (2009) and Bernhard Eisel (2010). The Austrian won from a small group while Boasson Hagen won in a two-man sprint in awful conditions. The Norwegian, it has to be said, has been off the boil so far this season. Can he turn his campaign around today?

Nine riders clip off the front, including Offredo. They're quickly reeled back in and we're all together again. One big happy family with 228km to go.

Away from Gent-Wevelgem we're up and running for the final stage in Catalunya. The big news from 24 hours ago was that Contador moved into second place after Froome and Team Sky had a nightmare, losing over 20 minutes and almost missing the time cut. You can read all about that, right here. Unless anything ridiculous happens, Valverde should take the overall title.

220km remaining from 249km

Not a huge amount of firepower in that early move but they're quickly putting time into the peloton as QuickStep start making the calculations as to when they need to start chasing. The gap has gone out to 6 minutes in no time at all.

Meanwhile in the women's race, the peloton are about the make the first ascent of the Kemmelberg.

A little over 200km to and it's FDJ who have started to organise a chase. I call it a chase but really they're just the only team on the front and riding in an organised fashion. The break are still putting time into the main field.

Tom Boonen's Specialized Tarmac for today's race comes with the new Dura Ace. Full gallery and story to come...

The gap is holding at six minutes with FDJ a constant presence on the front of the bunch for their man Demare. The 2016 Milan-San Remo winner took  a stage in most recent edition of Paris Nice and has been in form since the start of the year. This race, as he said this morning, does suit him, and he has a strong French team around him.

Mullen, more of a time trialists, comes through and takes a turn on the front. He's followed by Wanty's Mark McNally, who told the media at the start of the race that the team would be racing for their former teammate, Antoine Demoitié, who died in a tragic accident last year.

195km remaining from 249km

One rider we've not mentioned at all this morning is Caleb Ewan. He's still learning his way through these races but at 50/1 he's a decent outsider should the race end in a bunch sprint. He finished 10th in Milan-San Remo so he has the staying power when it comes to the distance. The question is whether he can make it over the cobbles, and the climbs, and then compete with the likes of Sagan and Gaviria in a head-to-head sprint.

187km remaining from 249km

QuickStep simply moved to the front without any hesitation or fuss, put the hammer down at the right moment and chaos ensued behind. The gap is still at 30 seconds between the two pelotons but we don't yet have names from either group.

The gap between the first part of the peloton and the second has moved out to 40 seconds. It's far too early to tell how decisive a move this is as we've still over 180km to go but this could well be one of the most significant points in the day.

Meanwhile, according to Sporza, Boonen has said that the QuickStep Floors team will work for Gaviria if there's a mass-bunch sprint. However, the Belgian has added that he doesn't expect a large group to finish together. So...

179km remaining from 249km

171km remaining from 249km

The fast start to the race, helped by the tailwind, means that we're on course for an early finish. Should the conditions hold out, however, we should have a headwind in the finale. 

160km remaining from 249km

The wind continues to be an issue as the nine leaders fan out across the road in another section of cross winds. Neutral service hands something to one of escapees as Mullen drifts to the back of the group.

150km remaining from 249km

Over in Catalunya, Valverde has just won the final stage and the overall. He went away with Dan Martin and held off the bunch. You can find our report and results, here

Meanwhile, back here there's been a crash in the main field with Demare, Vandenbergh, Oliver Naesen going down.

Demare and the others from that fall are reportedly up and on their bikes once more.145km to go. 

A few more QuickStep riders have appeared near the front, including Matteo Trentin. The Italian sent in his latest Cyclingnews blog last night. You can read it here

Over in the women's Gent-Wevelgem we have a group off the front with less than 20km to go. The current leaders are Bronzini and Anna Van Der Breggen. 

The nine leaders are still working well together, and holding their 7'45 advantage over the main field. The nervous energy from the previous hour seems to have been replaced with a more pragmatic approach from the bigger teams. The chase is likely to start in the next 15 or so kilometres. 

Looking back at the fall, Demare was one of the last riders to pick himself up off the tarmac. We didn't see the crash but he certainly took his time before rising to his feet. Riders from BMC and AG2R were also involved. 

The peloton are about to hit the first climb of the day, the Catsberg. There's already a fight for position as we see a number of teams look to position their leaders. It's a real tussle into the first corner.

It's the break who hit the climb first with 134km to go. Their lead is still holding at an admirable 7'45. It had dropped to 3'15 earlier but when the peloton re-grouped and sat up the dynamic of the race began to change.

Marco Haller has jumped off the front of the peloton for Katusha. That's an interesting move. He's afforded around 20 seconds from the bunch but the question is whether other riders will join him and create a dangerous counter attack before the big guns start firing.

100km remaining from 249km

The last climb has caused a lot of problems and created several groups out on the road. The hammer has come down and it's going to be a huge task to chase back and make the peloton, even from this far out.

It's Team Sky who lead the peloton at the moment and the main field has re-grouped once more. A couple of Rompot riders have tried to go on the attack and Sky haven't reacted to that. 

The two-up attack from Roompot includes Pim Ligthart. Meanwhile the break is climbing with their lead down to 5'46.

At the front of the peloton it's still Team Sky who control the field. They have Doull on the front as we see Sunweb and Orica try and position their leaders towards the front. This race is a real war of attrition and each climb, each sector of cobbles and now gravel roads, really sap the legs.

Sky here working for either Stannard or Rowe with Van Poppel already off the back. The British team have now eased off as Bora, with Bennett, hit the front.

There's been another crash in the bunch and several riders are down and on the ground. Mark Renshaw is one of them. He's waiting for a new bike, it seems. Cofidis and Katusha riders also came down.

89km remaining from 249km

Anothe crash as the road narrows. Wagner gets up and then helps a Sunweb rider who was on the floor. There's just not enough space on the roads and the Sunweb rider was lucky not to hit a wooden post at the side of the road.

Right now the peloton has lined out and it's BMC Racing who are doing all the damage. We've hit another section of cross winds and Dibben is one of the riders spat out the back. BMC have created about 5 or 6 groups with this latest surge.

BMC have ripped the entire race apart with several groups all over the road. It looks as though the majority of QuickStep and BMC have made the cut. Sky have a few riders there too. The gap to the break is at 4'27. We're closing in on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg.

Eisel has gone clear for Dimension Data. He's looking back to see if anyone is going wth him but the Austrian is on his own. 

Van Avermaet is on the front and looking to split the race up even further. He's well marked as we head back onto a flat section. No sign of either Boonen or Sagan but they both have men marking the Olympic champion. Meanwhile the break are on the Baneberg.

A few more riders in the front group: Stannard, Rowe, Degenkolb, Eisel, Boonen, Trentin, Van Avermaet, Oss, T Martin.

81km remaining from 249km

Martin is over the top of the climb and has company in the form of Lampaert and riders from Lotto and Bora. These four will certainly work together.

Theuns is leading the chase and shuts down the Martin move. 

76km remaining from 249km

There's been another split in the field with Astana having to close it down. Now Team Sky hit the front and look to position Rowe and Stannard.

The pace drops straight away as the riders in the break hit the cobbled section of the climb. 75km to go.

QuickStep lead the bunch into the climb and Breschel is dropped. But it's Van Avermaet who leads the peloton with Boonen close by. Sagan is about 15 riders back.

Moscon leads now with Boonen taking over as Van Avermaet drops back. Sagan is still just hiding in the wheels but no major splits have been created so far.

Degenkolb climbed that well, in second wheel with Demare close by. They now start the twisting descent. 

Moscon is riding well here as Stannard moves up and finds his teammate's wheel. The gap to the early breakaway is down to two minutes. 

Oss attacks for BMC with 70km to go as we hit the Monteberg. The Italian is easily matched by the rest of the group and is forced to tap out the pace. Attack from LottoNL.

There's an attack from Movistar and the move isn't marked at all. Everyone just looks at each other, waiting for the chase to come. Eventually the move is neutralized but the peloton lines out under the increased pressure. 
 

Three more riders have jumped clear and one of them is Boom. He's joined by men from AG2R and Quickstep. That leaves Trek chasing on the front. We're about to hit the first section of gravel tracks in the race. Patrick Fletcher checked them out yesterday and analysed what possible affect they could have on the race. You can read his story, here.

62km remaining from 249km

The two leaders hit the first sector of gravel roads. The peloton are about to do the same...

It's Trentin who sets the pace with Boonen on his wheel. The Italian wants the TV moto to go ahead as the riders take the first corner. They're not hitting this at full gas.

Just as they leave the sector Stybar attacks and goes clear. Former teammate Guillaume Van Keirsbulck goes with him, as does Trentin and few more. 

The Stybar group have just a few seconds but it's all on BMC and Lotto to chase this one. Trek have a rider in the move but gaps are appearing all over the road as we hit another section of gravel roads.

Trentin and Stybar's group have picked up a few of the earlier breakaway riders. It's also on Sky to chase this as they're caught out. 

Onto the last section of gravel and the Trek rider is Theuns. Looking back down the road and Rowe and Knees have been dropped by the Boonen/Sagan group.

And Kristoff has a puncture near the end of the final section of gravel. He has one man with him but that's going to be a really tough chase from this point. Trentin and Stybar are putting a few more seconds into what's left of the bunch.

The Stybar/Trentin group have around 14 seconds on the peloton with just Van Hecke ahead of them.

48km remaining from 249km

The Trentin move has been caught. Leaving just Van Hecke out in front. He has 26 seconds on the peloton.

Van Hecke is riding superbly and has moved his lead out to 31 seconds with 46km to go. Hats off to the 34-year-old. 

Crash. A heavy fall and several riders are down. Tony Martin is one of them and he's in no hurry to get up. Bahrain, Sky, LottoNL have riders on the deck too. Moscon is the Team Sky rider. 

Kristoff chasing on his own.. he might make it back but we're about to start climbing. He rides by Martin - as we head for the final set of climbs.

Daniel Oss leads the bunch with Trek riders marking his every move. No sign from Sagan, who is riding the perfect race and just keeping out of trouble.

40km remaining from 249km

Kristoff is near the back of the bunch but still doesn't have a teammate with him. Surely his chances are gone because this long chase will have really taken it out of him. 

Game over for Lars Boom. Not sure if he cracked or couldnt change gear. Either way he's dropped as Daniel Oss goes clear on the Baneberg.

The Italian is chased back by Dimension Data. Boasson Hagen is up there as we see Oss caught and Van Avermaet hit the front. That attack has caused a split. Trentin is there, Sagan is there, Oss too and about another 15 riders or so.

That looks like Thwaites on the front for Boasson Hagen as Cofidis slow the move down before Oss, once more moves up and takes control. We've around 45 riders in the lead group as Stuyven goes on the attack and his matched by Lampaert.

It's really up to BMC to chase but Dimension Data are doing most of the work with Eisel pulling on the front. The leading pair are working together but it's going to come back together with 35km to go.

The move is closed down as Eisel pull off, his job done for the day. Matthews is still in there for Sunweb as we start the Kemmelberg for the final time.

And it looks like Van Avermaet who goes first with Degenkolb on his wheel. Sagan is having to chase and he goes right around Degenkolb with ease. 

Over the top and Sagan has caught Van Avermaet, Degenkolb as bit of work to do in order to make contact. The World Champion looked in complete control when he finally made his move.

Sagan and Van Avermaet are working well and they won't want Degenkolb for company. The Trek rider is sprinting down the descent and makes contact. The trio are about to be caught by three more riders - two of them from QuickStep.

32km remaining from 249km

It looks like the Sagan group is coming back. That will mean three QuickStep riders in the lead group. Matthews is there. Colbrelli and one rider each from Orica and Cannondale. 

Soudal have missed the move. So have Team Sky, LottoNL, FDJ and Katusha.

27km remaining from 249km

Lotto Soudal are leading the chase but they've been on the back foot throughout this race. The've not once been in a key move and but for a short attack from Maes they've been totally off the grid.

23km remaining from 249km

The gap has come down, and it's at 28 seconds with 22km to go. If this group commits then the race is gone and there's no way Lotto Soudal can pull this back on their own. Cofidis are also helping, however. 

Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) also in the lead group, takes a long pull on the front. A few riders are not working and that causes a split. The gap is 24 seconds and the work rate has gone from the leaders. 

It looks like Degenkolb, Matthews and several others have missed out on the move with Jens Keukeleire  going clear with Sagan, Van Avermaet and one other rider. Degenkolb is leading the chase. 

Boasson is trying to get across but he's really up against it. Søren Kragh Andersen has made the split. 

17km remaining from 249km

The sprinters behind have gifted this to Sagan and Van Avermaet. 

And it's happening again as Terpstra isn't riding and neither is Søren Kragh Andersen. 

15km remaining from 249km

They almost move up to the leading pair but then Terpstra peels off. The two leaders continue to work together and just keep their heads down. It's  a headwind finish, remember and we still have 12km to go.The race is in the balance.

It looks like Keukeleire and Van Avermaet have the gap they need on the Sagan group but every time they gain a few meters, either Terpstra or Sagan takes a monster turn.

11km remaining from 249km

Lotto Soudal, Trek and Cofidis lead the chase from the bunch but they're 1'03 down on the two leaders with the Sagan group at 15 seconds.

8km remaining from 249km

6km remaining from 249km

Keukeleire leads around the corner with 5km to go and Sagan is leading the chase. This is too close to call. The bunch probably out of it now, 49 seconds down with 5km to go.

Van Avermaet knows that he can't allow Sagan back into the picture and takes a huge pull on the front. The gap is 8 seconds. The World Champion is closing in.

4km remaining from 249km

Andersen takes a turn before Terpstra takes over. Up ahead, the leading two have 11 seconds. 3.5km to go.

12 seconds. Can Sagan do anything from here?

2km to go and the gap is at 17 seconds. It's between Van Avermaet and Keukeleire for the sprint. This could be close. The Orica rider is quick. 

22 seconds and Van Avermaet leads into the final 1,000m. 

The Orica rider will not come through and take a turn.

He does now, with 950m to go. Van Avermaet is in control.

The BMC rider takes over. 500m to go.

Van Avermaet will lead out.

300 to go.

They go to the barries and Van Avermaet opens first.

The Orica rider comes on the inside line but Van Avermaet holds him off to win Gent-Wevelgem. It looks like Sagan took third just a few seconds head of the peloton.

Results#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult 1Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team   2Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott   3Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe   4Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors   5John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo   6Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors   7Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal   8Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb   9Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors   10Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates  

Sagan in his post race comments has called the tactics of others 'a very cheap game'. He talking about Terpstra right there. 

Van Avermaet is on the podium with Keukeleire and Peter Sagan. A fine ride from the Orica rider who has been on the cusp of a result in the Classics for some time. Sagan cut a frustrated figure at the end but the man of the moment, ahead of Flanders is Greg Van Avermaet. He is the favourite for the Tour of Flanders next weekend.

It was a faultless display from Van Avermaet. We'll have reactions and quotes to his win and the war of words between QuickStep and Sagan in just a few minutes.

We already have a full gallery of images from the race, right here.

You can now watch the 2017 race highlights from the race, right here.

Edvald Boasson Hagen, who almost made the winning move: 

 

Peter Sagan has spoken. Look away now if you're Niki Terpstra.... 

Sagan as you'd expect has the full backing of his team:

Finally, we hear from the winner:

More from Van Avermaet:

Modolo in tenth. Want to hear from him? Of course you do: 

 

If you're just catching up, Lotta Lepisto won the women's race. You can find our report, photos and results, just here.

And Alejandro Valverde's domination continued at the Volta a Catalunya. He won the final stage and the overall from Alberto Contador. Full report, here.

That's about it from us today. Thanks for joining our coverage from Gent-Wevelgem. We'll be back next weekend for live coverage from the Tour of Flanders. 

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