Hello and welcome to our live coverage from Gent-Wevelgem 2018.
Good morning and welcome to the 80th edition of Gent-Welvegem. Were in the town of Deinze ahead of today's start and the riders, all wrapped up in leg and arm warmers, are currently signing on and making their way to the start-line. We roll out at 11:25 CET, so in around 30 minutes from now. We'll be here throughout the day, bringing you all the latest news and action from the race. Sit back, put Andrew Marr and/or Hollyoaks on mute, and enjoy the next few hours of live coverage.
A quick reminder of the top-10 from 2017. At this point in the season 12-months ago Van Avermaet was already in full flow and winning almost at will. This is season, as many expected - including the man himself - it's been a little different. Still, a third place in E3 showed that the BMC Racing team leader does at least have the form.
Results from 2017 Gent-Wevelgem
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing 5:39:05
2 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-Scott
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:06
4 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
7 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
9 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
10 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
That was Sep Vanmarcke who fought back brilliantly in E3 Harelbeke thanks to some excellent work from his EF-Drapac team. If Vanmarcke could pull it all together on the day he could rival the likes of Van Averamet and Sagan but there's always one piece missing to the jigsaw, be it luck, bad timing or someone with a better sprint. And when you think he's found the missing piece, another one goes missing. Perhaps today will be Vanmarcke's day?
And that's Team Sky's Ian Stannard. Did you know that he's not been on the podium in a one-day race since Paris-Roubaix 2016? Of course you did but that's still quite an interesting factoid. Stannard has won stages in the Sun Tour and the Tour of Britain since then but his Classics form has fallen off a cliff somewhat.
Don't rule out Matteo Trentin and Elia Viviani. If it comes back to a sprint both riders could win today. They've both been in decent shape, although it's the Quick-Step rider who has won the races so far this year. And in the background it's Luke Durbridge. Turbo Durbo to his friends. Could he be a factor today?
We will run through more of the race favourites a little later. First, the weather. The race organisers are informing us that there will be some sun at the start but that the clouds will gather later on today. It should remain dry but the temperatures will only go as high as 12 degrees. We're about 15 minutes from the start of the neutralized zone.
Our full, and updated startlist can be found right here.
On the subject of favourites, our good friends at Sporza have come up with a tidy little graphic to add status to some of the pre-race contenders. They have Sagan and Arnaud Demare on three stars.
Viviani, Van Avermaet and Gilbert have 2, while Trentin Groenewegen, Naesen, Vanmarcke and Stuyven all have one. Hard to really disagree with that given recent form but this race is a bit of a lottery, and in a sense, similar to Milan-San Remo in that it could end in a break or a sprint.
Alexander Kristoff was off the pace in E3 on Friday but he's here and looking to get his Classics season back on track after a creditable fourth place in Milan-San Remo. He can climb with the best of the Classics riders, and has a fast finish, so can't be ruled out on a course like this.
On the startline, our very own Patrick Fletcher spoke to Matteo Trentin:
"The race is always the same. The wind is not too high today, so it'll be more or less the same race as last year. On the Kemmelberg it will be chaos as usual, a place for attacking If a strong group goes it will be hard to take them back. my legs are OK. I have some issues - just some pains - but I'll solve them, if not for today but for the next races."
Fletcher has also spoken to another genuine contender for the day, Sonny Colbrelli from Bahrain Merida:
"I've been ill with a cough and a cold. I haven't felt great since Tirenno but I'l give it a go today. The parcours suits me, I just hope to recover some good sensations."
And we're off, and leaving Deinze. I'm not going to lie to you, it's not the nicest part of Belgium but we're rolling through the neutralized zone, which should take ten minutes, give or take. Once the flag drops, we can expect a flurry of early attacks.
249km remaining from 250km
And we're off. The flag has dropped and racing at the 80th edition of Gent-Wevelgem has begun. And the winner of first attack of the day goes to.... Cofidis.
On the eve of big races I often flick through old magazines from the 90s and 2000s, and look back at previous editions. Remember 2002 when this race came down to a photo finish with Hincapie just getting the better of Leon Van Bon. Interestingly, Van Bon, who was at Mercury at the time, is now a race photographer. He's probably at the race today in fact, shooting for the Dutch media.
After 5km of racing the bunch are still together. No major attacks have worked so far but the pace remains super high.
In terms of the route today, we have 11 climbs and 3 sectors of cobbles. The fist 150km of the race is flat and with little wind it's hard to see the bunch splitting up in the first few hours of action. We should still an early break, however.
As Barry Ryan has noted in his excellent race preview, "The next phase of the race comes in the pocket of hills that pepper the Franco-Belgian border, beginning with the Katsberg with 113km remaining, the first of 11 hellingen on the route. The early hills have the feel of a softening-up process, before the strongmen begin to show themselves in earnest on the first ascent of the Kemmelberg with 75km to go. The Monteberg and Baneberg follow, as well as three sections of dirt road – the so-called plugstreets introduced last year – before the riders come back over the Kemmel for the second time with 35km remaining."
You can read the full preview, right here.
All eyes, as per usual, were on Sagan this morning. He crashed and looked out of sorts in E3, rolling home over three minutes down on winner Niki Terpstra. Sagan won this race back in 2016 and although he's been there or thereabouts in recent weeks, he's not been at his very best. A response today, a week ahead of Flanders would do wonders for his morale.
Meanwhile in the women's race today:
Christine Majerus and Amy Pieters lead the bunch into the Baneberg climb. #UCIWWT #GWEWomen
234km remaining from 250km
In the men's race here, we've covered 15km but still no break from the main field. Looking back, we've had a couple of weather-effected editions of the race in recent years. When Luca Paolini won in 2015 we had riders all over the road due to heavy winds. And back in 2009 when Edvald Boasson Hagen was the victory the bunch split early on, again due to winds and heavy rain.
In the women's race, the bunch are about to hit the Kemmelberg with 87km to go.
And back in the men's race we have an leader and it's Alex Dowsett from team Katusha. Reminds me of the time when Chris Boardman went on the attack, I think in Fleche Wallonne with Raimondas Rumsas in 2000. The pair formed the break of the day but were caught before the final climb.
226km remaining from 250km
Well that didn't last too long. Dowsett has been caught and we're all back together with the main field. 226km to go.
We've covered just over 30km of the race, but still no break. The pan-flat roads, the lack of climbs, and the low winds, haven't helped matters. The pace is still high but no one is able to commit or break free from the bunch at this point in time.
Three and now six. 215km left and we have a break:
Frison (Lotto), Gonçalves (Katyusha), Ganna (Emirates), Duquennoy (Veranclassic) and Van Goethem and Van Schip (Roompot).
So two riders from Roompot make the split, one each from Lotto Soudal, Katusha, WB Acqua Project and UAE. The leaders have a handy 30 seconds over the peloton at this stage.
Away from Belgium and the Classics for a moment, and the Lance Armstrong, whistle blower trial has moved a step closer. CN has learned that over 50 witness will be called to testify if the matter makes it to trial. There's still a chance that there will be a settlement. Read our exclusive on the story, right here.
Back to the race and the break haven't really found their feet just yet. That's mainly because the peloton aren't easing up and the gap is still at just 25 seconds.
There was a brief counter-attack from the peloton but that's been reabsorbed, so we still have just the six leaders up front, and the main field at 25 seconds. If anything, it's tense out there.
@UCI_WWT Sun, 25th Mar 2018 10:40:07
197km remaining from 250km
A shade under 200km to go now and the break have added to their advantage, with the gap now at 1'47. There's a bit more excitement in the race now, especially given the lack of action at the start.
Back to the front of the race and van Goethem takes a turn on the front. He was on the attack in De Panne and Roompot can be content with their race so far, posting two men up the road in the break of the day. The gap now is out to four minutes.
A run down of the climbs we have in store later in the race:
1. Katsberg top at 114 km
2. Kokereelberg 110 km
3. Vert Mont 108 km
4. Black Mountain 106 km
5. Black Mountain 100 km
6. Ravensberg 94 km
7. Baneberg 83 km
8. Kemmelberg 75 km
9. Monteberg 71 km
10. Baneberg 39 km
11. Kemmelberg 34 km
Ganna, who is in the break, is a real talent. He's come through the Italian track system and become a world title holder on a few occasions. This actually just his second year in the WorldTour though, but big things are expected from him on the road. Today will give him a huge amount of experience.
At the start this morning Van Aert told the crowd that he didn't recon the race, but simply watched the footage from last year. Today's a really good test to see what he can do in these races. Third in Strade Bianche, he's not been able to find those legs on the cobbles just yet, but the route could certainly suit him today. He did put in a hugely-impressive leadout at De Panne, it must be said.
The leaders have the gap pegged back to 2'50 with 184km to go. We've still not hit any of the climbs today, while in Catalunya, we have a break of eight riders clear with 52km to go. If the situation stays like this, Valverde will win the GC.
Greg Van Avermaet at the start was in a relaxed but confident mood.The Belgian has his full time around him today and with Roelandts and Schar, has two excellent foils for later in the race. One suspects that they might need to be more proactive and not let Quick-Step dictate the pace later in the race.
@katushacycling Sun, 25th Mar 2018 11:15:07
In the women's race:
42km to go: We are back in Kemmel and will shortly start climbing again. #GWEWomen #UCIWWT
The bunch, eagerly patrolled by Quick-Step Floors, are meanwhile, holding the break at a steady 2'50. 176km to go.
This week is Belgian week on CN and our latest feature sees Patrick Fletcher tag along with Dimension Data's Julien Vermote for a ride through Flanders. Niki Terpstra plays a cameo role in this too. It's another must-read.
The leaders have pushed their advantage out to 5'10. It's not so much their doing, but the simple fact that the peloton have sat up and allowed the break to drift further away. There's still a long, long way to go so no concern from the big teams who will need to organise a chase later on.
9'10 now for the six riders up front, and we're still some way from the first climbs of the day. The bunch will need to wake up once the gap moves to around 11-13 minutes.
There were a few last-minute changes to our start list this morning, so here's the updated version for you.
Moscon and Matthews are both near the front of the bunch. Both riders are here with strong team support around them and both will fancy their chances today. Matthews can make it over the Kemmelberg, while Moscon is probably better winning from a small group.
@UCI_WWT Sun, 25th Mar 2018 11:39:53
Just over 150km remaining in the race, and the break continues to hold onto their nine minute lead over the peloton. There's no real reaction from the main field just yet but that will chance once we start to approach the first set of hills and cobbles.
The Katsberg is the first climb of the day and it comes with 114km remaining and has an incline of 8 per cent with a maximum incline of 18 per cent.
Frison is probably the biggest name in the break. He's been with Lotto-Soudal all his career and of course had that terrible crash last year in Dunkerque. This season he's found some form and finished third at the Dwars door West-Vlaanderen. He's never won a pro race but is a dependable asset to have on your books in races like Gent-Wevelgem.
140km remaining from 250km
Roughly 110km covered, and the break have taken a few more seconds out of the peloton, with the lead at 10'20. That's the biggest advantage we've seen so far today.
@UCI_WWT Sun, 25th Mar 2018 12:04:20
The first sighting of John Degenkolb in the bunch. He missed Milan-San Remo through illness and finished 21st in E3 Harelbeke, so the form isn't too bad. He's of course won this race, along with San Remo and Paris-Roubaix and needs to find his feet quickly before the Classics campaign truly runs away from him. For Trek-Segafredo, Stuyven has looked in better condition in recent weeks, but if comes down to a sprint, and Degenkolb had made it over the Kemmelberg, then don't write him off.
In Catalunya, there's been a crash with Egan Bernal one of those involved. He had been sitting second overall.
Apologies for the radio silence, we've just posted the results and short report from the women's race. No spoilers.
Massive congratulations to Marta Bastianelli. That's a massive win for the 2007 road world champion.
Latest from Catalunya is that Bernal has crashed out of the top ten. We don't know if he finished the stage or not. Simon Yates won the final stage, Valverde claims the overall ahead of Quintana and Latour. Simon Yates in fourth on GC.
Back to the racing here, and it's the same as before to be honest. The only difference being that we've chipped a few more kms off the race total. So, with 124km to go the gap to the six leaders is at 10'20.
And Catalunya has finished early today too. No spoilers but someone called Simon, who shares a surname with a former British pro who rode for Motorola won today. Here's our report.
Back to this race and the gap is down to 6'32 with 113km to go. We're seeing more and more aggression from the peloton with EF-Drapac on the front with FDJ also well-placed. This is a huge chance for Demare, of that there is little doubt.
We're over the Katsberg, I'm afraid, we missed that in the rush to post Catalunya and Gent-Wevelgem race reports.
FDJ are doing the lion-share of the work on the front of the peloton. With 110km to go they've really taken the race by the scruff of the neck and they're setting the pace for everyone else to follow.
Up front Ganna takes a long pull for the break as the road starts to rise once more. The gap, however, is down to just 5'30. FDJ have the entire peloton strung out. We're racing.
Ganna again on the front, and he's putting in a real shift for UAE. This will take the pressure off Kristoff's shoulders, who doesn't need to put his team on the front or help with the chase.
107km remaining from 250km
107km to go and riders are starting to struggle at the back of the bunch. Not long now before we start to see some serious splits. At least the conditions aren't a problem. We've got sunshine and little in the way of wind.
Frison, I'm not sure if he's struggling or just under orders, but he's no longer taking any turns on the front as we see Ganna slip to the back and try and encourage the Lotto rider to come forward.
We've all been there, but for Sjoerd van Ginneken it's caught on camera. Not looking where he's going, he ploughs into the back of the bunch as they slow on a climb. He comes off his bike but the only thing hurt is his pride.
100km remaining from 250km
We're seeing Bystrom off the back of the bunch. He must have had a problem or gone back to the cars as he shouldn't be struggling too much under this pace. The gap though to the leaders is down to 4'42 with 100km to go.
And there's a crash for Docker. He's up and on his feet but that looks like race over for the Australian. He's cut his shorts to ribbons.. and he's sitting down now with the medics. Race over, surely.
And now Bahrain Merida move up and joint FDJ on the front of the peloton. It's all about positioning at this point for the likes of Colbrelli, Demare, Sagan, Van Avermaet and Viviani.
Golden Greg Van Avermaet, the defending champion, spoke at the start of the race this morning:
"There’s only a handful of races where I’m the leader so I want to get results, also today. There’s not a lot of wind but I don’t want to complain about that. There’s always something. If it starts to rain, it isn’t good either,” Van Avermaet laughed.
“It’ll be hard enough. Those 250 kilometres will start to weigh in. With that distance it’s a real classic.” Van Avermaet didn’t fear the plugstreets. “It’ll be nervous during the run-in of the plugstreets. It’s something special. They’re in good shape and it will probably not be too dangerous. It’ll be a matter of not having a flat over there. Last year you saw that it’s hard to come back from a mechanical over there.” Van Avermaet glanced back on the E3. Many riders in the favourites group behind eventual winner Niki Terpstra complained that BMC didn’t chase, even though they had three riders in the group.
“In hindsight it was clear that I still had a good sprint in my legs. The thing was that I was no longer confident about my status after the long breakaway attempt with Tiesj. It turned out that everybody was on their limit. I probably should’ve taken the initiative to say ‘I’m good’ but at that moment I didn’t know how my legs would react in the sprint,” Van Avermaet said at the start in Deinze.
Onto Ravensberg, the sixth climb of the day, and the gap is down to 4'21. 95km to go. FDJ are still doing all the work, with no sign of BMC, Bora or Quick-Step.
Problem for Kristoff. He has a mechanical but doesn't seem to need a new bike. Stuyven, who had a flat, flies by him but Kristoff will need to stop.
Nope, the Norwegian is okay. He talks to his mechanic and has a bit of assistance. I think his rear brake was perhaps rubbing. He will need a couple of teammates to drop back and bring him to the front of affairs once the problem is sorted.
Ventoso is near the front of the bunch for BMC as we race towards the Baneberg. Positioning off that climb is key, because it leads into the first ascent of the Kemmelberg. The break have moved back out to 5'05 as the bunch ease and gather some composure before the next surge.
Here are the top-10 from the women's race earlier today.
1 Marta Bastianelli (Ita) Ale Cipollini 3:41:00
2 Jolien D'hoore (Bel) Mitchelton Scott
3 Lisa Klein (Ger) Canyon-SRAM Racing
4 Arlenis Sierra (Cub) Astana Women's Team
5 Amy Pieters (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
6 Hannah Barnes (GBr) Canyon-SRAM Racing
7 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (RSA) Cervelo - Bigla Pro Cycling Team
8 Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb
9 Barbara Guarischi (Ita) Team Virtu Cycling
10 Letizia Paternoster (Ita) Astana Women's Team
Our report page is right here.
And remember it's Belgian week on CN and we've gone for a training ride with Julien Vermote. You can find the piece, here.
Back here and Bora have moved to the front. Burghardt, who won this race over a decade ago, is on the front at the moment. He rode well the year Boasson Hagen won, I seem to remember. I think they were both in that major break that went clear early in the race. Liquigas were well represented that day but it was Boasson Hagen who won in a two-up sprint. Goss might have been third?
Back in the bunch a couple of riders have fallen and Mads Pedersen has a mechanical as a result and a number of other riders are held up as a result.
81km remaining from 250km
81km to go and the break have 5'35. The pace has certainly eased as FDJ line out across the road to effectively block any moves from rival teams.
Another Trek rider with a mechanical and this time it's Rast as we climb the Baneberg, with Mads Pedersen just making contact now.
A reminder of the big news from the last 24 hours, and over 50 witnesses have been called to testify in the Lance Armstrong, whistle blower case. They include Travis Tygart from USADA, Dick Pound from WADA and a gaggle of USPS riders. Read the full story here.
Here's the final GC from Catalunya:
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 28:25:07
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:29
3 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:47
4 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
5 Marc Soler (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:10
6 George Bennett (NZl) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:23
7 Daniel Martinez (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:01:29
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:31
9 Jesper Hansen (Den) Astana Pro Team
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:01:34
The full report can found, just here.
The six leaders take on bottles but they look a little ragged at the moment, and no real surprise given how long they've been out on the attack. We're about to hit the Kemmelberg so it's only going to get worse. 23 per cent pitches, and cobbles. Bonne chance!
Duquennoy is the first to slip back.
Another crash and I think that's Hayman down. There's also a rider from Katusha on the deck. No it's Durbridge, not Hayman.
The bunch are also on the climb, with Bora and FDj still on the front. Here we go.
Gilbert is second wheel and he looks so, so strong. Another long-range move from the Belgian?
It's Gilbert who picks up the pace and now we hit the foot of the Kemmelberg.
Gilbert, Stybar, Viviani, and Tony Martin flood the front with Daniel Oss keeping a close eye on events. Naesen, Kristoff are nearer the back and we see Haussler has a bike problem.
Sagan is also quite far back as well but QuickStep had four or five riders in the first ten as we go over the top.
But Tony Martin sets the pace and it should all come back together but Quick-Step have shown their intent, and their strength, for the first time in the race.
Attack and you guessed it, it's Quick-Step.
It's Gilbert who is looking to stretch things. He looks and can see a long line of riders on his wheel. Oss looks back, as he tries to find Sagan but the World Champion has ground to make up.
Sunweb this time launch an attack and BMC Racing start to chase it down. 70km to go, with the Monteberg left.
The Montegberg is 1,500m in length, has an average gradient of 3.9 per cent, but pitches of over 10 per cent in places. The bunch are about to hit it now.
Still no sign of Sagan, who seems content to just follow wheels at the moment. It's Colbrelli who is at the back of the bunch too and he looks to be struggling. Up ahead and QuickStep and BMC put men on the front. Sagan has made it back to the front and here go Quick-Step again.
67km remaining from 250km
67km to go and it's Gilbert again. It's not a full-gas attack though and it just strings the field out once more.
Now it's Lampaert who rolls the dice, and it's clear that Quick-Step want to split the race as early as possible. Who can blame them, it's a tactic that has worked throughout the spring for them.
For the first time today Team Sky move to the front of the race and look to set a steady pace and stop the attacks from QuickStep.
The break is still out there and have 3'25 on the bunch as we see BMC, Mitchelton and Bora organise their riders.
60km remaining from 250km
BMC put the pressure on as we head to the final few climbs of the race. Van Avermaet has four or five men around him and it's causing chaos behind with 60km to go.
It's Ventoso who is doing the work at the moment and he's making all sorts of faces as he grimaces due to the effort.
Pop. That's the sound of Ventoso popping and then slipping back through the field. Next man up for BMC Racing as we tackle the dirt roads.
56km remaining from 250km
The bunch is so close to splitting under the pressure of BMC with 56km to go. There's a gap with about 20 riders free.
It's Trek who are trying to shut this one down but BMC are not letting up as they really put the hammer down on this second stretch of dirt roads.
Riders all over the road now as we head towards the final 50km of action. BMC are still doing all the work but they're running out of men. A few more riders have made the juncture as the main field begins to swell once more. Terpstra has been dropped but is fighting his way back, alongside Vermote.
And Lotto Soudal attack and it's a move matched by Bauer and a rider from LottoNL. It's BMC who are chasing at the front of a group that is about 40 strong. The break, by the way, have 1'36 left of their advantage.
@BORAhansgrohe Sun, 25th Mar 2018 14:16:05
A few more riders have jumped over to the Bauer group but we have echelons all over the road. Only Lampaert has made the Bauer group for Quick-Step. Trentis there, so Mitchelton have numbers.
Demare and Kristoff have missed this move and it's Movistar who are chasing.
It looks like Movistar, are trying to bring it together. Stybar, GVA, Naesen, Sagan are all in the Bauer group.
There seems to be too much looking around and not enough racing in this group. And crash.
Stybar is down. Modolo and Kung are all down.
Gallopin was also in that fall as the peloton merges.
And once again, it's Bauer who attacks. A few more riders are starting to jump over to the lone leader, who is certainly looking for support.
Bauer is caught but then Lotto Soudal attack and it's Bauer who tries to respond. During the TDU, or rather in the days before, he was out in Adelaide and working on intervals. His Garmin wasn't working so CN were timing the efforts for him. That hard work seems to be paying off for Bauer now. Don't worry, invoice is in the post, Jack.
That latest move has been brought back so it's just the leading six who are left out front. 45km to go and the gap is at 45 seconds.
Four more riders go clear, with Lotto Soudal, Katusha and Julien Vermote goes clear. Did I tell you, CN went for a ride with Vermote? You can read the story here.
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) and Jelle Wallays (Bel are in the group with Vermote.
Another crash and that's two riders who end up hitting a lamppost. Both are okay and should make it back to the peloton.
We're close to the Baneberg, the penultimate climb of the race.
Alex Kirsch is the fourth rider in the Vermote group.
40km remaining from 250km
Onto the Baneberg and the leading six about to become ten with the two lead groups merging. The bunch are at 1'15.
Roompot clearly don't want to see two Lotto Soudal riders in the lead group and the lift the pace as the bunch hit the lower slopes of the ascent.
Ventoso. Pop. Knees. Pop. As AGR2 set the pace for the bunch.
And Katusha have two men in the lead group too. This is a really dangerous move even with 39km to go.
Over the top of the climb and we're closing in on the Kemmelberg. 37km to go.
Burghardt is allowed to go clear. Can't really understand that with just 36km to go. There's no response from Quick-Step who have been very quiet in the last 30km or so.
Burghardt is free with Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal) is the danger at the moment though. Lotto Soudal have played this really well. The break hit the Kemmel for the final time.
35km remaining from 250km
Attack from Gilbert at the foot of the climb. He's got a gap. 35km to go.
Moscon rides into the barriers.
Gilbert then has a problem with his gears and has to put down the hammer for a second time as EF lead the chase. All the leaders are there and it was Vanmarcke setting the pace.
Gilbert is about to be caught but the leaders up the road have 1'24 with 34km to go.
1'31 now for the leaders and Lotto are looking really good. Seven riders left in the front but Ganna has been dropped. Who will chase this down? Will Quick-Step organise things for Viviani? What about Bora for Sagan? This could be close.
We've lost Frison from the lead group and it's Quick-Step and Bora who control the chase. Demare is there but he doesn't have much in the way of support. The gap has come down to 50 seconds. This chase is relentless and there's no room for error.
31km remaining from 250km
41 seconds now and even Viviani is taking a turn to help with the chase. Demare, he can just sit in and wait. Naesen is there, Stybar, Gilbert, Sagan, Astana are there for Cort I think, Van Avermaet is also there. Matthews is there too as we see Demare forced into working.
Kristoff is leading a third group that contains Moscon and Trek riders. They have about 15 seconds to make up.
Cort is in the Kristoff group and they have 13 seconds to make up. They should be okay to come back. Degenkolb is also in that group.
25km remaining from 250km
Dylan Groenewegen is in the Sagan group and he's beaten Demare several times this year. It doesn't look like Kristoff is going to make it back with 30 seconds to make up. The early break have just six seconds and about to be caught with 25km to go.
Trentin has one man with him, Sagan still has Burghardt as we see Gilbert start to set the pace. We're down to around 25 riders with 24km to go.
Viviani has made the split and so too have three of his teammates. It's up to them to make the race now, whether that means attacking or setting it up for the sprint.
Kristoff and Moscon are at 23 seconds.
And that looks like Frison has gone again. Stybar is the first to make contact but he brings Van Avermaet and the rest of the group with him.
And Gilbert is burying himself on the front for Quick-Step. They really don't want that Kristoff group coming back but the gap is only at 27 seconds.
@Ride_Argyle Sun, 25th Mar 2018 15:02:29
231km remaining from 250km
Apologies, that was Van Poppel and not Dylan Groenewegen. Either way, both riders are out of the lead group. 19km to go.
Vanmarcke attacks but Stybar shadows him immediately. Then Van Avermaet takes over with a long pull on the front. Kristoff/Degenkolb and Moscon are at 44 seconds and they look out of it.
Van Aert has made the split and is doing his share of the work. 16km to go.
15km remaining from 250km
50 seconds now for the Sagan/Demare/Van Avermaet group.
Demare, Matthews, Modolo, Viviani, Sagan, Trentin, Mezgec, Laporte are all there in terms of the sprinters.
9km remaining from 250km
Roompot are keeping the pace up for the leaders. Interesting tactic, given they don't need to work and would be better off saving their legs for a possible late move.
Kristoff is trying to make it over with two riders from Astana but it's too little two late with 8,7km to go.
@MitcheltonSCOTT Sun, 25th Mar 2018 15:18:44
The sprinters are missing turns now, and they're trying to save as much energy as possible. Can someone take advantage and launch a late attack?
Roompot still working.
We've not mentioned Stuyven but he's here too.
What will Mitchelton do? Both of their riders can sprint but you'd think they'd work for Trentin, given Mezgec's leadout experience.
And Roompot attack, with Gilbert leading the chase.
5km remaining from 250km
Just 5km to go.
Gilbert has been on the front for over a 1km now and he looks to set up Viviani.
4km remaining from 250km
4km to go.
And it's still Gilbert on the front as the sprinters begin to move up.
The Belgian is effectively riding a 2km pursuit at the moment as he leads with 3km to go.
2.8km to go and still it's Gilbert on the front.
Attack from Roompot!
And Gilbert looks to cover it with 2km to go.
Bora forced to chase.
Now Mezgec takes over. and Van Avermaet attacks.
Van Aert closes this time.
1.3km to go.
1km remaining from 250km
1km to go.
Vanmarcke goes clear.
Quick-Step look to shut this one down. Here comes the sprint.
And here comes Sagan, he drift to the far side of the road. He has a clear path.
Viviani is coming back, and Demare.
He has enough. Peter Sagan wins Gent-Wevelgem. What a sprint from the World Champion.
Viviani was on Trentin's wheel.
Sagan was just so much better positioned. He was given a head start, coming around Stuyven has Viviani found himself boxed in. Demare and Viviani tried to come back into contention but Sagan had too much in the tank.
Here is your top-10.
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
3 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
4 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
5 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick-Step Floors
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10 Wout Van Aert (Bel) Veranda's Willems Crelan
Viviani at the finish, slumped on the floor and in tears, while Sagan calls this his easiest Gent-Wevelgem win. Cycling can be a cruel, cruel sport.
Our brief report, results and photos, are all here.
We will bring you more reactions as we get them.
We've added more images to our race report, which is right here.
That's a great shot of Sagan heading for the win and his teammate Burghardt celebrating in the background.
Interestingly that's only Bora's third win of the season after two victories in Australia earlier in the year. If they can pick up either Flanders or Roubaix in the coming weeks, none of that will matter.
Jens Debusschere: “I wanted to aim for victory today, although I knew it wouldn’t be easy with sprinters such as Démare, Groenewegen, Sagan and Viviani. In the sprint I took the wheel of Démare, but he chose a gap that I couldn’t go through anymore. There was a headwind in the last straight line, so you had to make sure no to come to the front too early. When looking back on the sprint, I maybe should have taken more initiative but I missed some confidence. Let this be a lesson for the future. Nonetheless, finishing fifth in Ghent-Wevelgem is a good result.”
Demare: "It's the second time I'm here for the win on Gent-Wevelgem (Arnaud finished 2nd in 2014) so obviously, I'm disappointed I could not make it concrete. Especially as my teammates did a great job once again. I would like to thank them because thanks to their hark work to position me, I could take up on the Kemmel climbs in the best conditions. After that, I made a lot of efforts in the finish to avoid being trapped or stuck in an echelon so I lacked a bit of vivacity for the sprint. I am not thrilled about it because I was feeling great all day. It's not rewarding but I am comforting myself: the legs were good".
Peter Sagan: "Of all the Gent-Wevelgem races I've done before, this was the easiest one with weather conditions and everything," Sagan said. "It was a little bit stressed but not crazy like in the last years. The sprint is always a little bit like a lottery. I just decided to start a little bit early and in the end it was very good, I had the legs to hold this sprint."
Thanks for following our complete coverage. Remember, you can find our report, news, images, and results, all here.
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