Good afternoon. How have you been?
Welcome back to our live race coverage. It's been a while but we're kicking off our 2021 schedule with a few hours from the GP Cycliste la Marseillaise.
To bring you up to speed, the race started just under an hour ago and we have a break up the road that consists of Eliot Lietaer, Jens Reynders, Morne van Niekerk, Jon Barrenetxa, Kenny Molly and Vojtec Repa. The six riders are enjoying some fine late January weather today with blue skies and little in the way of wind.
130km to go and the leaders have five full minutes on the peloton. Just a reminder, but our six riders out in front are, Eliot Lietaer (B&B Hotels), Jens Reynders (Sport Vlaanderen) Morne van Niekerk (Auber93), Jon Barrenetxa (Caja Rural), Kenny Molly (Wallonie Bruxelles) and Vojtec Repa (Kern Pharma).
We've a stacked line-up here today with Lotto Soudal bringing a number of their big guns. Philippe Gilbert, who celebrated the birth of a baby recently*, is here alongside John Degenkolb and Tim Wellens.
* His baby, I should add. Not just a random baby.
UAE Team Emirates, who went shopping in the Christmas sales and bought Marc Hirschi have Matteo Trentin on the startlist. Another new signing, Ryan Gibbons is also here. Hirschi isn't though.
EF-Education Nippo are also here. And they've brought their new jerseys. The rollerblading duck on his way to the methadone clinic (look at his eyes!) has been replaced by a more traditional kit by Rapha and the team. It's actually very good, and so was the duck one to be fair.
According to reports Matti Breschel is the DS today for the team. He was used to racing early season events in France, so should have a good game plan for today. It's worth pointing out that most riders might have raced by now in the year but with the Tour Down Under and the San Juan race both cancelled, this is the first major outing for a lot of team.
At the moment, the gap is holding at just under five minutes and we have around 120km to go. Direct Energie are on the front and doing all the work for the moment. Last year's winner, Benoît Cosnefroy, he's not here by the way as he recovers from an knee injury but AG2R still have a strong contingent here with Calmejane and Gallopin in the line-up.
The peloton have picked up the pace in the last few minutes with a couple more riders moving to the front and now the gap is down to 3'30 with around 110km to go.
Today's also the first chance to see Edvald Boasson Hagen in new team kit. There are number of riders I'll struggle with this year, but he's right up there after spending a number of years at Dimension Data. He's part of a strong Direct Energie team that includes fellow new singings, Chris Lawless and Pierre Latour.
While this is all going on we've also got the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships taking place. Yesterday we had a great battle in the women's event and today it's the men. All our Worlds coverage is right here.
The profile for today's race shows how tough this is and while the distance and time in the saddle shouldn't be an issue, the intensity of racing will cause problems later in the race.
Crash for Jon Barrenetxa (Caja Rural), who was in the breakaway. He's been forced to chase but has made it back to the leaders. We're back up to six again but the gap continues to fall.
Jon Barrenetxa (Caja Rural) had been the first rider over the top of the Petit Galibier.
95km to go and while Direct Energie are doing most of the work in chasing down the six-rider group, they've also got some help from UAE Team Emirates, who have Matteo Trentin here making his debut for the team. The Italian, a former winner of the European title, has also won stages in all three Grand Tours.
We've now got three teams on the front chasing down the leaders with Lotto-Soudal joining the party. They've got Wellens and Gilbert in the mix to help break things up and then Degenkolb if things come back together for a sprint. The gap, with 92km to go is at 3'30, so it's holding for now.
Click above for results, photos and our report.
Back to France and another ten seconds has been chipped off the break's lead. The three teams chasing at the front of the peloton are starting to build up some momentum as we see a few riders start to shed layers of clothing.
83km to go and the leaders are still working well together. The Caja Rural rider who crashed earlier doesn't look too banged up to be honest but his jersey will be going in the bin after the race.
No time check for the last few minutes but the speed difference between the break and the leaders is obvious. UAE have one rider on the front, with Lotto-Soudal following suit. Then we have a train of riders from Direct Energie.
The leaders are climbing right now and their gap is at 2'49 with 79km to go.
Carlton Kirby there, on TV and needlessly ridiculing Jens Reynders for his weight and then chuckling to himself. "He may have hit the KFC bucket".
The break has started to break up and two riders have gone clear on the climb. Jon Barrenetxa (Caja Rural) and Vojtec Repa (Kern Pharma) have taken off with 75km to go and they want the KOM points. The peloton are at 2'27.
The two leaders have a decent gap as they plough as Direct Energie lead the chase.
This is a pretty technical descent and there's no let-up as we see a few riders struggle with their lines through some of the corners. We're back to six riders again at the front of the race with the break coming back together. 73km to go.
UAE now push on the descent and there's no let-up with the gap down to 2'13.
Cyclo-cross World Championships: Van Empel wins U23 women's titleVan Alphen and Vas complete podium in Ostendhttps://t.co/DfhFk9njgp pic.twitter.com/l6gZ3WVMcfJanuary 31, 2021
This is the longest descent of the race and it's hard going for the bunch to really eat into the break's lead at this point. They're chipping a few seconds here and there but the six leaders still have just under two minutes with 66km to go.
Back onto the flatter roads and this is where the peloton can really make the difference. Direct Energie, who won a race last week in Spain, push again and the gap is down to 1'41 with 64km to go.
⛰ Les 6 hommes de tête sont au pied du col du pas de la Couelle, autrement appelé le Petit Galibier. C’est la première côte répertoriée au classement de la montagne 🏆 pic.twitter.com/O12eQjHcxsJanuary 31, 2021
Back to climbing for the break but they're lined out and working well in a single pace-line. They have 1'32, so while they're not going to contest the win, they're burying themselves to stay away for as long as possible. The peloton have this under control. They have for most of the day to be honest.
Trentin looks good, and is neatly tucked into the end of the UAE Team Emirates line. He's a big favourite for today because he can handle these climbs and his sprint is up there with some of the best too.
Some bidons for the break because with the gap at 1'14 the cars are about to be brought back. 57km to go as we continue to climb.
Keen to see how Lawless goes today, if there's a full bunch sprint. He moved from Ineos in the winter and has a point to prove to both his former team and himself. He won the Tour de Yorkshire a couple of years ago, so he should be okay on these lumpy, grippy courses. He finished just outside the top-20 in his first race back last week.
Lotto-Soudal though are on the the front and they have plenty of cards to play with Wellens and Gilbert who can attack and then Degenkolb for the sprint. He's usually pretty good in early season races, and won a couple of early season Spanish races back in 2018.
52km to go and the gap is down to 1'03.
Under a minute now for the break and it looks like the'll be caught before the foot of the next climb, which comes in about 14km from now. Delko are in the mix now as well.
Uncategorized climb for the leaders and they're hanging on a bit now. Turns are getting shorter, there's no eye contact, and we might see some attacks. The gap is at 50 seconds with 46.5km to go.
Over that short climb and the gap is at 38 seconds with 43km to go.
The next categorized climb comes with 35km to go and the Route des Cretes is going to be a massive launch pad some attacks. We're about 6km from the foot of the ascent.
How to watch the 2021 Cyclo-cross World Championships – live streams from anywherehttps://t.co/yNRttg2xjVJanuary 31, 2021
We're climbing but not yet on the main ascent and the leaders have just 21 seconds. They've been away from the gun but with 37km to go they're almost within touching distance from the peloton.
Not seen much from AG2R Citroen yet in the race. Gallopin is near the back of the peloton and needs to move up before this climb really starts.
It's all over for the six riders in the break. 34km to go and they're caught as we hit some pitches that are 10 per cent. This climb is about 4km in length and it's going to cause some problems for those riders in the bunch who are already struggling.
Now AG2R hit the front and they're marked by several teams, including Groupama FDJ.
Mathias De Witte has crashed. He's okay but he's going to struggle to get back. He's on his feet but his day might be over.
FDJ are trying to take control with 31km to go, with Delko and AG2R all in the mix. This race is shaping up nicely.
Chaos. Riders have gone the wrong way at a turn. That's around 12 to 20 riders who made an error and they're going to struggle to get back to the race after that. They just took the wrong turn.
AG2R still have their full contingent and they're all on the front and setting a blistering pace right now. The ticker says 28km to go. That might be slightly off...
Riders are dropping like flies as the road climbs up on the Route des Cretes. Arkea have riders near the front but lets see if the sprinters can hang on.
Attack from Cofidis.
That looks like Ruben Fernandez but four riders have latched onto the move.
UAE have started to bring it all back together.
Wanty are the next to go but this move has also been heavily marked, this time with EF and Lotto Soudal.
EF-Education Nippo have pushed on with this move and they have one rider clear with two teammates.
The leading trio only have about five seconds but UAE are chasing them down. They're all in for Trentin today.
We've still got about 60 riders in the main field but more and more riders are struggling at the back. Wellens has attacked over the top and he's clear of the three-man move. Huge attack from the Belgian but he's up against a headwind at this point.
Simon Car from EF is the only rider capable of going with Wellens. The British rider was well-placed as he was in that three-man move. 22km to go but I think that's wrong.
Carr has been dropped, and Wellens isn't hanging around because he knows that this is his best chance of victory.
Wellens has about 10 seconds and he has about 500m to go on the Route des Cretes. 20km to go according to the ticker.
Carr has been caught and so has Wellens and now Herrada from Cofidis goes but this is too close to the summit to really gain a gap.
AG2R have a rider off the front with Jesus Herrada and there's a Direct Energie rider too as we start the descent. 18.8km to go.
The leading trio only have about 5 seconds on the chasing bunch.
Gallopin has a gap now with 16.5km to go after the former group of three were caught. There are about 20 riders left in the peloton and Trentin and Coquard are both there.
More and more riders are attacking from what's left of the peloton and it doesn't look like one team really has the numbers to do the chasing. Thomas for FDJ leads now but there's a group of riders, that includes Trentin, and Gallopin, that are coming back to him. There are riders all over the road now. Our lead group now has 20 or so riders but as soon as the pace settles we have another wave of attacks.
Ag2R have sent another ridder up the road as we start a short and sharp descent.
AG2R have tried with Calmejane and then Gallopin but their third attacker has the most meaningful gap. It's Aurélien Paret-Peintre.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre is about to be caught and Wellens has gone again. Trentin, isolated, has to counter and chase and we have about 5 riders in the lead group.
Wellens sits up because he's not getting any help and more and more riders are going to come across. Coquard is there still.
Wellens goes for a third time and three riders are quickly on his wheel.
Andreas Kron is the next rider to attack for Lotto Soudal and four riders go with him. That move is then shut down and we're climbing again.
B&B ping a rider up the road and EF counter but once more the move is brought back. Who will go next?
There are three groups on the road but the gaps are only about 10 seconds between them so this race is wide open. Thomas from Groupama has a dig with 16km to go.
There was a group of six and Carr attacks from that move and Thomas (FDJ) goes with him. Impressive ride from EF rider on his debut for the team.
We have Kron, Carr, Thomas and one other rider. They have gap with 15.5km to go.
We've one more climb to go, the Gineste but we're climbing before we get there.
B&B are leading the chase and they still have numbers in their ranks but our four leaders have 19 seconds and the gap is only getting bigger at the moment.
Arkea and UAE realise the danger and start to chase as well. It's uphill now until around 10km to go and then we have the long descent to the finish. 16 second for the four leaders. The four leaders are Odd Christian Eiking, Carr, Thomas and Kron. 13km to go.
The four leaders are holding a 17 second advantage at the moment with 12km to go.
Cyclo-cross World Championships: Van der Poel beats Van Aert to elite men's titleToon Aerts holds off Tom Pidcock to complete podium in Ostendehttps://t.co/EFPal3scGS pic.twitter.com/6OrLyKf0kTJanuary 31, 2021
We're almost at the top of the climb now but the gap is just a handful of seconds.
Caught at the summit with 10km to go. No sign of Degenkolb but we still have Trentin, Coquard and Boasson Hagen in the lead group.
Trentin has two riders with him and one of them is leading the first group on the descent. 6.7km to go. We're heading to a reduced bunch sprint.
B&B are also on the front as well as they look to set up Coquard for the sprint. Just 5.4km to go.
Coquard has four teammates with him and this would be a statement win if he can beat a field that has more WorldTour riders than normal.
4.3km to go.
3.4km to go as we see Direct Energie move up as well. Arkea are there as well. We've got about 25 riders in this group. 2.9km to go.
Attack with 2.7km to go from AG2R. Caught.
B&B back on the front with 2.2km to go.
Trentin and Coquard are side by side with 1.5km to go.
Kron attacks and UAE chase him down.
AG2R attack again and UAE chase once more. Into the final 800m.
B&B lead us out. Trentin is on Coquard's wheel.
Trentin goes long!
He's swamped by Coquard and several others but this is going to be close.
Coquard has gone too early as well and Boudat is closing but Aurélien Paret-Peintre is as well.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre takes the win!
That was close but I think Aurélien Paret-Peintre timed it perfectly on the line. Trentin and Coquard started way too early.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre was on the attack earlier and we're still waiting on the official result but I think the AG2R rider has the win.
Confirmed: Aurélien Paret-Peintre, Boudat and then Coquard.
You can find our report, results and photos, right here.
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