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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite 2014


Hello and welcome to our live coverage from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Spring is here, and with it comes the first major race on Belgian soil. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad ushers in the start of the cobbled classics and with a strong field here in Gent we should be in for an excellent race.

We're about 45 minutes away from the official start here in the main square. The team buses, new and old, are parked up and as you would expect there are huge crowds around the Omega Pharma QuickStep team bus.

They're all waiting to catch a glimpse of Tom Boonen. He along with his Omega teammates have started the season in fine form and they'll be looking to make up for a below par spring from 2013. What better way to start the ball rolling with a win today.

Not far from the Omega Pharma hideout is the Katusha team bus, home in a temporary sense to last year's winner, Luca Paolini. The Italian picked up a fine win here in 2013 and with Alexander Kristoff in the team as well, the Russian squad look a decent bet for a top ten at least.

As for the route, the peloton will tackle ten climbs on the 199 kilometre course, beginning with the Leberg (59km). After controversially cutting the Muur van Geraardsbergen from the Tour of Flanders, organiser Flanders Classics makes some sort of amends by including it as the third helling here, albeit with 117km still to race.

The race traditionally begins to enter its endgame on the Taaienberg (136km), followed shortly afterwards by the Eikenberg and Wolvenberg, although it is the Omloop’s flat sections of cobbles – particularly the three blasts over the sector at Haaghoek – that often cause the greatest problems.

The final climb of the Molenberg comes with some 37 kilometres still to race, though there are still three sections of cobbles in the finale that can force additional selections in the leading group.

If you're unsure of who to follow over today's action, take a look at this video, in which we highlight 10 riders to watch out for.

We've mentioned Omega briefly but it's BMC who are now signing on. The team has arguably the strongest team in terms of depth for the spring classics, even without Ballan, and they'll be looking to ride an aggressive race.

BMC certainly have the firepower to make a difference today with three cards that they can play in a number of scenarios. Greg van Avermaet and Thor Hushovd are apparently the designated team leaders, while US rider Taylor Phinney has been given a 'wildcard' role. The America has already taken a stage race this year, a huge confidence booster ahead of his major objectives for the first half of the season.

Greg van Avermaet:

We're roughly 20 minutes away from the start of the race.


2012 winner of the race, Sep Vanmarcke, is also on the start list for today's race. The Belgian goes into his second season with Belkin and will be one of the main riders to watch this spring. He crashed in Tirreno last year and it really harmed his chances in the Classics but he turned it around with a fine second place in Paris Roubaix against Fabian Cancellara. If Vanmarcke can stay healthy he's a rider that could win his first Monument this season. He's got a decent set of teammates around him today too, with Boom and Tankink here to name just two.

Brian Smith ‏@BriSmithy 1h:

Back to BMC, one rider worth following here today might be Rick Zabel. Neo-pro, here to learn and you know who is father is, but he's tipped for big things.

We've just had a knock on the side door of the CN blimp and it's Sean Weide, press officer for BMC. Luckily we're not in trouble (this time) but he's kindly passed us the following note:

"The BMC Racing Team has had to replace Manuel Quinziato in its line-up today. The Italian had his left ankle hit by a wheelchair while he was walking earlier this week and the injury to his Achilles has not healed sufficiently enough to allow him to start. Rick Zabel will take his place today, while Taylor Phinney has been scheduled to replace him for Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday."

Teams are starting to make their way to the start line with just a handful of minutes to go until the start of the race.

If you're following the race today you can reach me at

David Millar rides up to the start line. It’s quite an eclectic line up for the American outfit today with the experience of Millar, Vansummeren and Nuyens, mixed with new signing Langeveld. They’ve two Classics winners in the team, which is two more than BMC, Lotto, and Sky if you’re not counting Gent-Wevelgem, so they can’t be counted out.

And the race is now underway with riders leaving the start area to huge cheers from the passionate crowds around too. The press head over to the other side of the square in search of a warm press room, coffee and if they're lucky enough pastries to see them through to the finish.

It's a relatively flat opening section to the race but the wind will play a part for sure but it's all about establishing the early break and setting the tone and nature of the race until we hit the first set of climbs later in the race.

No new signings for Team Sky in the Classics department over the winter and they're keeping faith with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Stannard, and Eisel who are all racing today. They won here in 2010 with Flecha wining ahead of Haussler and the peloton and good result today would give them a huge boost.

It's pretty chilly out there at the moment, with most of the riders wrapped up in arm warmers and gloves. Last year's winner, Paolini, is even fashioning a scarf.

There was of course a minute of silence ahead of today's race for Kristof Goddaert. The Belgian rider was tragically killed whilst out training last month. His teammate, Heinrich Haussler, wrote this tribute to him on CN, and our thoughts go out to Kristoff's friends and family.

The IAM Cycling riders were at the front of the peloton as they rolled out, a touching tribute to the friend they lost.

The bunch are still together in the opening few minutes of the race.

194km remaining from 198km

Last year a nine man move espaced to become the early break in the race. Gatis Smukulis (Katusha)  was one of the riders and he's back in action today.

186km remaining from 198km

As soon as that's said a small group splits off the front of the peloton and builds a 12 second lead.

As soon as that's said a small group splits off the front of the peloton and builds a 12 second lead.

The lead is now up to 25 seconds for the eight-man move. We'll bring you the names as soon as we have them.

38 seconds for Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty), Stijn Steels (Topsport), Maciej Paterski (CCC), Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Andreas Schillinger (Netapp), Aliaksandr Kuchynski (Katusha), and Ramon Sinkeldam (Giant Shimano).

180km remaining from 198km

Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) arrives at the Opening Weekend buoyed by his tight sprint victory in Seville at the Ruta del Sol. “I had a good winter, and although I had a crash in Mallorca I feel good, especially after winning last week,” he said at the start in Sint-Pietersplein.

The peloton are comfortable with the break and allow them to build up a lead that's a little closer to two minutes. The bunch will probably afford them up to five or six minutes before they begin to get to work.

It's a lot milder this year compared to this time in 2013 when Europe was going through a cold snap. It was 8 degrees at the start this morning and that should help a lot of the riders who have come back from Dubai, Qatar and Oman to race here. Last year a lot of riders struggled when switching from the heat to the cold in Europe.

The leading eight riders are working well together. They've extended their advantage over the peloton to 2:30.

Omega Pharma Quick Step, who took second in the race last year, are currently on the front of the peloton. With no Sagan, and no Cancellara in today's race the Belgian team will be looking to get their Classics season off to a good start.

165km remaining from 198km

As the leaders extend their buffer to three minutes.

Over 35 km covered so far and the race is fairly settled at the moment with 8 riders up the road and Omega Pharma QuickStep setting the pace at the front of the peloton. It’s roughly another 30km before we reach the first set of climbs in the race and that's where we'll get an indication of who stands a chance of animating the race in the finale. The long, flat run-in does offer up a chance for a mass sprint of course.

Away from Belgium and Guardini has won stage 3 in Langkawi. You can read the report, flick through the race images, and scan the results, all here.

ASO have announced the wildcard slots for their Classics, including Paris-Roubaix

While the route for Milan-San Remo has been altered with the Pompeiana climb being taken out due to concerns over safety. It makes the race, on paper at least, a lot better suited to the sprinters and Andre Greipel has released a statement this morning stating that he will race the one day Classic.

157km remaining from 198km

Veuchelen takes a pull on the front. The 34-year-old has been a pro for 10 years, and he of course won Dwars door Vlaanderen back in 2006. He never really kicked on after that, and afer Vacansoleil folded at the end of last year he signed for the Belgian outfit.

Paterski is another rider in the break and on a new team. The 27-year-old spent a number of years at Liquigas and Cannondale but despite a promising career at U23 he never really blossomed in Italy. Now on a Polish team he'll be one of the main riders for the squad this season. He made the top 20 in the Worlds last year, so he’s certainly capable of a result.

Sinkeldam is a rider worth watching. He's been with the Argos/Giant-Shimano team since turning pro - he came through the ranks at Rabobank's U23 team, and he's won the U23 version of Roubaix. He had a few top tens last year but he's still quite young  - 25 - and is certainly worthy of his place in the day's break.

144km remaining from 198km

Kuchynski takes his pull on the front of the group. The Katusha rider was second in Gent-Wevelgem in 2009, finishing just behind Edvald Boasson Hagen, who was then riding for HTC. Awful weather that day with the main group breaking clear very early on and Boassan Hagen and Kuchynski going away on the final climb before the finish.

The leaders are now closing in on the first section of cobbles. No disrespect to any of the races that have taken place so far this year but it really feels like the season is starting right here.

The section in question is 2km in length and should really blow away some of the cobwebs for some of these riders.

137km remaining from 198km

The press conference from Boassan Hagen back in 2009 was classic, no pun intended. The press room there is a freezing school gym with no heating at all. At times it's warmer outside than it is in the press room. Anyway Boasson Hagen is on stage, answering questions in his own diminutive manner, when someone asks about Sean Kelly and the Irish rider's record in the Classics. Boasson Hagen hadn't heard of Kelly or his palmares, a testament to how young he was to some extent.

Back to the race and the break are now on the Leberg, a 950m climb with an average gradient of 5.1 per cent. The gap to the peloton falls to 2'25.

There are pitches of 13.8 per cent on this climb so it could stretch the break here. They'll want to reform quickly though as there's another climb just after the descent.

There are pitches of 13.8 per cent on this climb so it could stretch the break here. They'll want to reform quickly though as there's another climb just after the descent.

The bunch are going to hit this climb at close to full speed as they try and fight for the front positions. Positioning as everyone knows is crucial on these short punchy bergs because if you're caught behind a crash or a split it could be race over.

It's still QuickStep on the front and controlling the pace of the peloton. They won't want to catch the break this early so chances are that they'll sit up for a fraction once the first flurry of climbs has been taken.

Over that first cluster of climbs and back onto a flat section before we tackle the Muur. The break are holding their own with their advantage at 2'25.

120km remaining from 198km

Onto the Muur for the break and it's Lemoine from Cofidis who is setting the pace.

He takes the centre of the climb, refusing to ride in the gutter for now as he pushes on.

110km remaining from 198km

Another ten seconds for the break, with their lead now up to 4'20.

The bunch are just taking stock at the moment, a number of riders heading back to team cars for extra fuel, change of clothing, and a word with their DS. Just over 100km to go and approaching the halfway point in the race.

A puncture for Tyler Farrar but the Garmin rider is going to make contact with the peloton without too much trouble. He's been on the podium here before, in 2010, but hasn't really developed into the Classics rider he and his team thought he might.

We've not really mentioned Lotto this morning other than in relation to Milan-San Remo but Jurgen Roelandts, who claimed third in Flanders last year, is racing. The Belgian has had a lot of bad luck in previous years but his ride in Flanders showed that he can compete at the front and in major races. New signing, Tony Gallopin, isn't racing today so leadership rests with Roelandts.

94km remaining from 198km

Wet roads so there's been some rain in the last few hours.

This rolling terrain that the break are on now is really going to start to wear them down soon. The've been on the attack since the first few kms this morning and the bunch haven't given them more than four minutes.

There's a crash and Hushovd is down.

Middle of the bunch and the Norwegian is in trouble.

He's on his feet but he can't get going again and now he's slumped by the side of a house. It looks like either his shoulder or his wrist.

He was quickly on his feet after the fall and when he went to pick up his bike it was clear that something was wrong. It looks like his race is now over.

No confirmation yet on Hushovd but there hasn't been any sign of him chasing back to the bunch.

90km remaining from 198km

The bunch are on the next section of cobbles and FDJ have joined Omega at the front of the peloton.

Sky are also moving up on the right hand side of the road while BMC are missing at the moment. They'll need to regroup and perhaps change their plans.

There's another BMC rider chasing back towards the bunch but it's not Hushovd.

Eisel is currently in second wheel, Boasson Hagen not far from the front either but it's still Boonen's men who set the tempo.

Giant Shimano are also moving up towards the head of the race but the break continue to hold their advantage at 2'44.

Roughly two years remaining in the race, 83km and if you're just joining us we have an eight man group off the front of the peloton with a lead of 2'50.

Tankink is at the back of the bunch with Boom. They'll really want to try and move up before the next sector of climbs, where we'll certainly see Boonen attack.

BMC Racing Team ‏@BMCProTeam 1m

Haussler is also near the back of the peloton. His team need to bring him closer to the front and soon.

Roughly two hours remaining in the race, 83km and if you're just joining us we have an eight man group off the front of the peloton with a lead of 2'50.

75km remaining from 198km

The rain is starting to fall now and it's getting heavier.

The leaders are now on the Kruisberg, all eight of them still together.

It's Steels who sets the pace as they tackle the cobbles.

A couple of the riders are starting to struggle though with Schillinger losing a bit of ground, his shoulders rocking from side to side.

Garmin have now placed two riders on the front. They have a former winner in their team in Langeveld and he'd love to win here again to open his account with the team.

There's a Sky rider at the back who may have had a fall. He's on his feet as there's an injection of pace from Lotto.

Bauer (Garmin) is in second wheel, as the bunch now grind up towards the top of the same climb.

The peloton crest the top of the climb and the pace gently eases as they look back to see the damage, if any, that they've caused.

Bak (Lotto) continues to set the pace on the front of the peloton. The Danish rider easing up slightly and Europcar then send a rider up the road. The move is closed down by Lotto in a flash.

The wet roads, the fluctuations in pace, and the fight for the front of the peloton, all mean we could see more crashes here as the bunch sling through another tight right hand corner.

And there we have it. Two riders in the ditch, one from Katusha, one from Wanty and a Cofidis rider sitting on the road. All seem to be on their feet though.

There were about five riders who came down in total and now it's Belkin, for the first time today, who move up and start to set the pace.

And there's another fall.

Garmin and Europcar involved this time.

That might be Van Hoff on the floor.

As Paolini stops for a new bike.

He gets a push from a mechanic and he's chasing again but FDJ are setting a brisk pace and now one of their riders has attacked.

63km remaining from 198km

The attack from FDJ is about to be brought back by Belkin.

The rain continues to fall as Belkin lead up towards the next climb. There are maybe 70 riders left in the main field.

The break are now on the Taaienberg

Boonen fans, you know what's probably coming up don't you?

But it's Belkin who attack with Vanmarcke attacking from the front.

He has a gap with Vansummeren looking to chase him down.

But it's a Belkin rider in second place too and Vanmarcke has opened up a huge gap there.

He seemed to jump at the foot of the climb and caught everyone off guard.

The Belkin rider is about to be caught though, with Stannard making contact first, with one more Belkin rider on his wheel.

It's Wynants, Stannard and Vanmarcke.

60km remaining from 198km

More and more riders are coming up to the Stannard group. They include Terpstra and a bunch of Omega riders. Rain jackets on so it's tough to pick out the riders at the moment.

That was a real show of intent from Vanmarcke though, plundering Boonen's climb with an attack of his own.

57km remaining from 198km

Now it's Belkin who have to chase with Omega and FJD combining with an attack.

It's Sky who are chasing though.

It looks like Boasson Hagen leading the way. Phinney and Boonen both still in the hunt.

And the break has been caught with 54km to go and it's Terpstra who attacks and leads the race with one rider glued to his wheel.

Four of the break are still leading the race but they only have a handful of seconds now.

Terpstra is in the second group on the road that includes Le Bon and Devenyns.

The main field is split into several groups at the moment and there's another crash with a Katusha rider hitting the deck. It's Selig.

And there's another attack from Vanmarcke in a bid to catch the Terpstra group.

Terpstra can't let the Belking rider make contact.

It might eliminate one team from the chase but Vanmarcke is handy in a sprint.

The remnants of the break has now been caught by the Terpstra group. Vanmarcke is there too now.

The main field are closing though with Sky leading the chase. It could all come back together.

48km remaining from 198km

The race is slowly coming back together and Boonen hasn't had to use too much energy yet while Vanmarcke has made two big attacks.

Roelandts appears to have been caught out and is off the back of the bunch.

And Chavanel attacks.

Free from Quickstep but he has his old team setting the pace in a bid to try and catch him.

Now Boasson Hagen is near the front with Chavanel caught but setting the pace.

The Frenchman eases off the pedals as at the back of the bunch Eisel makes contact.

And Vanmarcke surges forward once more.

Belkin are really trying to unsettle QuickStep and force them into a mistake.

The Belkin rider is brought back and again Chavanel returns to the front. No sign of Haussler but he might be hidden in the main field.

Onto the Leberg.

Vanmarcke climbs in second wheel, Boonen, Stybar and Van Avermaet are all there.

And Van Avermaet attacks.

It's nothing more than a probing test but Boonen is grimacing.

There are less than 30 riders still in the main field. It might be only 200km but it's a real war of attrition.

Just as the bunch crest the top of the climb there's another attack, it strings everyone out but a handful of riders are clear. Hagen, Boom and Demare are there. Chavanel is leading the chase but he's marked by Stannard a la last year's San Remo.

It looks like Terpstra is in the lead group again and the gap here is at 10 seconds. Sky are slowing down the chase.

So we have Boom, Boasson Hagen, Demare, Offredo and three other riders in the lead group.

And Terpstra, and that group has 25 seconds with 33km to go. It means BMC and Garmin will have to chase.

Omega still have numbers in the second group as Boonen gobbles down some food.

The leaders are Demare, Boom, Boasson Hagen, Terpstra, Offredo, E. Garcia, Van Bilsen

Onto the Molenberg and Offredo has fallen.

Phinney and Van Avermaet are leading the chase together now.

But the gap remains at 26 seconds.

And Terpstra is clear. He's ridden free of the entire group.

Boom, Boom, Boom, makes contact so we now have two leaders.

Boasson Hagen looks to have been dropped on that last climb and he's leading the chase with Demare. Omega will be very happy with the current situation.

Offredo will soon be caught by the main field. FDJ were in such a good position at one stage.

Boom is glued to Terpstra's wheel and now Demare, Boasson Hagen and Van Bilsen make contact.

They're not going to work with Terpstra if he's this strong and again the Omega rider pushes on the pedals. Boom eventually comes through and takes a turn.

MTN and BMC are now leading the chase.

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And Vansummeren moves to the front of the peloton. Langeveld is still in the hunt but he needs that lead group to be closer if he's to bridge.

Terpstra and Boom now have 46 seconds on the bunch but Boasson Hagen is with them now. Will the two Dutch riders work against the better sprinter?

30km remaining from 198km

Van Bilsen sets the pace, he's having a fantastic ride.

The chase group is starting to fall apart and it's Vanmarcke who is now trying to go after the lead group.

Demare being in the group adds another dimension and Terpstra attacks and the Frenchman is in trouble.

It looks like Demare has blown.

Bilsen too. so we just have Terpstra, Boasson Hagen and Boom, with 42 seconds on the chasers.

Langeveld leads the chase with Phinney on his wheel.

At the front Boom takes another turn but Terpstra just looks so strong. Boasson Hagen looks to be in some trouble but he's hanging in there for now.

Omega have been the strongest team today. They did most of the work this morning and then every move since, mainly from Terpstra has been powerful yet controlled. The chase behind, they simply can't get it together and the gap is now at 48 seconds.

We're heading into the final 25km now.

Lotto have just one rider in the chase, BMC two, Garmin a couple but we still have two or three Omega riders there too. Even if they do bring back the leaders they're open to further attacks.

Boasson Hagen only wants to take a short turn on the front and Terpstra isn't amused. He comes through, offers a few choice words shall we say and then swings off.

The leaders have 35 seconds so the chase is staring to get organised.

And Boom has a flat.

It's taking an age to change and he'll now wait for the second group.

And Boasson Hagen attacks Terpstra.

Boom is now back with Vanmarcke

And it's Roelandts that sets the pace with the leaders at 33 seconds.

They're talking and talking but they're not really working.

They're looking back at every opportunity.

Terpstra now leads, again he checks back to see where the Sky rider is and again Boasson Hagen increases the pace.

20km to go.

Belkin can now chase and they've shaved 8 seconds off the lead. Is Ciolek stll there? He was in the chase group a few minutes ago.

Phinney is there as he swings an arm out in order to encourage more help from the riders in his group. The two leaders have 22 seconds.

And Boasson Hagen has attacked again

He has a gap this time and Terpstra who looked so strong earlier is struggling at the moment.

The Omega rider makes contact and the gap is at 18 seconds.

Well they're not going to work together now and it's Terpstra who tries to take off this time.

They come together once more and look at each other before checking back.

Rowe and Stannard are in the chase group for Sky.

14 riders in the chase group and I don't think Boonen is one of them. Stybar is there though.

The two leaders have been caught and and it looks like Stannard is clear with one of the BMC riders. It's Van Avermaet.

15km remaining from 198km

Le Bon tries to break free from the chase but he's brought back. The two leaders have 9 seconds.

Boasson Hagen and Terpstra are stil out there but there's no time check so that means Stannard and Van Avermaet are the second group out on the road.

Correction: Stannard and Van Avermaet lead. They have a handful of seconds over Terpstra, Boasson Hagen and Vanmarcke with the rest of the chase just behind them.

Into the final 10km with the two leaders clear by 11 seconds.

Stannard and Van Avermaet have 15 seconds on the trio behind with the rest of the chase at 26 seconds.

The two leaders are working well together, sharing the pace, and not attacking each other. Yet.

Van Avemaet grits his teeth, his face covered in dirt and mud as Stannard, still with glasses on comes through and shares the pace.

The chasing trio have them at 9 seconds and this is playing into Boasson Hagen's hands as he doesn't need to chase. Vanmarcke and Terpstra have to do it all.

6km remaining from 198km

BMC, Sky, Omega, they're not going to chase at this stage. I don't think they have the strength too either.

Just 9 seconds between the two lead groups. Will Stannard press on or slow things down for B oasson Hagen?

4km to go and the gap is 11 seconds.

Stannard doesn't look to be slowing down as he takes another turn at the front.

Van Avermaet comes through and does his turn now too.

The chasing trio are now at 12 seconds.

The gap moves out to 14 seconds.

And we have just 2.4km to go.

The two leaders are starting to watch each other, neither wanting to make a mistake at this point.

They're just over 1km from the finish now as Stannard sits on the front.

Van Avermaet moves up and takes the lead.

They're lining out for the sprint here.

It's Van Avermaet against Stannard.

Van Avermaet hugs the right hand side but Stannard jumps from a long way out.

He has time to look back

Van Avemaet ties to come back.

It's Stannard. The Sky rider hangs on and takes the win.

Here comes the chase group, and Boasson Hagen takes it, so that's two Sky riders on the podium.

Stannard took that by about 3/4 of a wheel but it was close in the end with Van Avermaet coming back in the final few meters

Here's the top ten:

Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, results and photos, right here.

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