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Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite 2016

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Welcome to our live coverage from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. We're in Belgium, Gent to be exact, for the start of the spring classics season. We've had TDU, the Middle East but we're in Europe today for the traditional curtain raiser of the cobbled campaign.

Ahead of the riders today 200km of bergs, cobbles  and modified finish from previous years. BMC, Etixx, Sky, Lotto Soudal, Tinkoff, they're all here and riders are signing on at the moment with the official start in 45 mins from now.

 

Until then, you can take a look the official start list. It's packed with Classics contenders for this spring. Shortly we'll bring you quotes from some of the race contenders for today.

Peter Sagan is still on the Tinkoff team bus. He wears dossard number 1 and the rainbow jersey as the world champion. The defending Omloop champion, Ian Stannard is not here today, skipping the race as he takes a different approach to the Classics this season.

Sagan held a press conference yesterday in Kortrijk, here the Tinkoff team have stayed for a number of years, stretching back to their Riis CSC days. Here's what the World Champion had to say:

 

I want to take these races more like…” he says, gesturing with his hands to indicate he’ll be taking things fairly easy. “I want to see; it’s the first race after one month. I still need some more race kilometres. Now I went down from altitude and I want to just see my condition, and do a good two days. Then we will see in the next two months, in the more important races, what I can do."

 

You can read the full story, here.

Tinkoff have beefed up their Classics line up this year with the signings of Blythe and Gatto (already a winner this season. Here's their full line-up for today's event.

 

1 Peter Sagan (Svk)
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita)
3 Adam Blythe (GBr)
4 Maciej Bodnar (Pol)
5 Oscar Gatto (Ita)
6 Jay McCarthy (Aus)
7 Manuele Boaro (Ita)
8 Nikolay Trusov (Rus)

A few yards away from Tinkoff's team bus is the Etixx QuickStep mobile. The biggest crowds gather there, as they do every year, with Tom Boonen back in Belgium for his first race on home soil in 2016. The Belgian is still on the comeback trail after his crashes last year and he will be looking for a performance today.

 

Joining Boonen today in the line up is Tony Martin, who has made no secret of his cobbled Classics ambitions in 2016. He won a Tour de France stage on the stones in 2015 and he has the credentials to do well over the spring but today is a big test for him. A one-off stage in the Tour is quite different to the Classics of the Spring. Here's the full line up from the Belgian team:

 

11 Tom Boonen (Bel)
12 Iljo Keisse (Bel)
13 Julien Vermote (Bel)
14 Nikolas Maes (Bel)
15 Tony Martin (Ger)
16 Niki Terpstra (Ned)
17 Łukasz Wiśniowski (Pol)
18 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel)

Lotto Soudal, Belgian's other WorldTour team enter the race with a volley of potential leaders. No Greipel for tomorrow so a lot rests on today's performance but in Benoot, Debusschere and Roelandts they have riders who can make the race. You can read our feature on Benoot, right here.

 

21 Tiesj Benoot (Bel)
22 Stig Broeckx (Bel)
23 Jens Debusschere (Bel)
24 Sean De Bie (Bel)
25 Pim Ligthart (Ned)
26 Jürgen Roelandts (Bel)
27 Tosh Van der Sande (Bel)
28 Jelle Wallays (Bel)

Riders are starting to slowly emerge from their team buses now in dribs and drabs. Lotto are making their way to the podium to sign on, Team Sky are also on the move. Decents crowds out today as one might expect.

Before you settle down for our live coverage from the race you can enjoy our podcast. This week we talk to Gilbert, Sean Kelly and Tyler Farrar, while there's also analysis from the CN team and Ed Pickering from ProCycling. You can find the podcast, on this page.

BMC come into the spring with two leaders in Gilbert and Van Avermaet, the former still looking for his first major win in the Belgian Spring Classics. Today both riders race and there's strong support throughout the spuad:

 

41 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux)
42 Floris Gerts (Ned)
43 Philippe Gilbert (Bel)
44 Daniel Oss (Ita)
45 Manuel Quinziato (Ita)
46 Michael Schär (Swi)
47 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel)
48 Rick Zabel (Ger)

 

"I was a few times second and third, had some good results, not winning but I'm pretty happy with my shape," Van Avermaet said of the season openers in the desert. "I'm in one of my best conditions ever at the start here. It's pretty good to start the Classics season with a feeling like this, and it can only get better."

 

The full story on the BMC press conference is here.

Ian Stannard is away training today and the winner of the last two editions of this race is taking a modified approach to the Classics this season. That leaves the door open for another leader at Team Sky.

 

101 Andrew Fenn (GBr)
102 Michał Gołaś (Pol)
103 Christian Knees (Ger)
104 Gianni Moscon (Ita)
105 Salvatore Puccio (Ita)
106 Luke Rowe (GBr)
107 Alex Peters (GBr)
108 Elia Viviani (Ita)

 

Fenn and Rowe impressed in the Classics last year while Viviani is certainly one of the favourites for tomorrow's Kuurne Brussel Kuurne.

Less than ten minutes to go now until the official start of this year's race. Almost the entire peloton are on the startline now.

A reminder before we set off - in fact the riders are heading out through the neutralized zone now - here's our official start list for today's action.

Blue skies and sun this morning although arm warmers are standard as FDJ take us through the neutralized zone at the moment.

We can see Kristoff, second in Kuurne last year, is already near the front of the peloton with his Katusha teammates. The sprinter/one-day star has hit the ground running already this season with a string of wins. He'll be looking to carry on that form this weekend.

81 Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor)
82 Marco Haller (Aut)
83 Vladimir Isaychev (Rus)
84 Alexander Kristoff (Nor)
85 Nils Politt (Ger)
86 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb)
87 Michael Mørkøv (Den)
88 Alexey Tsatevich (Rus)

There are 13 climbs in today's race, 10 sectors of cobbles but for the first hour or so it's flat, smooth roads. The wind could be crucial but at the moment the conditions are relatively calm.

Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) is approaching the classics differently this year. The 27 year-old Belgian rider was in good moods on Saturday morning. “These will be my first racing kilometres. You have to start somewhere so what better place to do it than here,” Keukeleire joked on the start podium in Ghent. “More than half the team did it like this last year. Now it was up to me as well. First I did a training camp in Spain and then we headed to South-Africa for three weeks. This week I did some motor-pacing. The weather difference is probably the thing that makes it the hardest. I think there’s better places than South-Africa to train but we had everything we need,” Keukeleire told Cyclingnews at the Citadelpark in Ghent on a sunny Saturday morning.

Still in the neutralized zone but the flag should drop in the next couple of minutes. Riders on the front are just chatting casually at the moment. It's all about to change.

And we're off with 8 eight skipping clear of the field in the early stages. They have a gap but it's just a few yards at the moment. The peloton are already reacting.

Two of the riders in the eight-man move are Van Melsen and Gougeard as their names crackle through the race radio. We're still waiting on confirmation on the other six men in the early break.

Reus  - once a world champion at junior level and of Rabobank and Farazijn are also in the lead group. The group has split though so we have four leaders, four chasers, and then the peloton.

The name of the leaders trickle through via Sporza. We have Gougeard, Morice, House, Van Goethem, Farazijn, Van Melsen, Van Zummeren and Reus. A decent enough move at this stage. One Pro will be delighted to have a rider in the break, for sure.

No official time gap just yet but Eitxx QuickStep have already moved up to the front of the bunch and started to set the pace. Nothing too hard, just enough to keep the break in check and the peloton on their toes. Boonen, Martin, both where they should be at this point in the race.

179km remaining from 200km

We have the first gap 5'40 and we've covered 21km of racing so far.

With the gap over five minutes BMC and Katusha have also signalled their intent and posted men on the front of the peloton in a bid to stabilise the situation.

 

A reminder of the leaders in the break today: Kristian House (ONE Pro Cycling), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Kai Reus (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team), Brian van Goethem (Roompot - Oranje Peloton), Stef Van Zummeren (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team), Zakkari Dempster (Bora-Argon 18), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo - Vital Concept), and Brecht Dhaene (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team).

That work from the front of the field has seen the break lose a part of their lead, the advantage down to 5'15 with 173km still remaining in the race.

The twelve man break continue to work well together and have 5'10 over the Etixx led peloton at the moment. We're around 25km from the first climb and cobbled section of the race but there's a steady pattern to the race at the moment.

The women's version of the race is in full flow. This morning we caught up with World Champion Lizzie Armitstead and here's what she had to say:

 

"I hope I'm ready. I guess I'll find out today. The winter prep has been good and I had decent training. The team are well prepared and strong. Everyone is capable on a course like this. There's a real mix of favourites from other teams, so we have to watch everyone."



 

We also caught up with Emma Johansson:

"I feel good and happy be back in Belgium. The atmosphere in the team is good - especially coming off training camp. The camp was a bit full-on so I spent yesterday resting. I'm ready."

Back to this race and the gap has dropped down to 4'35 with 163km remaining. The peloton continue to keep the group of twelve leaders in check at this point and it's still Etixx leading the charge. Last year they went into the final 40km with a 3 vs 1 scenario but lost out to Ian Stannard. It's fair to say that they have a point to prove today.

It's Keisse on the front and he's been there ever since the break moved clear. He barely changes position, and just keeps ticking along and setting the pace for his team and the peloton. It's such an important part of the make-up of Etixx, to be able to control the race during these early stages. It's always expected of them, and they always deliver on that front.

 

Team manager Patrick Lefevere picked his dream team for the Classics earlier this week and you can read about it here.

At the start this morning we also caught up with Kristoff:


“This race comes nearly a month before the moment when you’re supposed to be in top form. That’s what makes it hard to win this race. Maybe the headwind can slow things down up front and allow me to come back.
 

"I was good last year before this race and I was still only 11th here. If I win here I’ll be a lil bit surpsirsed. I know it’s going to be really hard. I’m still here to race and try to do well, so if I see my opportunity I’ll take it."

We also hear from Tom Boonen:

 

“It’s the race I don’t think I’ve ever missed so it’s probably my 15th start. It’ll be interesting to see the riders we’ll be riding against in the Classics. The race became harder the last few years. Often the wind comes from another direction. The last time there was a headwind to the finish it was Thor Hushovd who won the race. With the crosswinds there might be echelons. That’s fun when you’re up front.”

We also heard from Tom Boonen:

 

“It’s the race I don’t think I’ve ever missed so it’s probably my 15th start. It’ll be interesting to see the riders we’ll be riding against in the Classics. The race became harder the last few years. Often the wind comes from another direction. The last time there was a headwind to the finish it was Thor Hushovd who won the race. With the crosswinds there might be echelons. That’s fun when you’re up front.”

You can find our complete list of start-line quotes from this morning, right here.

The break are just about to hit the Leberg, the first climb of the day, with 13 in total throughout the race.

150km remaining from 200km

A reminder of the riders in the break today:

 

Kristian House (ONE Pro Cycling), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty - Groupe Gobert), Maxime Farazijn (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Kai Reus (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team), Brian van Goethem (Roompot - Oranje Peloton), Stef Van Zummeren (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team), Zakkari Dempster (Bora-Argon 18), Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis, Solutions Credits), Benoit Jarrier (Fortuneo - Vital Concept), and Brecht Dhaene (Veranda's Willems Cycling Team)

They currently have 4'30 over the peloton.

The break extend their advantage on the climb and bring the gap back up to five minutes. 135km to go.

Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
 

"With Ian Stannard not being here, it opens the door up a bit. If he was here he’d be the outright leader. It gives myself and a few others the opportunity to step up and see what we can do. You don’t get many opportunities in this team to have a chance, to be leader, to go into a race with personal ambitions, so when you do you've got to take them. If I fuck it up today, I might not get another opportunity, so I have to make the most of it."

Etixx - Quick-Step ‏:

 

 

Don't forget that you can bookmark our complete guide to the Spring Classics, right here.

 

And our recent podcast, featuring Sean Kelly, Gilbert and Farrar, is right here too.

125km remaining from 200km

125km to go and the gap to the twelve man group is still at 5'05. Etixx and Katusha near the front and Sagan and his Tinkoff team sit a little further back. He won the Worlds with one well-timed attack. Can he do the same again today?

Servais Knaven (Team Sky DS)
 

"The weather’s not too bad but there’s quite some wind. It’s never easy on the Flemish roads. For Luke he knew this winter this was going be a big hit for him, so he prepared for this race, he’s ready. It’s his first time as a leader, he’s finished well here before, it s a race that suits him. He’s looking forward to it and he’s ready, and we are confident."

Still dry at the finish but the wind is picking up ever so slightly at the moment. The morning freshness is still there but the conditions are generally perfect for this time of the season.

ONE PRO:

RACE UPDATE: Mechanical for @williamspete but he's safely back in the bunch. @OmloopHNB

 

News in from Richard Plugge from Lotto Jumbo that the UCI were scanning bikes at the start of the race this morning.

The break line out on the Muur, the crowds roaring them on in the process. It's enough to send a shiver down your spine with a wall of noise coming from both sides.

The gap is still holding at between 4'30 and 5'00 with Etixx and Keisse still doing all the work on the front of the peloton. He's executed his job perfectly today, and Lefevere can't ask any more.

There's a fresh injection of pace from the peloton as they hit the climb and as they crest the top the gap to the 12-man break is down to 3'25.

It's Katusha and Topsport who currently lead the peloton now with Kristoff's men setting the pace. We've still over 100km to go in the race but already the most established teams are starting to control affairs.

More news on the mechanical doping checks carried out before the race, with a story here from Patrick Fletcher who was at the start this morning. A number of teams were checked yesterday.

92km remaining from 200km

Meanwhile 93km to go as the peloton pass through the feedzone. The gap to the break is just over three minutes.

It's Katusha who continue to do the damage on the front of the peloton but they've been joined by Trek Segafredo too.

Hugo Hofstetter take a long pull on the front of the break and the gap is holding at 3'08 for now but the next set of climbs are just around the corner.

Tony Martin is right at the front of the peloton for Etixx QuickStep and leads the bunch through a tight left-hand turn.

Keisse leads Martin and the rest of the peloton onto the Haaghoek sector of cobbles.

And now it's Trek who come back and start to set the pace. No Cancellara here today but they still have a few riders who could feature in the results today:

 

111 Marco Coledan (Ita)
112 Niccolò Bonifazio (Ita)
113 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa)
114 Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita)
115 Grégory Rast (Swi)
116 Jasper Stuyven (Bel)
117 Edward Theuns (Bel)
118 Boy van Poppel (Ned)

The peloton race through the cobbles and ease off the pace, spreading out all over the road once more. A few riders take on drinks, while Team Sky realise that they're on the back foot and start to move up on the outside.

The leaders are now on the Kaperij climb and there's been a crash in the main field.

A gentle left hand corner but Trek and Lotto Soudal riders are down. All are back on their feet luckily and should be able to chase back.

It's so important to be at the front and now Katusha lead the field with BMC and Trek also in the mix. Orica are also there to keep out of trouble.

78km remaining from 200km

Sagan is also in the top 20 riders at the moment and has four riders around him - the world champion well placed with 78km to go.

Remember you can catch up with all the forum talk around the race, right here.

The peloton are now on the climb and it's wide enough for the panic to subside briefly.

Sean De Bie pulls over to the side of the road but not sure if he has a mechanical or not. He'll struggle to come back though because the entire peloton have lined out, the gap now down to 2'45.

The peloton start to snap with more and more riders distanced due to the high pace. The break, meanwhile about to hit the Kruisberg. As Lotto Soudal see another rider slip back from the main field.

Katusha are doing all the damage at the moment, showing their intent with 73km to go. There's Oss, bringing the BMC Racing team leaders to the front as well. The race is really starting to hot up now.

Roelandts is also off the back of the bunch but he's coming back through the cars. Lotto Soudal not where they want to be at this moment in time.

Still six more climbs to come in this race but it's the fight for position before the climbs that's causing all the problems in the bunch at this moment in time. Rowe is there for Team Sky as more and more Tinkoff riders align around Sagan.

Breaking news: World champion Armitstead wins Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite Women: Report and results, here.

Trek volley back and hit the front on a short descent as Katusha ease back slightly.

As soon as this Trek rider pulls over it will be all Tinkoff on the front of the peloton. 68km to go and the gap to the break is now at 1'53.

There's another fall in the peloton with a Lotto Jumbo rider on the deck. He's sitting up but his race is done. Up the road and the break is starting to come apart.

Alex Peters from Sky is off the back too now as more and more riders start to struggle.

65km remaining from 200km

65km to go and the gap to the break is at 1'32.

Tinkoff are joined by BMC with Terpstra making his presence felt just a little further back in the field.

Another rider from the break has been brought back by the main field. This time it's Hugo Hofstetter.

More cobbles, this time the remnants of the break hitting the Donderij.

Tinkoff lead the bunch onto the cobbles with 60km to go. Peters has come back and is just about to make it back on. Nice ride from the neo-pro.

Reus, the former junior world champion from 2003, has hit out and gone on the attack from the break.

The gap between the break is now at 1'17 and there's another tangle at the back of the peloton with Golas this time caught up. He'll need mechanical assistance after that.

Jens Keukeleire takes a wheel from his teammate but the change is slow and a mechanic is needed. That will really cost the Belgian in this race.

Reus though has been joined by three more riders and now we have four riders left leading the race.

There are some real splits emerging in the peloton through as FDJ move up and set the pace for the first time today.

The road thins so the French team have timed this move well. The gap to the break is now at 1'02 with 57km to go. We're now on the Taaienberg.

A move from Team Sky at the foot of the climb and a BMC rider responds. Is that Van Avermaet?

It's Rowe from Sky and he's created a gap as Benoot chases at the front of the peloton. Sagan has moved up too. No sign of Boonen or Etixx.

It's Oss and Sagan a little back on the Rowe move and the BMC rider isn't work with a teammate further up the road.

And Sagan has seen off Oss with one acceleration. Impressve stuff from the World Champion.

Meanwhile here are the top three from the women's race:

 

1 Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
2 Chantal Blaak (Ned) Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam
3 Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Canyon SRAM Racing

Sagan is descending and is about to make it to the Rowe group. The World champion links up with Rowe, Van Avermaet, Benoot and a couple of riders from the early break.

So Etixx have really missed out there. Benoot, Sagan, Van Avermaet, Rowe are all here. Etixx and Katusha are the teams that need to react to this.

The four riders who were in the break have just a few seconds now with 53km to go.

On the Eikenberg and Van Avermaet goes again with Rowe, Benoot and Sagan on his wheel. Etixx are trying to bring this back together but they're in trouble and Sagan is forced to come around Rowe who loses the wheel.

And now Benoot takes the lead and Sagan and Rowe are both dropped. Even Van Avermaet struggles to make the cut but just about latches on.

Benoot looks around and sees that the world champion is in trouble. He goes again.

Over the top and Sagan, Benoot, Van Avermaet and Rowe are back together again. They're 15 seconds down on the four leaders with the peloton around 25 seconds further back. There's still a long way to go in this race. Gilbert can sit tight with his teammate up the road, if that's the BMC plan.

Sagan seems to have recovered from that earlier effort and starts to set the pace before dropping back to watch the rest of the riders in his break. Could we see both world champions win today?

Etixx sit on the front still and are in control of the main field. They need to close down this move because if it goes out to a minute the race could be gone.

The four leaders are now on the Ruiterstraat, 47km to go.

The Sagan group are working well, even using the curb in order to avoid the cobbles. They pick up a couple of riders from the early break but they won't have much help from them.

40 seconds between Sagan and the peloton. Etixx have the numbers and they dont seem to be in panic mode just yet.

Martin is down. In a corner he comes down and that's a disaster for him. Right at the front of the peloton. He almost takes out his entire team.

Tersptra may have come down too in that.

Etixx can't afford to wait though and they continue to set the pace for the peloton.

That Martin crash could be so important in the outcome of the race. Etixx lost one of their strongest riders and Terpstra may have come down too.

Just Reus and Gougeard are leading the race now.  43km to go.

41km remaining from 200km

The lead groups merge, giving us eight riders now at the head of the race with 41km to go. The Boonen group is around one minute down.

Onto the Haaghoek once more with Benoot settling the pace, before Sagan comes through and takes a turn. There's a chace group with Chavanel and Moscon involved, and then the main field.

And now there's a major crash in the main peloton. RIders all over the road.

Quinziato is down. Another rider from BMC for sure.

It's Gilbert for BMC.

He's not getting back on his bike with any urgency here. Most of the riders are up and running again but the Belgian is still by the side of the road.

So we have the Sagan group leading, then the Chavanel split at 27 seconds and the main field at 47 seconds. 39 km to go.

You can't fault the rides from Sagan, Benoot, Van Avermaet and Rowe. They've been aggressive and so far it has paid off.

Thwaites is also in that four man Chavanel chase group.

Terpstra was held up in the Martin crash and he's battling to come back to the main field. Groups all over the road due the earlier crashes.

The Moscon group has been caught by the main field with the eight leaders now 45 seconds clear with 34km to go. The race is well balanced.

Etixx with three men on the front continue to set the pace and they're joined by Trek.

Tom Boonen is in the main field but he's not near the front at the moment.

As Benoot leads the break onto the Boembekeberg.

Lotto Soudal are just making moves at the front of the peloton. There was a move from IAM and now Trek, with a Lotto rider going with each acceleration.

30km to go and the Benoot group have 55 seconds as they hit the Paddestraat

It's Theuns and Tosh Van der Sande in the counter attack but it's only the Trek rider who is working.

The Lotto rider starts to work but the peloton are closing now as Reus starts to struggle. He has a mechanical.

Theuns has been caught.

Meanwhile Benoot is taking a huge turn on the front, right in the centre of the road through the cobbles. He looks strong but is he doing too much too soon?

Three riders left from the earlier break and they're hanging on for dear life, making sure that they don't get in the way. There's another attack from Trek Segafredo.

It's Jasper Stuyven who has the gap and he's about to catch Reus. The gap to the leading group is 45 seconds though. That's a hard ask to make up in th final 26km but he'll be hoping more riders make it over to help him.

The Sagan group hold 50 seconds over the main field with 23km to go. The race is still wide open but the Sagan group is working well together, even having turns from the riders who were in the earlier break.

Etixx continue with their policy of containment with three men on the front. Terpstra is there.

Stuyven isn't making up much ground on the leaders and he hits the deck. He's back up quickly but is caught by the peloton seconds later. That's fatigue creeping in.

It's a straight fight now between Etixx and the break. Katusha are just sitting back, Lotto are just marking with numbers so Lefevere's men have to do everything.

And 20km to go and Sagan lifts the pace, instantly dropping the weaker riders. Rowe, Van Avermaet and Benoot are with him though.

The gap is slowly coming down, it's at 47 seconds but you get the sense that the riders in the break, like Sagan have more in the tank.

Four Etixx riders on the front now lifting the pace, Terpstra and Martin both there now.

Just Gougeard is left from the earlier break and with 16km to go the gap is at 53 seconds.

Lotto Jumbo are starting to get involved in the chase but it's still all on Etixx's shoulders and with 13km to go the gap is still at 50 seconds.

Just over 10km to go and it's between Rowe, Benoot, Van Avermaet, Sagan and Gougeard. You can't leave the Frenchman out at this stage.

The world champion takes a turn and then drifts to the back. He looks so comfortable and if it comes down to a five-man sprint he should be the favourite. Van Avermaet beat him in a Tour sprint last year but that was a very different type of finish.

The leaders start to empty their pockets before the finish but they continue to share the work for now. The Etixx group are still at 50 seconds.

It's Chavanel's team chasing now, Etixx are drifting back a little with 6km to go.

Rowe is making sure that Gougeard takes a turn, wise to any surprises from the AG2R rider. Just over 5km to go and the gap... well it's down to 38 seconds.

They've lost 15 seconds in 1km. And the gap is down to 32 seconds now. It's starting to get tense out there.

29 seconds now with 4.1km to go.

The extra teams working on the front are making the difference. 3.5km to go and the gap is 25 seconds.

Rowe on the front but he looks around. That will cost them a second. The gap is now 22 seconds with 2.7km to go.

Sagan moves up even though it's not his turn and he takes charge. Then it's Benoot. The gap is 21 seconds.

The five leaders should hold on but they can't afford to play any games. 2km and the gap is 20 seconds.

Gougeard not working now.

But now he takes a turn.

1.5km to go and the gap is 18 seconds.

I think the gap is less. It looks around 10 seconds from the overhead shot.

Just over 1k to go in the race. It's all on the line no as Gougeard takes one last huge turn.

The Frenchman will lead this one out from a long way it seems.

Sagan is second wheel, then GVA, Rowe and the bunch is closing.

Van Avermaet goes first.

And Greg Van Avermaet wins!

He went first in the sprint and it looked as though Sagan was in contention but the BMC rider simply had too much in the tank for the World Champion on the dash to the line. He took a good line through the last sector too and Sagan had no response.

There was perhaps hesitation from Sagan there as he was lookgin at Benoot and that created the gap for Van Avermaet. Benoot was third and Rowe fourth.

1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
3 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
5 Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale

1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 04:54:12
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team
3 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4 Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
5 Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 00:00:06
6 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal 00:00:09
7 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
8 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ

“I’m never really winning that much and it’s the first race in Belgium so far, so I’m pretty happy with this victory. If I could choose one, I would have picked directly this one,” Van Avermaet said at the finish.

Just to re-cap Lizzie Armitstead won today's women's race and you can read the full report, results and see the images, right here.

We also have images and a report from today's men's race. Just here.

We'll also have video highlights from the men's race in the next few minutes.

Our video highlights are live and just over here.

 

Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back tomorrow with full live coverage from Kuurne Brussel Kuurne starting at 11:00am CET.

 

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