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Scheldeprijs 2017

In the end, a bike race will break out, but this morning in Mol, Scheldeprijs is all about Tom Boonen, who is lining up for his final race as a professional cyclist on Belgian roads. Boonen brings the curtain down on his career after Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, and Belgium was never going to let the occasion go unmarked. To honour Boonen, Scheldeprijs switches from its usual start in Antwerp to Boonen's nearby birthplace of Mol, while the route will also bring the race through his homeplace of Balen, before taking the long, flat road to the finishing circuit in Schoten. Boonen's grandfather, Raymond, incidentally, will drop the start flag. The full details of Scheldeprijs' appreciation of Tom Boonen are here.

The neutralised start is at 12:15 local time, with the peloton set to reach kilometre zero at around 12.33. They will hit the finish line for the first time with a shade over 50 kilometres to go, and then tackle three laps of that most technical, 16.8km finishing circuit in Schoten.

 

Boonen's Quick-Step Floors teammate and defending champion Marcel Kittel will be looking to add to his tally of four Scheldeprijs victories. A bunch sprint seems inevitable, and the German should face stiff opposition from, among others, Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Elia Viviani (Sky) and Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept). Other fast men in the field include Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), not to mention Boonen himself, though one wonders if they will eschew taking too many risks on the finishing circuit with Paris-Roubaix in mind. 

 

It's not all about Tommeke in Mol this morning. Peter Sagan stops to sign some autographs ahead of the roll out.

 

The peloton pedals softly away from Mol and begins negotiating the 9.5-kilometre neutralised zone. 

 

Tom Boonen's every move and every gesture were being documented for posterity at the start in Mol. After fifteen years or so of this, mind, he's probably used to it. 

 

One last time on the signing-on podium with Michel Wuyts for Tom Boonen.

 

Our Flemish correspondent Brecht Decaluwe (could he be the new Tom Boonen?) tells us that Truls Korsaeth and couple of Astana teammates were a little late to the start, and had to chase the peloton through the neutralised zone with the crowds already spilling onto the streets. They had plenty of time to catch up before Raymond Boonen signals the commencement of hostilities.

 

200km remaining from 202km

The flag drops and the 2017 edition of Scheldeprijs is underway. The first attacks come immediately, with Roompot prominent.

 

197km remaining from 202km

A group of seven riders has established a gap of 20 seconds over the peloton, including  Pim Ligthart (Roompot) and Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin).

 

193km remaining from 202km

Our seven leaders are Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin), Christophe Premont (Verandas Willems-Crelan), Stijn Steels (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Julien Stassen (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Triestina). They have built up a lead of 1:20 over a peloton that seems content to allow them their freedom.

 

187km remaining from 202km

The break continues to augment its advantage. 2:30 the gap.

 

A notable absentee from today's race is Mark Cavendish, and his Dimension Data team have confirmed that he will not be on the start line for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday either as he is suffering from an overuse injury to his right ankle. In a statement released by the team this morning, Dr Jarrad Van Zuydam said: "Mark sustained an overuse injury of his right ankle while competing at the Tirreno-Adriatico race. The injury was thought to be resolving but has unfortunately flared up again during training. Further investigation and treatment is necessary over the coming days to resolve the injury before Mark returns to racing. We are hopeful of a speedy recovery, though it would be premature to set a date for his return to racing at this stage."

 

184km remaining from 202km

The seven leaders are now 2:45 clear of the peloton, which has just reached Boonen's hometown of Balen, immortalised forever in Sporza commentator Michel Wuyts' account of Fabian Cancellara's winning attack at the 2010 Paris-Roubaix: "Ooh la la la la. Balen, we have a problem. Tom Tom Tom Tom." Very straightforward language, Flemish.

 

180km remaining from 202km

Boonen is back on disc brakes today, incidentally, ahead of Paris-Roubaix. The entire Bahrain-Merida squad is also using disc brakes, and are expected to line out on the same bikes at Paris-Roubaix.

 

175km remaining from 202km

The seven escapees continue to extend their lead gradual. The gap now stands at 3:30.

 

The Tom Boonen Farewell Tour is not the only event this week, of course. We're also two stages into the Tour of the Basque. Alasdair Fotheringham has this interview with Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), who is looking to poke out his first victory of 2017.

 

165km remaining from 202km

Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin), Christophe Premont (Verandas Willems-Crelan), Stijn Steels (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Julien Stassen (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Triestina) are now 4:10 up on the peloton.

 

The Scheldeprijs peloton is dotted with riders eager to get 200 kilometres of quality racing in their legs before Paris-Roubaix but terrified of getting caught up in a crash that would compromise their chances on the big day. The dramatic crash with Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet on the Oude Kwaremont ruined Oliver Naesen's Tour of Flanders, but the Belgian is eager to go again on the pave' next Sunday. Here were his thoughts ahead of Scheldeprijs.

 

160km remaining from 202km

With some 100 miles still to go, the sprinters' teams are content to allow the escapees some leeway. The gap nudges out to five minutes.

 

The full story on Mark Cavendish's ankle injury is available here. The Manxman was 30th in his second Paris-Roubaix appearance last season, and has expressed the desire to test himself further in the Hell of the North, but it will have to wait for another year.

 

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) was content to play second fiddle to Boonen when the teams were presented at the start in Mol this morning. "It's normal, eh. It’s his hometown. It’s his last race in Belgium," Kittel told Sporza. "It’s very logical that this happens and I’m happy to be a part of it, to see all of the big crowds." When the race reaches Schoten, of course, the German will hope to be to the fore, as he chases a fifth Scheldeprijs win in six years. "That’s the goal we will have as a team, we’ll try to make that happen. I know the race really well, and I’m looking forward to it."

 

150km remaining from 202km

Five minutes the advantage for our seven leaders with 150 kilometres still to race. As the peloton doubles back towards Mol, it's as good a time as any to peruse our extensive retrospective gallery of Boonen's career

 

144km remaining from 202km

A slight increase in pace in the peloton, and the break's lead drops accordingly, to 4:15.

 

There's enough time before live television coverage starts, incidentally, to listen to this special edition of the Cyclingnews podcast from last year, which told the story of Boonen's second place finish at the 2002 Paris-Roubaix. It includes interviews with US Postal teammates George Hincapie, Antonio Cruz, Steffen Kjaergaard, Matthew White and, of course, Boonen himself. You can read how Cyclingnews reported on that dramatic edition of Paris-Roubaix here

 

135km remaining from 202km

The speed ratchets up another notch in the peloton. The break's lead is shaved back to 3:15.

 

130km remaining from 202km

Quick-Step Floors have taken the reins at the head of the peloton as the race reaches Dessel.

 

While Boonen, Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar fine-tune their Paris-Roubaix preparations at Scheldeprijs, Tour of Flanders winner Philippe Gilbert confirmed yesterday that he will resist the temptation to line up at the Hell of the North, preferring instead to rest ahead of the Ardennes Classics. "Paris-Roubaix has a magnetic attraction on me, but I won't be there this year," said Gilbert, who has seemed reanimated this spring after some comparatively listless years at BMC, and who won the Ronde on Sunday after a startling 55-kilometre solo breakaway. Read the full story here.

 

122km remaining from 202km

Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac) has also ruled himself out of Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian is still suffering the effects of the heavy crash that eliminated him from contention at the Tour of Flanders. He was part of the decisive split on the Muur, but crashed with Luke Rowe as they chased Gilbert after his solo attack over the Kwaremont. "I’m really, really disappointed. I start training for these races on the first of November. My focus is always on these races. Omloop went well, but from Strade Bianche I started to go wrong. A crash, the ribs, then I had the stomach problems, then this crash. So I’ve been fighting a lot, and always coming back,” Vanmarcke said. The full story is here.

 

After two hours of racing, the average speed was a brisk 43.24kph.

 

110km remaining from 202km

Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) calls for assistance from the team car. Quick-Step Floors remain at the head of the peloton. The deficit to the break still hovers around the 3:15 mark.

 

98km remaining from 202km

The race is past the midway point and through the feedzone. As the peloton slows, the break adds a handful of seconds to its buffer.

 

94km remaining from 202km

A reminder of the current situation: Pim Ligthart (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Marco Mathis (Katusha-Alpecin), Christophe Premont (Verandas Willems-Crelan), Stijn Steels (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Julien Stassen (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect) and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Triestina) are 3:30 clear of the peloton.

 

88km remaining from 202km

Kittel's Quick-Step guard take up the reins once more at the head of the peloton and the break's lead drops inside three minutes, to 2:45.

 

80km remaining from 202km

The break's lead continues to drop. 2:15 the gap.

 

As well as following the finale of Scheldeprijs here, you can also keep tabs on stage 3 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with Dan Benson here.

 

73km remaining from 202km

Quick-Step have been joined by Cofidis at the head of the bunch, but neither team wants to catch the break just yet. They allow the septet's lead to extend back out once again to 2:50.

 

The odds are stacked against the escapees staying clear. The last time Scheleprijs didn't end in a bunch sprint was back in 2005, when the unheralded Thorwald Veneberg of Rabobank beat breakaway companion Tomas Vaitkus in a two-up sprint. The pair went away with 140 kilometres to go, built up a lead of a quarter of an hour, and still had more than four minutes in hand by the finish. 

 

68km remaining from 202km

Lotto Soudal, Fortuneo Vital and Sky are also contributing to the chase effort in the peloton. There is a coalition of teams riding for a bunch finish today.

 

65km remaining from 202km

Lotto Soudal have had a rather anonymous Classics campaign to date, and their failure to put any of their men in the decisive moves at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday summed up their current malaise. Andre Greipel leads the line for the Belgian squad this afternoon. "Scheldeprijs is always a special race. It’s not such a big effort for us but, in the end, all the top sprinters are here," Greipel said at the start. "It’s going to be nervous. The condition is not that important, sprinting is always possible, but we just need to be lucky with the position and in the end you also need the team to support you."

 

62km remaining from 202km

The seven escapees continue to collaborate smoothly, holding a margin of 2:17 over the chasing peloton. They are just over 10 kilometres from passing through the finish line in Schoten for the first time.

 

The television cameras zoom in once again on Boonen, who is cruising towards the head of the peloton, still in his leg warmers as he banks miles ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

 

Sky's Luke Rowe has been active at the head of the peloton over the past 15 kilometres or so. The Welshman's left leg bears the scars of his crash at the Tour of Flanders, but he should be fighting for Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

 

58km remaining from 202km

The escapees rattle across first of four passages over the 1.7km stretch of cobblestones at Broekstraat with a lead of 1:52 over the peloton.

 

There's a crash at the rear of the peloton as it slows to take the right-hand turn onto the cobbles. Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale) is among the riders to go down, but he is able to remount and chase the bunch.

 

56km remaining from 202km

The Quick-Step delegation lead the peloton across the cobbles. The pace is brisk but not excessively so. 1:36 the gap.

 

52km remaining from 202km

The escapees continues to exchange turns on the front as they approach the finish line for the first time.

 

At the rear of the bunch, meanwhile, Peter Sagan drops back to the Bora-Hansgrohe car and stuffs his pockets with bidons to distribute among his teammates. 

 

50km remaining from 202km

Three laps of the finishing circuit to go for the three escapees, who negotiate that notorious left-hand turn just past the finish line. 

 

Luke Rowe leads the bunch through the same point, 1:37 down on the escapees. 

 

44km remaining from 202km

Quick-Step, Cofidis, Lotto Soudal, Fortuneo-Vital Concept, Sky and LottoNL-Jumbo are all on the same page, eager to peg back the break and play their hands in a bunch sprint. The break's lead drops to 1:12.

 

Astana haven't been working on the front, but they have a sprinter in their line-up today - Ricardo Minali, son of 1990s fast man Nicola, whose best years came at Gewiss and its successor, Batik-Del Monte. "He's beaten Cavendish this year, so he's a talent," said Astana's Laurens De Vreese at the start.

 

41km remaining from 202km

The race rattles across the cobbles at Broekstraat once again, with Luke Rowe again to the fore. The break's lead is now barely more than a minute.

 

37km remaining from 202km

Pim Lighthart tries to breathe life into the breakaway, but their lead has dropped inside a minute, and their fate is inevitable.

 

33km remaining from 202km

The seven leaders hit the finish line for the second time, with just over two laps of the finishing circuit remaining.

 

Marcel Kittel sits near the head of the bunch ensconced in a platoon of Quick-Step riders. This finishing circuit holds few secrets for the German. "I know the race really well, especially the finale, which is the same. I’m looking forward to the sprint. It’s going to be a special day for all of us at the Quick-Step Floors team," he said at the start. "I’m happy to be part of Tom’s last race and to see if I can win again. That’s the goal we have as a team. We’ll work for that and try to achieve it."

 

33km remaining from 202km

And then there were six. Christophe Prement (Veranda's Willems Crelan) sits up, unable to follow the pace of his breakaway companions. Their lead is now 50 seconds.

 

30km remaining from 202km

Marco Mathis is the next to lose touch with the break. The remaining quintet's lead is dropping steadily. 32 seconds the gap.

 

28km remaining from 202km

Ligthart takes a long turn on the front as the break's lead drops within 30 seconds. It remains to be seen whether the sprinters' teams want to catch the escapees this soon. They may well be content to allow them to linger off the front a little longer, if they can.

 

25km remaining from 202km

Zhupa hits the front of the break as they hit the Broeckstraat for the third time. The Albanian's effort appears to have shaken Veuchelen, Steels and Stassen loose. Only Ligthart can follow.

 

24km remaining from 202km

Zhupa and Ligthart have definitely dropped their erstwhile companions on the cobbles. They emerge with a lead of 24 seconds over the peloton.

 

A delegation from FDJ gather towards the head of the peloton with Arnaud Demare's sprint in mind. Quick-Step and Cofidis are also well-represented up there.

 

22km remaining from 202km

A polite wave to the camera from Stassen as he is swept up by the peloton. Ligthart and Zhupa are 20 seconds up the road.

 

21km remaining from 202km

The bunch is now within sight of the two escapees, who have just 15 seconds of an advantage as they ride along the banks of the Schelde river. 

 

A couple of amateurs ride along the bike path parallel to the road, briefly keeping pace with the two escapees. A tired Ligthart lifts his head long enough to muster a smile. 

 

20km remaining from 202km

Katusha-Alpecin and AG2R La Mondiale have joined the chase effort in the peloton. The battle for position is beginning in earnest as the various sprint trains start to move up.

 

19km remaining from 202km

Ligthart and Zhupa are caught by the peloton. LottoNL-Jumbo take up the reins on the front, with Lars Boom prominent in support of Dylan Groenwegen.

 

16km remaining from 202km

Gruppo compatto as we reach the bell for the final lap. Katusha set the pace on the front for Baptiste Planckaert, with Alexander Kristoff an absentee. 

 

14km remaining from 202km

Job done for Lars Boom, who sits up to spare himself for Paris-Roubaix. A Dimension Data delegation moves towards the head of the bunch.

 

13km remaining from 202km

Tom Boonen, still in his leg warmers, is still positioned towards the front of the bunch, in the platoon of Quick-Step riders around Marcel Kittel.

 

12km remaining from 202km

AG2R La Mondiale set the pace at the front. Boonen sits assuredly in fifth wheel.

 

10km remaining from 202km

Kittel is perhaps a little further back than he would like at this juncture, but he has plenty of blue jerseys for company.

 

9km remaining from 202km

LottoNL-Jumbo have a determined train riding in support of Groenwegen. Dimension Data's train moves up alongside them.

 

8km remaining from 202km

Quick-Step take over at the front as the bunch rattles onto the Broeckstraat for the final time. Stybar sets the tempo with Boonen tucked onto his rear wheel.

 

8km remaining from 202km

Now Boonen sets the pace on the cobbles for the final time in a Belgian race...

 

7km remaining from 202km

Boonen's effort strings out the peloton as they reach the end of the cobbled section.

 

6km remaining from 202km

The bunch swings onto the smooth, wider road by the banks of the Schelde. Stybar takes over again, with Boonen on his wheel. One by one, Quick-Step riders are massing at the front, as Matteo Trentin and Davide Martinelli move up.

 

6km remaining from 202km

Another long turn on the front from Boonen. It's the safest place to be at this juncture.

 

5km remaining from 202km

FDJ and Quick-Step jockey for the box seat at the head of the peloton. A Lotto Soudal delegation tries to squeeze in between them as it moves up.

 

4km remaining from 202km

Boonen hits the front again and raises the pace still further...

 

A crash in the middle of the peloton just inside the 4km to go banner brings down ten riders and stops many more. Andre Greipel has to unclip to avoid falling, but he stays upright and in the race. It seems Groenewegen was caught in that incident.

 

3km remaining from 202km

Peter Sagan hits the front, meanwhile, for the first time in the race, and then Bora-Hansgrohe take over at the head of the bunch.

 

2km remaining from 202km

Marcel Kittle avoided the crash and he is near the front, but he only has two teammates left.

 

Greipel stayed upright but he hasn't been able to catch back up to the front part of the bunch. His hopes are over.

 

1km remaining from 202km

Sky and Quick-Step lead the peloton into the final kilometre...

 

Kittel seems to be in the box seat through the final right-hand corner...

 

Trentin leads out the sprint for Kittel....

 

Kittel opens his effort from distance...

 

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) wins Scheldeprijs, his fifth win in six years.

 

Kittel held off Elia Viviani (Sky) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to claim the sprint.

 

Tom Boonen soft-pedals across the line to raucous cheers from the fans at the roadside. He is immediately swamped by a group of Flemish reporters, including the irrepressible Brecht Decaluwe of Cyclingnews.

 

Bouhanni left his sprint late, but he couldn't move up quickly enough and had to settle for third behind Kittel and Viviani.

 

Jurgen Roedlandts (Lotto Soudal) took fourth ahead of Pascal Ackerman (Bora-Hansgrohe).

 

Result:

1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
4 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Rudy Barbier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
8 Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
9 Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb
10 Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits

 

Kittel pauses past the finish line to survey his handiwork on the replay on the big screen, before freewheeling towards the podium.

 

His media duties complete, Boonen rides back down the finishing straight towards his team bus, and raises his arms to salute the cheering crowds to either side.

 

Marcel Kittel speaks: “It was fantastic work from the team, Tom Boonen was strong in the finale. I was happy he could help me so much. Fabio Sabatini was caught up in the crash, but Matteo Trentin was very good and very smart in the lead-out.”

 

Kittel extends his record of Scheldeprijs victories to five. “I think it’s now a pretty good record so far. Schoten feels a little bit like my living room. I’m always happy to win here again and to see the fantastic spectators. It’s one of my favourite races,” he says, confirming that he will forgo the Giro d’Italia. “I won’t be in the Giro. Fernando [Gaviria] will be our sprinter there in the team. I will take some rest now and restart my training, and then ride the Tour of California as I build up to the Tour de France.”

 

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) came across the line in the second group, his mind already on Paris-Roubaix. It wasn't the goal to set me up for the sprint," he said. "Luckily I was already behind the peloton when they crashed."

 

An update on Andre Greipel - the German showed great dexterity to avoid being brought down in that crash, but his rear wheel was broken in the process, and he was eliminated from contention ahead of the sprint.

 

Scheldeprijs 2017 Result:

1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
2 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
4 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Rudy Barbier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
8 Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
9 Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned) Team Sunweb
10 Jonas Van Genechten (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits

 

 

 

Thanks for joining our live coverage of Scheldeprijs on Cyclingnews this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures will be available here, and we'll have all the news and reaction from Schoten in due course. You can catch up with today's action from the Vuelta al Pais Vasco here.

 

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