Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Scheldeprijs.
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from Scheldeprijs 2018. Don't worry, this race might be completely different to previous years, in that you might find the opening 3.5 hours interesting.
We have a modified route, the chance of the race splitting in echelons, and the possibility of Kittel taking on his old team, Quick-Step Floors, in a bunch sprint. It's not Flanders, it's not Roubaix, but it's better than working, and it's better than a RideLondon. So sit back, follow our coverage, and cross your fingers for an exciting race.
We're about 30 minutes away from the official roll out and most of the field have signed on and headed back to the buses for a last-minute pep talk and/or coffee. It's pretty fresh outside, so it's arm warmers all round for the majority of the field. Some are wearing gloves. In the distance Arnaud Demare is walking around in leg warmers. I told you that this would be exciting.
Ian Stannard has arrived at the start line 15 minutes early. He's keen. The British rider hasn't been on form for a while to be honest, I don't think he's been on a podium outside of the UK since the Classics of 2017, but Roubaix is on the horizon, so perhaps he still has time on his side. What's he wearing, I hear you ask? Gloves, leg and arm warmers. And obviously the rest of Team Sky kit.
At last Stannard has company on the start line, as a gaggle of pro riders hustle up and leave the comfort of their team buses. We've about 30 riders on the start line. I've given up on counting who has leg/arm warmers on.
The image below is of a Quick-Step rider with brakes across the top of the bars. Interesting option/modification ahead of Paris-Roubaix. Over the years we've seen a number of modifications for Roubaix. Cannondale, back in the early 2000s, and I think Trek too, both made use of front suspension, while in recent years Pinarello have had rear-suspension gadgets added to their Classics bikes. I spent most of the last 45 minutes looking at arm/leg warmers so I didn't get a chance to see what Stannard was racing on.
Marcel Kittel has signed on and he's at the front of the field as we prepare to roll out. Now at Katusha, he has won the race five times, and is the outright favourite. That said, Demare has looked in decent form and Dylan Groenewegen is also here. Both riders are capable of ruining the Katusha script. Here's a photo of Kittel. He looks relaxed, doesn't he?
The route today is going to be crucial. We head out from Terneuzen, and then head north towards the coast. Anywhere in the opening 130km could prove decisive in terms of cross-winds, especially when we reach the coast, and then turn east. Quick-Step Floors and perhaps Lotto-Soudal will look to take advantage by splitting the field.
And we're rolling through the neutralized zone. The flag will drop in just a few minutes. Who do think will win today? Tweet us at https://twitter.com/Cyclingnewsfeed.
Here's the Kittle express for today's race. Looks pretty powerful, and with T Martin in the mix they have another ex-Quick-Stepper.
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger)
2 Jenthe Biermans (Bel)
3 Marco Haller (Aut)
4 Tony Martin (Ger)
5 Nils Politt (Ger)
6 Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den)
7 Rick Zabel (Ger)
Crash in the neutralised zone and we have a rider down. Everyone looks to be back on the bikes though, and we're almost racing.
In fact LottoNL and Team Sky were involved in that fall, and it looks like two riders need mechanical assistance. Not the ideal start to say the least.
We're still in the neutralized zone and crossing the Western Scheldt Tunnel. Almost as soon as we reach the end, the race will start.
And we're racing. Immediately there's an attack from seven riders.
195km remaining from 200km
Seven riders has become 8. The names of the riders clear, are: Ytting Bak (Den), Van Zyl (ZAf), Van Schip (Ned), Van Rooy, Garel (Fra), Paluta (Pol), Alzate (Col) and Putt (USA). They have 15 seconds over the main field.
The leaders have extended their advantage to 34 seconds after 10km of racing but there's a counter-attack of four riders in hot pursuit as we continue to head north towards the coast.
The counter-attack contains Sean De Bie, Dries De Bondt, Conor Dunne and Jonathan Dibben of Team Sky.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 4th Apr 2018 10:58:23
We'll have live coverage from Pais Vasco, stage 3 in a couple more hours, over at live2.cyclingnews.com
186km remaining from 200km
It looks like the second group inc Dibben have been caught by the bunch but that leaves eight riders up the road, who continue to set the pace with a less than handsome 34 seconds over the peloton. 186km to go.
A bit of an exclusive for our loyal live-coverage followers. Head on over to this page. In the next few hours we'll release news about a new and exciting project we've been working on around the Classics.
The wind is ever-present and a small gust buffers against the edges of the peloton, sending a couple of riders off-track by just a small fraction. The ripple effect runs through the bunch but everyone is safe. The threat is there. Cross-winds and echelons are coming.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 4th Apr 2018 11:05:47
The issue for the break, however, is that despite being clear for a number of kilometres, they've still not established anything more than a 34-second lead over the bunch. That might change, we might see the peloton sit up and allow the gap to extend, but for now it's just holding there. And 34 seconds is nothing at all. You cant' even put on or take off a pair of arm warmers in that time.
176km remaining from 200km
Kittel has a flat but the change of wheel is swift enough so he should make it back to the bunch without too much trouble. At the same time, his ex-teammates at QuickStep are setting the pace at the front of the peloton. 176km to go.
The wind picks up once more, and the peloton show the strain. They flex, they strain and a few gaps begin to open up. We're less than 30km into the race. This could be carnage.
A reminder of what happened yesterday in Pais Vasco, where Alaphilippe came up trumps once more, with a classy little finish ahead of Roglic. The Frenchman is buzzing right now, and is a real contender for the Ardennes. He'll have to beat Valverde, who trounced him earlier in the year, but the signs look good for the Frenchman. Catch up on yesterday's action, right here.
172km remaining from 200km
Two become One, as the Spice Girls once sang, as the bunch catches the eight riders in the early break. 172km to go.
If you Wannabe in the break today, then you should Never give up on the good times and Move over. And if you want to inform your DS about your plans of being in the break then you should Say you'll be there.
169km to go and there are no fresh attacks from the peloton.
Action: The bunch as split and we have around 50 riders off the back. We'll scan the bunch(es) and bring you the latest on who has made it into the front group.
The bunch comes back together but somehow, Moreno Hofland, has found himself off the front. Lotto Soudal have been involved in several moves today and they're giving it another. Hofland was once the Groenewegen of LottoNL but he's not kicked on in the last few years. Hofland is in contract year, so this spring is super important for him. Is he a sprinter, a leadout or, or general all-rounder?
I think Hofland has only won once since his move to Lotto Soudal two years ago. He's still only 26 but he's neither settled as a second-option sprinter to Greipel, or become a devoted leadout man. Anyway, here he is leading the race on his own.
Hofland has one minute over the main field as he plugs away at the front of the race.
154km remaining from 200km
Almost 50km of the stage covered. A recap of what we've seen so far (in order of importance): A group of eight riders jumped clear in the first 10km but they were soon caught. There was a crash in the neutralised zone and Marcel Kittel's hair looked great at the start. Hofland is currently leading the race, with the bunch at one minute.
Two riders clearly want in the fun Hofland is having as he powers along alone, and have attacked from the field. They are Jan-Willem van Schip and Jonas Rickaert.
Hofland, the relief palpable, sits up and waits for the two chasers. The bunch are still at one minute.
Hofland lets Jan-Willem van Schip and Jonas Rickaert ride by as if they don't exist, and shelters in the middle of the bunch. We've then a flurry of attacks, and five riders are now clear with 146km to go. It's all action.
Alexander Cataford from UHC is one of the riders in the new-look lead group of five.
I just looked this up, but Cataford has already raced 18 days in 2018. Not bad at all. He's not won a pro race but has a stack of top-tens from North American racing.
143km remaining from 200km
52 seconds for the five leaders with 143km to go. Quick-Step are setting the pace but they're looking around and considering letting this move go up the road. It wouldn't be the worst call in the world.
Our five leaders are:
Jan-Willem van Schip (Roompot), Jonas Rickaert (Sport Flanders-Baloise), Sean De Bie (Veranda's Willems-Crelen), Guillaume Van (Keirsbulck Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and
Alexander Cataford (United Healthcare).
137km remaining from 200km
And Quick-Step have relented. They've let the gap move out to 1'25 with 137km to go.
Another spell of crosswinds result in a few more riders losing contact with the main field, and as we head through Kattendijke, the gap to the leaders is at 2'20.
121km remaining from 200km
Not much more to report at this stage. The gap between the bunch and the break has settled at 2'30 and we've just over 120km of the race remaining.
Taking over from me, is Susan Westemeyer.
We had a small crash in the peloton, Bert Van Lerberghe (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) and Michael Svendgaard (Team Fortuneo - Samsic). Both are ok.
And Truls Korsaeth of Astana has abandoned.
Our five leaders now have a gap of more than three minutes.
100km remaining from 200km
We are half done! With 100 km down, the gap is 3:30.
The wind is doing its thing! The peloton has split in two and the gap is down to 2:42 to the first part of the field, 3:18 to the second part.
@robhatchtv Wed, 4th Apr 2018 13:07:06
The gates closed to allow a train to go by. However, some riders slipped through before the train actually got there, and now they may have t pay the price -- including, we hear, Arnaud Demare.
And they are out of the race! Including, it looks like, Demare!
@robhatchtv Wed, 4th Apr 2018 13:19:11
@robhatchtv Wed, 4th Apr 2018 13:17:01
It is hard for me to have much sympathy for those riders. First of all, they know it is not allowed. Second of all, they really ought to know what might happen if they misjudge how fast that train is coming....
More names involved, besides Demare: Dylan Groenewegen, Alvaro Hodeg, Kris Boeckmans...... Apparently they were all in the second peloton.
Lotto NL-Jumbo has lost 3 riders due to that crossing: Groenewegen, Roosen and Grondahl Jansen.
We are doing our best to get a complete list of names for you.
Tony Martin was caught, too.
Meanwhile, we really do still have a race going on. Jens Debusschere just visited his team car to grab a jacket, as it looks windy and wet at the moment.
67 km to go, we don't have a time gap.
Apparently those DSQ'ed riders face potentially more problems. They are subject to up to a one-month suspension and a fine of from 200 to 5000 Swiss francs!
it looks as if the entire second peloton was taken out of the race.
We now hear that there are some 54 riders in the peloton. The break group has now been caught.
And perhaps Hodeg has not been disqualified??
Hodeg was apparently in the first group, so he is still in the race.
It is amusing to look at twitter and see nearly every team saying which of their riders is out.
You can read about this whole mess here.
The field is split again and we think that Kittel is in the second group.
CCC is having a hard day. "It's not the way we had hoped the race would unfold. Marko Kump crashed out of the race (no serious injuries thankfully), while Stosz, Paluta, Koch and Kurek, who had been part of 2nd peloton, have been DSQ for ignoring the railroad crossing."
Even Sky has lost two riders: Stannard and Knees.
If that is not enough, there has been a car on the course. Nothing happened, but really!
Two riders have jumped for a lead: Doull (Sky) and Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ)
With 56km to go,they have a 28 second gap.
Sky's young Leonardo Basso drops back to the team car to pick up some bottles.
Astana says they now have only 2 riders left in the race.
Doull and Duchesne have built up a minute lead now.
And our dynamic duo crosses the finish line! Don't worry, they are now setting off on a circuit course.
Apparently there have been a number of crashes today, including one involving a number of riders and a parked car.
It was the second peloton involved in that crossing incident. About half of them went through whilst the otehr half stopped. But apparently all of them have been disqualified.
There is going to a lot, and we mean a lot, of discussion about this .....
Sadhbh is at teh race for us and this is the list of disqualified riders she has come up with so far: Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin), Kris Boeckmans (Vital Concept Club), Dylan Groenewegen, Timo Roosen and Amund Grondahl Jansen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Christian Knees and Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal), Conor Dunne (Aqua Blue Sport), Riccardo Minali and Hugo Houle (Astana), Davide Martinelli (Quick-Step Floors), Rudiger Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe), Roy Curvers (Team Sunweb).
45km remaining from 200km
45 km to go and 1:19 for Doull and Duchesne. Katusha-Alpecin is leading the chasing field, but we now see Kittel at the very back. Apparently he has a mechanical problem.
The defending champion gets a new rear wheel and takes off again. Calm and cool, as always.
Wet wet wet! It is in fact pouring down rain, of course just as they get on to a section of cobblestones.
The rain should not be a surprise, as it seems to have done nothing else here in this part of Europe since August or so....
From here on we can expect even more wind and rain!
@VelocastJohn Wed, 4th Apr 2018 14:11:02
The roads are now of course very wet. Perhaps it is better that we have a small group.
The two leaders cross the finish line again with 1:22, and head off for two more laps of the course.
Katusha-Alpecin leads the field over the finish line with what looks to be a rather leisurely pace.
The gap is slowly dropping, with 29 km it is around a minute.
Katusha is still strong in the race. Kittel has five teammates in front of him controlling things.
Duoll and Duchesne are back on those wet cobblestones again.
And only 44 seconds later,the peloton is also on the cobbles.
There are more people out there watching this race than you might expect in this weather.
Only 37 seconds for the two leaders, with 23 km to go. QuickStep has moved up to share the lead work with Katusha.
Of course it is only logical that Katusha-Alpecin and QuickStep lead the way here. We certainly expect a Kittel-Hodeg showdown at the finish.
Taylor Phinney drops back to the EF team car, seemingly a saddle problem.
Phinney has a screwdriver and is fixing the problem himself as he rides. Please don't try this at home!
Confirmation of 52 riders in the peloton, plus the two up front.
Duoll and Duchesne take off on the bell lap, some 17 km left in the pouring rain. The peloton is at 36 seconds.
Oh and there's a nice big cobbled section here in town, too!
A LottoNL-Jumbo rider has jumped from the field. An EF rider gives chase, but they have only a minimal gap.
Oops, a flat tyre for Hodeg. The team car takes forever to get up to him, to his disgust. Not the situation you want for your sprinter, and only 14km to go!
QuickStep continues to lead the race, with one rider in front of Katusha-Alpecin, with Bora-Hansgrohe just behind them all.
Only 20 seconds for the two leaders.
Sky now moves up towards the front.
And also Kittel has a mechanical! With 12 km to go he has to scurry to catch back up. At least he has two helpers with him.
Lotto Soudal's Moreno Hofland has attached himself to the Kittel train moving back up. Things don't look good for Kittel though -- some further mechanical problem?
Don't knwo what is up with Kittel, but we are beginning to thik he has just lost all his chances
And the two leaders will be caught any second now, with just under 9 km to go.
Sky pushing hard on the cobbles for the last time.
While Kittel struggles to attach again, the other teams up front are of course doing their best to keep the pace high.
More attempts to break from the group. Meanwhle it llooks like Kittel realizes he has no chances and he is ready to ride the race out.
Sunweb, riding for Walscheid, takes charge with 6 km to go. Sky right behind them.
LottoNL-Jumbo takes off again
He is caught and two other riders try their chance.
3 km to go!
Sunweb, and Sky up front. And a crash on a corner. One rider down but quickly up again.
QuickStep now takes charge.
Into the last 1000 meters!
Everyone safely through the last corner.
A Sky rider jumps early but -- what else? -- QuickStep wins!
It is Fabio Jakobsen who takes the bunch sprint win.
That's the second win this year for the young Dutchman. He previously won the Nokere Koerse several weeks ago.
And the umpteenth win this season for Quick Step.
Kittel rolls over the finish line some 3 minutes down.
24 wins for Quick Step so far this year???!!!
Jakobsen is 21 years old and only turned pro this year. We would say he has quite a career ahead of him, if we are allowed an understatement....
Jakobsen gives credit to the team and the "pack".
"I think its because we start winning and everyone starts to believe in it. We always go for one guy full gas and that is the strength of the pack. When one person starts winning, we all want to start winning. It's amazing to be in 'the wolfpack'.
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-hansgrohe) was second, with Christopher Lawless of Sky third.
The top ten today:
1 Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) Quick-Step Floors
2 Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3 Chris Lawless (GBr) Team Sky
4 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Jérémy Lecroq (Fra) Vital Concept Club
6 Max Walscheid (Ger) Team Sunweb
7 Timothy Dupont (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8 Jonas Rickaert (Bel) Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise
9 Bram Welten (Ned) Fortuneo-Samsic
10 Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha-Alpecin
And now that the race is over, the rain has stopped and the sun has come out!
This Scheldeprijs certainly didn't go as expected. Having Quick Step win is perhaps not a surprise, but the main discussion will be that mass disqualification earlier in the race.
Seemingly a number of riders who stopped at th level crossing were taken out of the race. And all of them face the possiblity of bans and/or fans.
As we said earlier, the discussions on this will go on for a long time.
We will have our full report and the full results soon here.
According to Quick Step, this was the first Dutch victory in this race since 2005. Was Jakobsen even born then??
Next week Cyclingnews unveils the first in a series of documentary films. Our premiere feature centres on the holy week within cycling, between the start of the Tour of Flanders and the finish line of Paris-Roubaix. These two races form the epicentre of the cobbled classics, the bergs of Flanders and the cobbles of Roubaix etched into the rich history of the sport.
Featuring Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert and a string of other key personalities, the film tells the story of the cobbled classics through the eyes of the riders and their support staff.
Over the coming days, we’ll release more footage, before the full version of the film will be available next week. Stay tuned to the site and our Vimeo page for more details.
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