Good morning and welcome to the start of the 2015 Tour of Flanders.
The sky, high and blue in Brugge as the riders already make their way to the sign on area. Each dossard carrying with it a nervous smile with one of the most iconic races in the calender a little over 30 minutes from starting.
As you would expect the crowds have turned out in their thousands, lining the short distance between the team buses to the main sign in area in Hallen Markt. Huge cheers for all the riders but of course the home contingent of Belgians in the peloton. With Tom Boonen out though, the Flandrians will have to pin their hopes on a new favourite - or an old one in Devolvder - for today.
The Tour of Flanders is a national holiday here and up to our right, on the TV gantry 2011 winner Nick Nuyens and Eddy Planckaert (winner in 1988) are discussing the race tactics for today. More and more of the peloton are coming through the signing area too with the official start less than 30 minute away.The excitement, tension and electricity are palpable.
@zwoodpower Sun, 5th Apr 2015 08:43:36
They hand out start lists in Brugge like they're confetti but if you're following at home it's probably best to take a look at this version (online). It's up to date with any last minute changes.
Geraint Thomas, a five star favourite for today according to Boonen, is talking the press. He says he's used to being a favourite from his track days and says he's in the best shape he's been in. "It's all down to the legs and I hope I've got good legs. It's a tough race, a lot can go wrong and a lot can go right."
Thomas has been in flying form this season with a win in E3 Harelbeke the standout performance. Of course Team Sky are racing new bikes for the first time today, the Dogma K8-S and Cyclingnews' very own Sadhbh OShea shot this neat video about the bike.
Heinrich Haussler and Peter Sagan are also lining up to sign on as we see the Etixx leader, Stybar, talk to Sporza. Greg Van Avermaet is wrapped up in BMC arm warmers and there's Devolder, a two-time winner of this event from 2008 and 2009. With no Cancellara the Belgian becomes Trek's plan B. Lefevere told CN last week that miracles don't happen but Devolder has walked on water in Flanders twice before. Devolder and Jesus - in the same sentence.
The dynamic duo of Paolini and Kristoff make their way to the sign on stage but the majority of the peloton are on the start line and ready to race. Roll out is in nine minutes as Jens Debusschere an outsider for today but a star for the Future waves to the crowd. The Belgian national champion won a stage in Tirreno and has impressed on home roads in the last few weeks.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Sun, 5th Apr 2015 09:00:12
They're all on the startline now, no rain jackets so it's a little easier to pick out the riders. Langeveld is there, back after his injury and hoping to perform well for Cannondale Garmin. He certainly could do with a result. Sep Vanmarcke is next to him, looking as relaxed as ever, but with with a bit more pressure on his shoulders.
There's a slight delay at the startline but we should be underway in the next few minutes.
@TrekFactory Sun, 5th Apr 2015 09:19:26
The riders are off, and heading out through the neutralized zone and out from the centre of Brugge, over the river and onto the route of the Tour of Flanders.
Paolini at the back, gives a little wave to the cameras, as he settles in with his gears as on the front Etixx patrol the head of the race. Still in the neutralized zone so no real action to speak of for the next few minutes.
The first climb of the day, the Tiegemberg, isn't until the 87km point but there are a number of important points before there. A lot of the early action will depend on if and when the early break saunters clear though - and of course who makes the escape. It will be interesting to see if Sky, BMC, Etixx and Katusha send men up the road early or save their powder for the power punch climbs later in the race.
While we wait for the flag to drop, why not check out Zeb Woodpower's excellent story on Phil Anderson's first podium at the Tour of Flanders. A story with Peter Post, Jan Raas and some tragically brilliant haircuts from the 1980s - and of course some great race insight too.
The peloton are nearly done with the neutralized zone and are onto the highway. The flag will drop soon and we'll see the first attacks of the race. At the back of the bunch Farrar and Wiggins - two ex-Garmin teammates catch up and share a joke but both riders have important jobs for later today.
And the flag has dropped and immediately there's a move from Bora and Europcar and a rider from Tinkov tries to jump across too. There's a flurry of moves now from the front of the peloton.
And just like that the bunch line out as the pace surges. Five riders in the lead with a gap of around 10 seconds over the peloton but more and more riders are trying to bridge over. Neutralized - the move has been caught.
It's Tinkov Saxo who are setting the pace and trying to break the race up with AG2R also looking to catapult a rider up the road. The peloton are too full of energy and tension to let anything go at this point, however.
Heading through Ruddervoorde, with around 5km of racing covered and still it's Ag2R who continue to try and force a break clear. Lampre are in the action, Europcar too but the peloton are hot on their heels.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) remains at a loss to explain his sudden collapse in the finale of E3 Harelbeke, but he remains among the favourites for the Tour of Flanders, with 1992 winner Jacky Durand, last year’s runner-up Greg Van Avermaet and Gent-Wevelgem winner Luca Paolini all tipping him as the danger man.
“Every race is different and every year is different,” Sagan said on the eve of the race. “It’s a pity that Boonen and Cancellara aren’t here but the race is still hard, with 200 riders at the start, so it’s still dangerous. Whether it will be more open or closed, I don’t know.”
The Slovak agreed that E3 Harelbeke winner Geraint Thomas (Sky) was the most impressive of the contenders last weekend, though he pointed to a number of other favourites for the win.
“Certainly we saw Thomas was good in Harelbeke, but [Zdenek] Stybar is very good. And I am too, let’s see. [John] Degenkolb fell but I think he’s recovered, [Alexander] Kristoff is winning races… I think there are a lot of riders who could be in front.”
@Cyclingnewsfeed Sun, 5th Apr 2015 09:55:48
253km remaining from 264km
More and more attacks from the peloton but nothing has stuck so far. 253km remaining.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) finished second twelve months ago and he does not believe the absence of Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara will alter the fundamentals of the race.
“I think it’s not such a big difference although it’s two extra big names who are missing,” Van Avermaet said on Friday. “Everybody knows that the last time up the Kwaremont and Paterberg will be very important. Cancellara always went there and I think it will be crucial again. It’s all about having the legs. If you have the legs, you have to go there. You know you have to go there to try to drop Degenkolb and Kristoff.”
We're around 20km into the race and still we're yet to see a break form and distance the peloton. Lampre, Ag2R and a number of non-WorldTour teams are among those trying to splinter the field in the early stages.
And we have our break: Six men with a 20 second gap on the field with 242km to go. Brammeier, Sergent, Gaudin, are among the break.
@Cyclingnewsfeed Sun, 5th Apr 2015 10:16:49
Just behind the break is former Hour Record holder Brandle, the IAM Cycling rider trying to bridge up to the leaders on his own.
The current leaders still have 20 seconds on the field, with confirmation that Lars Bak is in the lone rider chasing and just a few seconds clear of the field: Matthew Brammeier (MTN – Qhubeka), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Damien Gaudin (AG2R La Mondiale), Ralf Matzka (Bora), Clément Venturini (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (Team Roompot)
Near the front, a group of Team Sky riders are keeping the figure of Geraint Thomas out of trouble. The Welshman, as we've said before is enjoying his best season ever and is one of the favourites for today's race. In Bradley Wiggins, Thomas has a capable teammate and ahead of the race Cyclingnews spoke to the former track rider about the race and his tag as favourite:
“It’s massive. It’s flattering as well. It’s a big compliment for people to be mentioning my name as a potential winner,” explained Thomas. “I think Brad’s already said that he’s happy to get stuck in and do his job. I think having someone like him to help keep you near the front near the end of the race, there’s no better guy physically especially when he is up for it. It’s great to have him around; it’s the same with Stannard. I think that they’re both happy to play that role on Sunday and then we’ll talk about Roubaix afterwards.”
The bunch aren't giving the break too much rope at the moment, the gap still under a minute despite a series of long turns on the front from the leaders. Meanwhile, Bak has been joined by Frapporti but the pair are still 20 seconds down on the leading six riders.
Bak and Frapporti join up with the leaders and the peloton sit up with the gap moving out to 3'32 with 217km of racing covered.
So just over 50km of racing covered, and around 30km to go until the first climb of the day. The leaders are Matthew Brammeier (MTN – Qhubeka), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Damien Gaudin (AG2R La Mondiale), Ralf Matzka (Bora), Clément Venturini (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (Team Roompot), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Soudal), and Marco Frapporti (Androni).
No 'big' names in that move but there's some decent horsepower, that's for sure. Brammeier can ride all day, and Sergent can keep bashing out the watts and Gaudin and Bak have experience too.
The gap continues to grow and it's now up to 4'51 with the peloton with Team Sky and Etixx near the front, sitting up.
@inCycleTV Sun, 5th Apr 2015 11:10:28
200km remaining from 264km
The break continue to push on and now have seven full minutes on the peloton. Fine work from the seven riders up front who are closing in on the Tiegemberg - the first climb of the day.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) opted to play his cards close to his chest when he went to sign on before the masses in Bruges’ Markt this morning. “It’s very nice here and it’s good to have nice weather,” Sagan said, humouring speaker Michel Wuyts, but he was coy when asked about his tactical approach to the race this year. “It’s a secret,” he dead-panned.
With Stijn Devolder the Trek team holds the only previous winner of the Ronde of this peloton. Devolder won in 2008 and 2009. The team’s main director sportif at the spring classics is Dirk Demol. The Belgian director sportif acknowledged it was a different situation to show up in sunny Brugge without Fabian Cancellara. “For sure it’s different, also for me, although I prepared everything like I used to do. With or without Fabian. There’s much less pressure. There’s a bit of stress but positive. We’re motivated,” Demol told Cyclingnews. “We’ve got a good alternative. Devolder is not Cancellara. The previous two years he wins Flanders twice, wins a Roubaix and one third place there. We were also having good chances. It’s different and on a good day Stijn can be very strong. We’re not here without a plan. We’re motivated and we’ll make the best of it.”
Brammeier won the beer sprint after 34 km in Sint-Eloois-Winkel, earning his weight in beer. That's 73 liters of 'Steene Molen' beer.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) was the outstanding performer at E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem last weekend and the Welshman seemed wholly unperturbed his tag of pre-race favourite when he spoke to the press in Bruges’ Markt moments before the start.
“It’s a huge compliment, it’s really nice to hear,” he said. “I’m used to being a favourite from the track. There was a lot of pressure at the Olympics when I went there and it’s the same mentality really – I’m just thinking about myself and not getting drawn into other people. As long as we get into that final with good legs, anything can happen.”
Lotto-Soudal’s man in charge on Sunday, Marc Sergeant, hoped for a glorious day on Easter Sunday. The performance from Jürgen Roelandts in the epic edition of Gent-Wevelgem boosted the team’s morale.
“We’re all 100 per cent behind Jürgen. He gave away a fantastic show. During the race he told me he was great. He wanted to try something special. The weather conditions were extreme. Riders arrived one by one, like in a mountain’s stage. This is a totally different race,” Sergeant told Cyclingnews at the start in Brugge this morning. He believed the absence of Boonen and Cancellara created a golden opportunity for Jürgen Roelandts. “He said it himself, it’s now or never. I told him it had to be now because then he could win it another time. Otherwise, when it’s never then it’s never,” Sergeant laughed.
181km remaining from 264km
Just a shade over 181km remaining with the break working nicely together and sharing turns. The gap has dropped just a bit and is down to 6'36 over the peloton, with Team Sky on the front.
Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) is one of the big favourites for the victory today. He seemed very relaxed when he stepped off the podium to sign on this morning. The Czech rider didn’t give away much of his tactics. “I’ll try to stick to our plan as long as possible,” Stybar said. “I slept well. I’m not nervous. I’m ready. If not being nervous is a good sign? I think so. Also before the [cyclo-cross] world championships I was always having these sensations.”
@Cyclingnewsfeed Sun, 5th Apr 2015 11:28:43
It's Knees on the front for Team Sky on the front who are taking up the pace setting duties in the first half of the race. The German has been a consistent presence for the British team throughout the spring and has a job to do today.
The former German national champion as the bunch lined out at the moment as he starts to apply a little bit of pressure. The gap still holds though as we dip under 180km to go. The weather, still blue skies and a slight breeze in the air but nothing like the conditions we saw last week in Gent-Wevelgem.
A reminder of our top ten contenders video, which is just here while the folks at inCycle sat down with the Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw to talk about what makes the race such an iconic part of Belgian cycling culture. That video gem is right over here.
@marcopinotti Sun, 5th Apr 2015 11:37:56
At the back of the peloton a number of domestiques are scurrying back to the team cars to pick up food, like ants working for their queens, they’'ll load up with bottles and bars before disappearing back into the swarm of the peloton.
Still at the front Knees sets the pace with Wiggins two places further back. No help from Etixx, Lotto or BMC at this stage but there are a few Astana jerseys cobbled together near the head of the race. They'll work for Lars Boom today, who has shown patches of form throughout the spring.
Stannard is at the back of the bunch and is calling for a team car. He picks up something and then jostles through the motorbikes - just - before latching onto the back of the peloton.
As we see Haussler at the back of the bunch and adjusting his race shoes. The Australian started the year well, winning the national road race in January but he's not quite hit those heights since.
We're approaching the first time up the Kwaremont with Katusha showing their hand for the first time today, with one of their team on the very front of the peloton. Kristoff is just to the right wing of the Team Sky train as we see Sep Vanmarcke coming back through the cars.
The gap has come down to 5:48 as a result of the chase but the break are still holding their own. The leaders, once again: Matthew Brammeier (MTN – Qhubeka), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Damien Gaudin (AG2R La Mondiale), Ralf Matzka (Bora), Clément Venturini (Cofidis), Dylan Groenewegen (Team Roompot), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Soudal), Marco Frapporti (Androni).
@SadhbhOS Sun, 5th Apr 2015 12:05:25
Onto smaller roads and the crowds are becoming thicker and thicker as the break approaches the Kwaremont.
2.2km with a maximum gradient of over 12 per cent. The peloton with hit the last few corners before the climb at almost full gas as they fight for position.
The break line out with Bak on the front and setting the pace. The Dane setting a steady tempo for his companions.
Riders on the deck on a left hand corner for the bunch. The road narrows and there's simply not enough room. And Wiggins has a flat or a problem with his bike. He might have come down but we can't tell. He's now on a standard Pinarello bike.
152km remaining from 264km
And it was WIggins who crashed on that corner and the Team Sky riders are on the front and discussing what to do. Wiggins is back up and chasing through the cars and he will make contact. He's feeling one of his wrists but looks determined to carry on.
Venturini no longer with the leaders, so the group is down to Matthew Brammeier (MTN – Qhubeka), Jesse Sergent (Trek Factory Racing), Damien Gaudin (AG2R La Mondiale), Ralf Matzka (Bora), Dylan Groenewegen (Team Roompot), Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Soudal), and Marco Frapporti (Androni).
Team Sky now setting the pace on the Kwaremeont but it's just steady tempo for now as Wiggins moves closer to the back of the field. He makes contact with the back of the field.
All the main contenders make it over the top of the climb intact as we see Wiggins at the back of the field for now. He's actually got a small gap to close down having lost a couple of yards.
Over the top of the climb, the gap at 5:36 and this is where Wiggins needs to move up but he's in trouble here, he's losing ground on the field.
It looks like Wiggins has made it back to the peloton but he's calling for the team car as Preben Van Hecke jumps clear of the field.
The break hits the Kortekeer with their lead back towards six minutes.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) has finished fourth and fifth at the Tour of Flanders in the past two years, but this time around he lines up as one of the outstanding favourites for victory, particularly if the headwind on the run-in to Oudeanaarde thwarts late attackers.
“I am a follower today or at least I must stay in the front group, and I have guys to help me,” Kristoff said before the start in Bruges. “I don’t have to attack today but sometimes attack is the best form of defence too.”
137km remaining from 264km
Wiggins has stopped again. He's puts his bike down and is that it for the former Tour de France winner?
At the front Team Sky continue to tap out a steady pace. Wiggins looked in pain when he pulled up then so the signs do not look.
At the front Team Sky continue to tap out a steady pace. Wiggins looked in pain when he pulled up then so the signs do not look good.
Wiggins up and running again, having changed bikes once more.
The bunch line out as they crest over the top of the climb and Sky, Trek set the pace as Wiggins once again finds himself chasing back through the cars.
Jens Debusschere is in the chase with Wiggins as the break hit the foot of the Eikenberg with the gap at 6'25.
It's Frapporti who is setting the pace for the break as they head towards the top of the climb as we see a number of riders in the peloton having to chase back after mechanical problems. IAM Cycling have hit the front of the peloton now as well.
Van Hecke is about to be caught by the peloton on the Eikenberg, the fourth climb of the day.
A crash for Johnny Hoogerland but the Dutch rider is quickly back on his feet.
And Paolini has a bike change too with 126km to go. It's IAM Cycling who continue to set the pace on the front of the bunch as we see Brammeier riding away from the rest of the break with 125km to go.
IAM puzzled with this tactic but the team do have Haussler and Chavanel in their ranks so two riders who have competed for top honors in the race over the last few years but they're at least keeping their two leaders out of trouble and right near the front of the action.
Haussler currently in fourth wheel as we hit the Holleweg and the bunch starting to show signs of tiredness, with a few fractures creeping into the peloton.
Paolini is still back with the team cars as he takes on a bottle. The Gent-Wevelgem winner has plenty of time to move back up to the front and assist Kristoff later in the race.
118km remaining from 264km
Under 120km to go and the pace jumps up and the gap ticks down to 4'15.
A tight right hand corner and they all make it through safely and it's onto the Molenberg and Greipel has tried to jump clear. It looks like Knees has cracked.
The Lotto rider is brought back by the top of the climb but that has stretched the bunch once more and there are some suffering legs out there now. The German is on the front again and setting the pace. And he's gone now, he has a gap.
The gap down to 3'42 and small gaps are starting to appear after Greipel's efforts.
Greipel has been used in this role before both in Flanders and Roubaix as the team try and set up a counter attack. Onto the Paddestraat and Sagan has puncture. A quick change of wheels and he's back on his bike and chasing.
The leaders now have 3'24 as they tackle the Paddestraat, as further back Greipel is caught. He wanted some riders to join him in the counter attack but it wasn't to be.
Meanwhile Sagan is being paced back by three teammates.
Up ahead Brammeier rides in the gutter and leads the way for the rest of the break. The Irish rider is finding his feet after a brief illness last month.
For the first time today we see Etixx near the front of the peloton as they sit just off the shoulders of Sky's only man left on the front. Now the Belgian team move up and they're on the front for the first time today. 110km to go and the Haaghoek coming up after this stretch of cobbles.
The road thins and riders are onto the grass and one MTN rider is on the floor. It's Youcef Reguigui.
There's a crash in the break it seems. We're down to six riders. I think it's Sergent and he was hit by the Shimano service car.
Sergent taken down by the Shimano service car. We hope he's not badly hurt but that's a series crash for the Trek Factory Racing rider.
The car seem determined to want to come through and Sergent, wasn't aware.
Jens Debusschere is meanwhile back with his team car at the moment. He's had mechanical problems all day but the Belgian national champion is still in the mix as we see Kristoff coming back from the team cars.
Sergent is sitting up and in the back of an ambulance so his injuries don't seem too serious. He's checking out his shoulders and arms at the moment but that's an awful way to end a race.
@TrekFactory Sun, 5th Apr 2015 13:35:07
162km remaining from 264km
Just over 100km to go and Saxo also have a presence near the front of the peloton. Vanmarcke is also coming back from through cars as well. So a number of riders are starting to have a few little problems in the main field.
The break are now on the Haaghoek with the pace at the front of the peloton again increasing.
Onto the Leberg for the break, their lead down to 3'38.
A puncture for Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
Sky lead the peloton onto the Haaghoek
The bunch now totally lined out as the favourites and their teams fight for position. Haussler is there again with a number of teammates around him, while Paolini continues to hug the back of the peloton.
Stybar is near the front too as we see Knees start to lose contact with the main field. Not surprising given how much work he did earlier in the race.
Etixx and IA lead into the foot of the Leberg with still over 100 riders in the peloton.
There's another crash near the back of the peloton and a Katusha rider is in difficulty. Paolini is still at the back and this time calling for assistance on the radio.
Now the Berendries and Gaudin sets the pace for the break.
The peloton hit the climb and Team Sky move back to the front with Eisel in control.
Over the top of the Berendries and the peloton hit full throttle on the descent from the climb. It's now all about the approach the Valkenberg. You want to be in the first 10 riders at that point because that will set you up for the next three climbs.
The break have reached the Valkenberg and still have their 3:38 lead over the peloton.
Three Sky riders on the front as the Valkenberg comes into view for the peloton. No signs at all from BMC yet or the two Lotto squads but they're keeping their leaders tucked in for now.
Orica GreenEdge are also near the front and have moved up towards the front of the peloton but there's still such a long way to go yet there are a number of riders slipping out of the back of the field. Thomas, meanwhile, has three men on the front and setting the pace for him.
A quick one two with Tinkov and Etixx attacking in tandem with a rider each. Will Team Sky react or let this one go?
It looks like Breschel for Tinkov but the Etixx rider just marks him and does Sky's job for them.
A problem for Degenkolb and he's had bike change. The winner of Milan San Remo another favourite for today's race.
It's Viviani who is setting the pace for the peloton at the moment with 83km to go. Two more small climbs before we see the Kwaremont again, for the second time today. Degenkolb is coming back through the team cars.
The German regains contact with a little help from his team as up ahead the break lose another 30 seconds. Their gap is down to 3'00. Pozzato calls for his team car.
Bak is starting to stretch the break is going clear. Back in the peloton there's been a crash with two team cars coming together. Madiot's car is involved and possible an FDJ rider who is on the deck.
The FDJ rider came to a standstill the FDJ car slowed and then another went into the back of Madiot who was pushed into knocking the rider down.
A few riders have meanwhile tried to jump clear of the peloton with the gap to the break now down to 2'27.
@Etixx_QuickStep Sun, 5th Apr 2015 14:15:39
Docker, Christopher Juul Jensen and one other rider are in the counter attack.
Bak and Guadin have linked up and now lead the race with 73km to go.
Team Sky are all over the front now with Viviani and Puccio swapping turns. Bak and Gaudin looks comfortable at the moment but the Dane keeps on looking back to see if more riders will join them. The race is starting to hit a critical period where counter attacks could prove to be key.
The Docker group is still clear with around 15 seconds over the peloton and two more riders about to join the move. And Greipel has attacked once more for Lotto Soudal too.
The counter attack group has grown significantly and is up to around a dozen riders with 68km to go. Etixx, BMC, Tinkov, Lotto, Topsport, Bora and Movistar are among those represented.
65km remaining from 264km
65km to go and the race is still wide open with three group out on the road and ahead of the peloton. Bak and Gaudin still lead though as we see Stybar come back through the team cars. Team Sky are still doing all the front at the head of the peloton. How long can they keep this up for?
The peloton are behind the first group by 2'15 with two further groups in between. The danger man could be Guillaume Van Keirsbulck.
Peter Sagan has an easy ride and we see him just for a second poke his head out from behind the Team Sky train.
Van Avermaet, Kristoff, Vanmarcke, Degenkolb, Boom, are sitting in and letting Team Sky do all the work.
Team Sky are effective in their chase though and they have the entire race within 1'15.
The counter attack has been caught so we just have the morning break up the road.
Here come Orica, pushing their way to the front and joining Team Sky. Right hand turn, then a left and we're about to start climbing again very soon.
Bak and Guadin have 51 seconds on the bunch as they head towards the Kwaremont.
Thomas is at the front with two BMC riders at his side. The British rider looks comfortable enough at this stage and here's an attack from Offredo.
It's matched by the Belgian national champion and a rider from BMC, Schär I think.
And the two leaders are now on the Kwaremont. Lotto Soudal playing a decent hand right now.
55km remaining from 264km
The gap is down to just 40 seconds with 55km to go.
Hayman is near the front, Thomas, Trentiin, Van Avermaet, Sagan, Boom, Oss. They're all still in there.
Degenkolb, Kristoff, are hanging in there nicely too.
A small group has gone clear on the climb with Trentin right in the thick of the action.
Once over the top we should see BMC and Etixx have the numbers but Guadin and Bak still lead by 40 seconds. The rest of the field is starting to re-group.
And it's BMC who are launching attacks but it's coming back together so we just have two leaders left with 53km to go.
Now onto the Paterberg for the first time today.
Gaudin leads into the base of the climb as Bak checks over his shoulder. He'll see IAM, Etixx and Team Sky hunting him down.
Gaudin, last man standing and clear of Bak.
An attack from Chavanel. The Frenchman with a slight gap on the climb.
Bak has been caught as the peloton crest the top of the climb.
50km remaining from 264km
Into the final 50km of the race and Sagan, Thomas, Pippo, Oss, Greipel, Stannard, and Degenkolb are all still in contention at this stage. Looks like we've lost Wiggins.
Gaudin has been caught so the it's back together again. We've not seen Vanmarcke yet but one would assume that he's in the main group.
It's the Koppenberg next and there are still around 50 or so riders in contention but that group is getting bigger and bigger all the time. The Wiggins group have made it back, for now.
And Greipel has attacked for the third time today. It's almost a sprint out of the saddle but the German goes clear. Despite the calm conditions Lotto have tried to break this race up whenever they can.
Lotto simply want men up the road for Jurgen Roelandts later on and numbers in the final are key in this race.
And there's a crash. FDJ, and Cofidis have a man down. Trentin too. Onto the climb and Vanmarcke must be there because he has his men on the front.
Greipel has a small gap left as Trek set the pace with Stannard in second wheel.
Sagan is with Kristoff and they're both still in the mix and looking good.
Greipel caught at the top of the climb as Devolder sets the pace at the front of the peloton.
Stybar, Van Avermaet are also close to the front as well but the race is really splitting up at this stage, with riders all over the place.
41km remaining from 264km
It's Rowe on the front of the peloton now with Van Avermaet, Devolder and Thomas all there. The Trek rider looks very comfortable at this stage and the lead group is down to less than thirty riders but more riders should be able to come back before the Steenbeekdries.
Alexey Lutsenko has jumped clear of the peloton and he has a small lead over the field. He went away just as the pace slowed after the last climb and Chavanel has attacked too. He's been marked by Greipel though.
A problem for Demare who takes a bike from a teammate. Nice quick change for the French national champion.
Just ten seconds between the three leading groups on the road though, so once again it's all going to come back together at this race. None of the big favourites want to risk anything until the final set of climbs.
I take that back Alexey Lutsenko now has 27 seconds on the peloton with Stannard now setting the pace for Team Sky. Giant are also working hard on the front of the peloton.
Chavanel and Greipel have been caught so we just have the one leader up the road.
Four more climbs left and we're onto the Taaienberg
Bauer is there for Cannondale and putting in a decent stint on the front. Terpstra is there too and it's the Dutch rider who moves to the front.
Lutsenko has a small gap on the field and Boom is back with the rest of the favourites and now Van Avermaet has attacked.
He saw the pace slow, and he's off with a small group on his case and his back wheel. Stybar is there.
It's going to come back together again but riders are starting to feel twitchy with just 36km to go.
The main peloton will grow to around 30 or 40 riders once more but Marco Marcato has gone clear with one other rider on his wheel.
The lone leader has been caught and Leukemans has a small gap.
Van Avermaet goes again and this times takes two men with him. It's Rowe and Lotto Soudal who are doing all the chasing. Devolder, Thomas, Sagan, Oss and all the other pre-race favourites in the mix. A bit of a switch for BMC so you could ask if Oss is the team leader for today.
Vanmarcke is no longer with the lead group as Lotto, with three or four men left set the pace.
Thomas is just in second wheel and sitting in for now but he Stybar on his left shoulder and Boom on the right. The pressure is starting to mount.
Now BMC take up the charge and Greipel and Rowe are put into difficulty.
@TrekFactory Sun, 5th Apr 2015 15:27:17
Kristoff is there as we see Etixx lift the pace.
Terpstra lifts the pace and he has Kristoff on his wheel.
We're now watching Vanmarcke struggling to come back but it's still Terpstra and Kristoff who are clear of the peloton.
That's a really interesting move because the Etixx right might be confident of dropping the Katusha rider before the finish.
26km remaining from 264km
Lampre and Team Sky are chasing this one down but it's a really dangerous move that shouldn't have been given this much room.
The two leaders have 16 seconds on the peloton as Rowe is ushered to the front and ordered to take another turn.
Kristoff is sharing the work with Terpstra evenly at the moment as the leading pair work on drawing out their lead over the peloton.
Astana have numbers in the chase but they're not committing, same with Lotto.
27 seconds for the two leading riders with 23km to go.
Now Astana move up and start to chase with two men on the front for Lars Boom.
Giant have three men, Degenkolb one of them, and they're also starting to move up as well.
19km to go and a move will need to come on the final two climbs if the leading riders are to be brought back.
18km remaining from 264km
18km to go and Terpstra and Kristoff have 30 seconds as they head onto the Kwaremont. Giant-Alpecin are chasing.
Rowe now on the front for Thomas as Kristoff leads Terpstra.
The gap down to 25 seconds. Now 23, now 22...
And now Stybar and Thomas look to push on as Rowe cracks.
The gap is down to 16 seconds.
Oss is leading the third group with Sagan and Boom.
14 seconds for the leading pair with Thomas doing all the work and Stybar sitting on.
Kristoff is sitting pretty for now.
Terpstra leads over the top of the Kwaremont and the Thomas group is seeing a few more riders come across.
16km remaining from 264km
16km to go and just the Paterberg to come as Kristoff comes through and gives Terpstra a break. The chase has lost organisation and Boom has a failed attack.
The leading pair have 27 seconds again. Van Avermaet attack but Stybar looks to close it down.
The gap opens up to 30 seconds with 14km to go.
Onto the final climb now and Kristoff again sets the pace at the base.
Will Terpstra attack?
BMC now lead the chase, they've not thrown in the towel.
Van Avermaet is trying to go clear and he has a small gap. Sagan goes after him though.
Every rider for himself at this stage as Sagan and Van Avermaet link up on the descent. The gap to the two leaders is at 20 seconds.
17 seconds between the two leading group as Boom and Stybar also take off - or at least try to.
10km remaining from 264km
Into the final 10km of racing and Sagan and Van Avermaet have just a few seconds on the group behind them. The two leaders have 18 seconds and will need to work right until the finish.
Sagan takes a long turn and that could be it for the riders behind.
Sagan and Van Avermaet take the gap down to 16 seconds with 8.2km to go.
The Thomas chase group is at 27 seconds.
They're two evenly matched groups with Sagan and Kristoff cancelling each other out and the same could be said of Van Avermaet and Terpstra and the gap is still holding at just under 20 seconds.
And now the gap goes out to 23 seconds.
5km remaining from 264km
Inside the final 5km of the race and Kristoff you'd have to say is the strong favourite if it comes down to a sprint but you never know after 260km of racing.
Kristoff comes through and takes his turn. He just needs to keep the pace even and steady and not give Tersptra an each chance to strike with an attack.
The gap is coming down just a bit though, at 16 seconds with 3km to go.
Sagan and Van Avermaet are working together and have brought the gap down to 16 seconds but it's probably all over for them.
2km remaining from 264km
Now inside 2km to go and Kristoff opens up his brakes before the sprint.
Terpstra isn't coming through to work now.
1km to go and Terpstra is going to make Terpstra do the work before an attack.
They both look back.
900m to go.
They hug the barriers.
600m to go
Van Avermaet attacks.
And they open the sprint.
And Kristoff jumps on the pedals and takes the win.
Terpstra has to settle for second.
Van Avermaet takes third ahead of Peter Sagan.
The Norwegian watched Terpstra like a hawk in that final and then when the Etixx rider made his move Kristoff just opened the gas and took a clear win. His second monument of his career.
1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
2 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Lars Boom (Ned) Astana Pro Team
7 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
8 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx - Quick-Step
10 Martin Elmiger (Swi) IAM Cycling
So a pre-race favourite won out with Kristoff, fresh from his De Panne results coming home to take the Tour of Flanders. With the bright warm conditions we have a number of riders in contention but just after the Kruisberg Terpstra made his move and was willing to work with Kristoff until the final 1km of racing.
A faultless display from the winner. He didn't use his team to set the pace but instead used them to protect his position at critical stages. He let the race come to him but showed great instinct to latch onto Terpstra's wheel when everyone else seemed willing to wait for the final two climbs.
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, images and full results right here.
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