Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the Tour of Flanders.
Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage. It's Tour of Flanders day!
As the CN blimp takes flight, the crowd is already huge in the Antwerp Grote Martkt and the first teams are signing on.
The weather is dry ands cool in northern Flanders but there is a slight risk of rain later.
There is a huge crowd enjoying the sign-on, with each stage riding no stage for an introduction.
Team Sunweb is next up with Michael Matthews as team leader.
"Look at that crowd. Wow! Thanks for coming put today," Matthews says.
"It's been a rollercoaster spring for me but I'm super happy to be here. I feel blessed. I was told I'd need three months off bike but now I'm ready to race. Lets have some fun!"
This is the view in the Grote Markt.
Next up is Team Sky.
Luke Rowe promised an aggressive race, while Dylan van Baarle is back.
"I broke my hand at Omloop. I'm glad to be back. I was lucky I broke it on the outside. I'm feeling good. It's not up to us to sit back and wait," he said.
Matthews speaks after signing on. He's an outsider today but a real threat.
EF Education First is up next and Sep Vanmarcke is riding, despite his nasty crash last week.
He gets a huge cheer from the crowd.
Taylor Phinney is filming a video on stage and the crowd give him a special hello.
"This is going to be the highlight of my day, it's going to be a long, hard day," he says.
Sep Vanmarcke: "It's mostly about using this race as training for Paris-Roubaix. It's the moment to give some support back to the others."
EF Education First on stage.
Next up is Jumbo-Visma with the new star of Flemish cycling Wout van Aert.
Wout van Aert seemed focused but a little nervous.
"It's an honour to start the Ronde this way. I'm used to the pressure. I would also like to win a race without Mathieu winning something but it's a motivation," he said of rivalry with van der Poel.
Maarten Wynants on Jumbo-Visma's race plan:
"We have to make sure we keep the initiative. On paper, QuickStep is stronger, but there's no paper on the Kwaremont, just cobbles."
That's a great line.
As the teams sign and are presented to the huge crowd, the minutes tick down to the start at 10:20.
Oliver Naesen (AG2R) was a little ill but was smiling on stage.
Oliver Naesen: "If you're not keen to race today, then you'd better look for another job."
"I've got a mythical number on my back with 51, even though this is not the Tour."
The Lotto Soudal team has opted to field Tim Wellens alongside Tiesj Benoot to take on their 'noisy neighbours' Deceuninck-QuickStep today.
Peter Sagan is on stage with Bora-Hansgrohe.
"It's a secret," he says when asked his tactics for the day.
An interesting stat from former CN man in Australia Zeb Woodpower:
36 debutants at #RVV
R. Stannard the youngest at 20
A. Valverde the oldest at 38.
CCC Team is on stage, with Golden Greg van Avermaet getting a huge cheer.
Will it finally be his day today?
"Riding up the podium here with the tune of the White Stripes is an extra motivation, even though it's not needed." he said.
"Not being the top favourite doesn't bother me. It's who's on top at the finish that matters most."
Who still has to sign on?
The boys in blue Deceuninck-QuickStep and Direct Energie of 2018 winner Niki Terpstra.
The DJ and speakers are building up the atmosphere as the riders roll on stage, calling on the crowd to jump.
It's more like a Belgian rave than a bike race.
The Deceuninck-QuickStep team are getting extra attention, including Bob Jungels.
"It means a lot to hear that from a legend. I'm proud to be named a favourite," he said of Boonen tipping him to win.
Phil Gilbert: "Getting this warm welcome for the third year in a row is really special. It's not something we're used to."
Yves Lampaert: "I slept well. I hope to be able to ride a good race."
Last on stage is Direct Energie and Niki Terpstra.
He seems happy and confident as ever. It would be huge if he won again after leaving QuickStep for Direct Energie.
Terpstra: "This was one of the biggest wins of my career, together with Paris-Roubaix.
"There are at least 10 favourites. I hope that's in our favour. I start to win again."
All the times have signed on been presented to the crowd, now it's time to rock and roll.
The riders are on the yellow carpet and lining up for the start near the Schelde rider
World Champion Alejandro Valverde is also racing today.
The riders are lining up on the yellow carpet, they roll out at 10:30, with the official start at 10:45 after a 9.3km neutralised section.
Can this man pull of a huge debut win today?
1 minute to roll out!
The skies are blue and there's virtually no wind today. It's going to be all about the racing.
Here we go. It's time to roll!
Most riders are smiling as they roll along in the neutralised section. They know it is a big day out.
Bob Jungels: "To be honest I'm still quite calm. I'll be nervous when we get to the first climbs and the whole bunch gets nervous."
"Favourite status doesn't affect me, it maybe affects the other riders and how they react to my attacks. I'm happy with the other races and if that makes me a favourite then it's more than welcome."
Zdenek Stybar: "You feel like a rockstar here it's very impressive.
"It's already the third time we've had such a welcome in the centre of Antwerp. It really means a lot and is something we'll never forget."
"There are so many scenarios we could talk about them for seven hours. We will race as we always race and let's hope we have some luck."
The riders go under the Schelde, warming up the legs before the flag drops and race officially begins.
They race fo 270.1km today. That's a long hard day in the saddle and we'll have all the action here via our live coverage.
Our reporters Sadhbh O'Shea, Patrick Fletcher, Barry Ryan, Josh Evans and our own Flandrien Brecht Decauwler, are on the ground in Belgium to bring you all the inside news, interviews and analysis post-race.
The race director's car is upping the speed now.
The flag will drop soon and the surely the first attacks will come as riders try to go in the early break.
The riders are packed tight behind the race director's car.
The race heads south west from Antwerp towards southern Flanders and the finish in Oudenaarde.
There is little wind and warm sun. We can expect a fast race.
A million people are expected along the roadside today. It's a special day.
270km remaining from 267km
The flag is dropped! They're off!
Deceuninck-QuickStep is trying to control the pace but we have the first attack.
A Roompot rider kicks first but the peloton follows him.
The peloton is lined out as the first attacks are chased down.
264km remaining from 267km
Four riders have a slight gap. Will they be allowed to go clear?
Could it be Yves Lampaert's day?
261km remaining from 267km
The big teams are marking each other up front.
A CCC rider tries to go in a move but ljo Keisse closes it down, with Bora also up there.
If a big team can get a rider into the break it would ease the pressure off them and mean they don't need to any work later in the race.
Meanwhile in Oudenaarde, the women's Tour of Flanders is also underway.
We'll keep you up to date with both races.
257km remaining from 267km
Flat for Jungels. He needs a rear wheel change.
The race is on upfront, with Jesper Asselman of Roompot getting across to the trio.
This could be the early break.
Jungels is chasing in the long line of team cars. He'll be back on soon enough.
255km remaining from 267km
The break of four has 30 seconds but now CCC again try to get in on the move.
Tim Declercq of Deceuninck shuts him down.
But immediately other attacks go off the front of the peloton.
Jolien D'Hoore of Boels-Dolmans is a surprise starter in the women's race.
She said at the start: "It would hurt more to watch the women's race on my couch than to be on the bike myself"
252km remaining from 267km
The men squeeze through a tight corner, forcing some to hit the brakes at the back. Now they have to accelerate hard.
The race is approaching Sint Niklaas. It hosted the start for 20 years.
The roads are narrow in the city centre.
249km remaining from 267km
Several hot air balloons will take off as the race passes.
248km remaining from 267km
The peloton has eased on the single lane city streets of Sint Niklaas. The quartet is away.
The gap is 1:50 but a Vital Concept rider decides to attacks, upsetting Tim Declerq.
Roompot is also chasing.
Flat number 2 for Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Kapser Asgreen needs a rear change. The mechanic uses a drill tool to open the disc wheel and make a quick change.
DS Tom Steels give Asgreen a push off and he begins to chase.
And Stijn Steels - Tom's nephew now needs a bike change.
240km remaining from 267km
The race reaches Hamme - Greg van Avermaet's home town.
This was golden Greg at the start.
236km remaining from 267km
The attacks behind have been shut down on some narrow roads.
We seem to have the break of the day.
Riders start to eat and drink, with others taking a natural break.
233km remaining from 267km
The lead of the break is rising more and more.
It's 2:30 now. To keep up to date to the riders in the break and the time gap, check out our Situation.
Several rider go down on a corner.
A touch of wheels and a slam on the brakes put several rider go down.
The crash victims include Mike Teunissen.
Meanwhile there's a mass stop in the peloton for a natural break. Riders filled both side of the road as they stopped to 'raise the water table' as Rob Hayles explained on TV.
230km remaining from 267km
Stop! There's a train coming. A level crossing forces the peloton to stop for about 30 seconds.
Philippe Gilbert is first to start again, jokingly attacking to enjoy his first solid food of the day.
228km remaining from 267km
The level crossing helped the break push out their lead to 5:00.
This screen grab shows the crash that involved Mike Teunissen.
The races passes through Overmere as they head southwest.
This is the full route map of the 103rd Tour of Flanders.
222km remaining from 267km
The lead is up to 7:00 now.
The team cars for the breakaway are trying to pass the peloton to go up to their riders.
They face a slalom through the riders and the traffic furniture.
216km remaining from 267km
The quartet in the break is pushing on and now leads by 8:30.
Behind the riders in the peloton are taking on food and bidons and taking off their gilet and jackets.
212km remaining from 267km
The race is in Aalst, the birthplace of the Naesen brothers.
The race soon passes over the main motorway, a symbolic passage into southern Flanders.
The peloton has begun to chase or at least control the attack today.
Tim Declercq is doing some of the hard work for Deceuninck.
208km remaining from 267km
Jumbo and AG2R are also taking turns up front, after an average first hour speed of 48.2km/h.
Pascal Eenkhoorn is doing the work for Jumbo.
In the women's race the riders are soon to hit the climbs.
They have 120km to race with 7 riders in the early break of the day.
The seven are:
I. Sanguineti (Valcar Cylance), G. Marchesini (Team Vaiano), K. Dobrynina, (Team Servetto), Valsecchi (BePink),
Eraud (Doltcini Van Eyck), Waterreus (Cyclelive Team), Stougje (Hitec Products).
They lead by 1:50.
199km remaining from 267km
Back in the men's race the break passes below the 200km to go point.
196km remaining from 267km
In the peloton the riders are riding together as teams, with many enjoying some solid race food.
It's important to eat and drink, as their DS keep telling them via race radio.
The race is near Herzele, in 15km or os the riders will get their first taste of the cobbles in Lippenhovestraat.
Coryn Rivera was one of several riders involved in a crash in the women's race and Team Sunweb has confirmed she has had to abandon the race.
185km remaining from 267km
As the first section of cobbles loom, Mathieu van der Poel and his Corendon team move to the front.
The tension is rising.
The Lippenhovestraat cobbled section is 1.3km long.
The break hits the cobbles, it's the first of five sections in today''s 270km race.
The crowds are huge as the break also hits the 1500m Paddestraat section.
181km remaining from 267km
Crash in the peloton!
Several rider go down as someone tries to hop away from the gap of death in the concrete roads.
The USA's Kiel Reijnen was involved, as was Cofidis leader Christophe Laporte.
Deceuninck lead the peloton on the cobbles, with three riders on the front for the Paddestraat section.
177km remaining from 267km
The cobbles are over for now but the race is on a concrete farm track, as riders taken on bidons from the roadside.
There is now 30km until things step up another level for the Oude Kwaremont.
173km remaining from 267km
It's time for another mass natural break in the peloton, that will help the break extend its lead again.
Sagan and Terpstra stopped and are riding back up to the peloton.
The peloton hits the first feed zone with 166km to race.
It's also a last chance to take off a jacket or take a natural break.
Musette's are grabbed, in a tense moment.
164km remaining from 267km
The feed is in Oudenaarde, where the race will finish later.
The peloton have already raced 100km.
160km remaining from 267km
The peloton rides through a packed Oudenaarde. There's a lot of racing, a lot of cobbles and climbs, still to come.
Crash in the peloton!
Terpstra is down!
Terpstra went down heavily.
Terpstra is getting medical treatment.
Terpstra moves his legs but his race seems over.
Fortunately the medics were there within in seconds to help him.
Terpstra went down hard but other riders noticed it and called for assistance.
154km remaining from 267km
The tension has risen in the peloton as the Oude Kwaremont nears.
Lotto Soudal is leading the as the speed cranks up.
The Oude Kwaremont is Helling / Côte 1 of 17.
It is 2200m long, with an average of 4% and a max of 11,6%.
It's a race to the corner that leads to the Kwaremont.
A left turn funnels the peloton. but they all make it through.
Hugo Houle (Astana) goes clear alone. He's enjoying the solo glory but will surely ease up at the top.
The race will pass over the Oude Kwaremont two more times and is one of the strategic points in the race.
It is climb no. 10 and then climb no. 15 of the 17 climbs.
Here comes the peloton, squeezed into the lanes.
The crowds will also get to see the women's race very soon.
Tim Declercq leads the peloton on the cobbled climb. These are his home roads.
The big name favourites are just behind him. Rowe is third wheel, Lampaert is there, Sagan too.
Others are saving their legs and energy by riding deep in the peloton.
The TV camera spot Tom Boonen in the hospitality area. It must be more enjoyable drinking champagne and watching from the roadside than riding.
147km remaining from 267km
As the cobbles end, and the speed lines out the peloton, the gap to the break is at 5:45.
143km remaining from 267km
It's time for the next climb. The Kortekeer is next. It's short but steep.
142km remaining from 267km
There's still 142km to race but there's high-speed fight for the front and best line into the important corners.
138km remaining from 267km
The pace eases in the peloton but they will soon hit the seven climbs packed tight into 40km.
Team Sky is trying to slow the pace.
The pace is so slow that some riders are forced to put a foot down at the back.
This is an interesting ease in the racing.
Behind some riders are doing track stands to avoid putting a foot down.
Yevgeniy Gidich of Astana showed some great bike skills there.
134km remaining from 267km
Team Sky slowed the pace but are trying to smash it now. The peloton has split behind on an exposed road.
134km remaining from 267km
Bora is also there as the peloton reforms from behind.
Position is vital for the next 30km.
Here comes Helling 3: the Ladeuze.
Stybar need mechanical help and so loses position. He faces a long chase to get back up after a rear flat.
The break is on the Wolvenberg. It starts steep and then eases over the top. 615m long. It will hurt when the road turns to cobbles.
In the women's race there is still 55km to race.
The break still leads by 1:30. The race has yet to explode.
We'll have a full report and photo gallery later and more live up dates closer to the finish.
129km remaining from 267km
The break is on the Holleweg cobbles. It looks like Paris-Roubaix but the climbs will be back very soon.
129km remaining from 267km
The peloton tuns right and hits the Wolvenberg. But the pace eases again.
And more struggle to stay up behind, holding the barriers and getting a push.
125km remaining from 267km
Despite the climbs and cobbles, there's a distinct sense of calm before the storm at the moment.
How long will that last?
Next up is the Haaghoek cobbles and then the Leberg climb.
Riders are spread across the road as they fight for position.
Jungles wisely moves from the gutter to centre of the road.
122km remaining from 267km
The breakaway riders reach the top of the Leberg. They currently lead by 5:25.
The pace in the peloton increases on Haghoek.
There is "reassuring news" to report on Terpstra, who is in hospital and has come around after his crash. Here's our story:
The breakaway riders hit the next climb, Berendries, which is tarmacked.
117km remaining from 267km
As the quartet crest the climb, their lead is down to 4:38
No big moves in the peloton on the Leberg. They're on the approach to Berendries now.
It's Decueninck-QuickStep's trio of domestiques, Tim Declercq, Iljo Keisse, and Kasper Asgreen, who are leading the bunch at the moment. The rest of their riders are potential winners.
They hit Berendries, another one that's lined with an impressive number of fans. Declercq lays down a steady tempo.
Attack from an FDJ rider
A strong attack and it has drawn out several riders.
Eight or nine riders up there as they move onto the wide roads beyond the top of the climb. There's a gap back to the rest of the bunch.
Jasper Philipsen crashes but is back on his bike.
A few more riders come across to that split. The peloton is strung out behind.
We can't see any big names in there. Van Hooydonck is there for CCC and Asgreen for QuickStep.
Philipsen slid out on a left-hand bend and went into a roadside barrier. He seems ok to continue but that was a pretty hard crash.
Moscon is up there in this small break from the peloton. They're 15 seconds ahead at the moment.
110km remaining from 267km
The breakaway quartet hit Tenbosse, the seventh climb of the day.
At the top of Tenbosse their lead is down to 3:05
109km remaining from 267km
That group containing Moscon has been caught. So we're back with four breakaway riders and a peloton.
As you were. Declercq is back on the front of the bunch on Tenbosse.
And now an attack from Dries De Bondt (Corendon-Circus)
De Bondt was the rider who attacked with Van der Poel early on at Dwars. He draws some riders out and the bunch strings out over the top. But no real splits.
With Tenbosse out of the way, the riders are now heading towards the mighty Muur van Geraardsbergen.
105km remaining from 267km
The gap continues to fall. 2:48 now for the four leaders.
Jonas Van Genechten (Vital Concept) crashes into a ditch but it's a soft landing and he's ok.
The pace is high in the peloton and teams are already jostling for position ahead of the Muur. It's a long way out, but can still be important. Two years ago a key selection was formed there, from which Gilbert later slipped clear to claim a solo victory.
Sunweb have moved their riders to the front and are currently setting the pace on the right-hand side of the road.
The break hits the Muur van Geraardsbergen as the peloton fight for position on their approach.
100km remaining from 267km
It's 100km to race now. There's a real sense the final will soon start. The race could explode over the top of the Muur.
The break is just 1:30 ahead now.
The Muur-Kapelmuur: 475m at 9.3 %, max 19.8 %.
Stybar is up front, as is Trentin.
They are lined out up past the chapel.
No real selection this year but the pace is high. It's only going to get higher.
The peloton is totally lined out, almost a kilometre long.
98km remaining from 267km
No attacks on the Muur but Deceuninck is now driving the peloton.
There is now 30km to Helling/Côte 9: Kanarieberg but they are trying to shake out the peloton.
There's a clear split in the peloton, forcing the others to chase.
95km remaining from 267km
There are 30 quality riders in the move, including Sagan, Gaviria and others.
Van Avermaet, van der Poel, Valverde too.
The gap is up to 30 seconds.
Also there is Mohirc, Oss, van Aert, Bettiol.
The peloton is big but can they close the gap. It all depends on the balance of power in the groups.
The group is about to catch the early break.
Team Sky have three riders up front.
There are even attacks from the front group now.
They include Van Aert and van der Poel.
The cross riders are taking charge.
90km remaining from 267km
This is a shot of the attack.
Both Vanmarcke and Naesen are in the chase group.
Upfront EF have 4 riders in the move.
89km remaining from 267km
And Stybar ups the pace once again up front. The peloton is 1:00 behind now. They're losing time.
Lampaerts is also there for Deceuninck.
Lotto Soudal and Groupama missed the move and are leading the chase.
Gilbert is also in this chase group.
86km remaining from 267km
Gilbert will be hoping the race comes back together. But that is a big ask at this point.
There are 16km to race in the women's race. We're going to focus on that, and keep you informed of the men's race.
Vos has a rear flat, that's a blow for her.
The Kwaremont proved to be vital in the women's race.
Bastianelli blew the race apart, dragging the move clear.
Also there are Van Vleuten, Ludwig, Van Vleuten and Udwig.
Vos punctured from the group.
They're on the Paterberg, and three go clear.
They have 13km to race.
The chasers are just behind though.
Chantal Blaak and Ellen van Dijk are leading the chase.
12km remaining from 267km
Van Vleuten, Uttrup and Bastianelli are out front, working together to stay way.
In the men's race, riders in the front group keeps attacking each other but are still a minute clear of the peloton.
It's a key tactical moment before the final climbs in the final 50km.
In the women's race Van Vleuten, Uttrup Ludwig and Bastianelli lead by 30 seconds now.
van Vleuten tries an attack, but Bastianelli is able to chase her.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig struggles to get on but makes it.
The four chasers can see them with just 7km to go but the leading trio are working together and all want a place on the podium.
Van Vleuten seems to be hurting but she can never be ignored.
The trio lead by 20 seconds.
In the men's race they hit the Kanarieberg climb. Mohoric is off the front as the front group is caught by the peloton.
The race is about to start all over again after the flurry of attacks.
It's gruppo compatto just before the Oude Kwaremont is climbed again.
3km to go in the women's race.
Van Vleuten, Ludwig and Bastianelli still lead by 20 seconds.
Can the chasers close them down as the trio think of the sprint?
Van Vleuten kicks again but Bastianelli s on her wheel.
Van Vlueten slows, forcing Bastianelli to lead.
Behind Chantal Blaak, Ellen van Dijk and Niewadoma are almost there.
Van Vleuten kicks again!
But Bastianelli chasers her down and close the gap.
It's the perfect lead out for the Italian and she wins the Tour of Flanders!
She's in tears after crossing the line.
Van Vleuten is disappointed but heads to the podium to be confirmed in second place.
Behind several groups sprint for the minor placings.
Bastianelli thanks her teammates and explains her race.
"It was really hard for me today. I've won big races but this is the biggest win for me," she said.
The top ten confirms Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was third in the sprint, with Sofia Bertizzolo winning the sprint for fourth place behind.
She is Bastianelli's teammate and so sat on the chase.
Ellen van Dijk was fifth, with Niewiadoma sixth and Blaak seventh.
Click here for the full women's race report and photo gallery.
60km remaining from 267km
We return quickly to the men's race as the speed goes up before the Kwaremont.
Van der Poel has a flat, he eases up, waves for a service but then crashes over the bars after hitting a pot-hole.
Is his race over? Perhaps.
He was waving frantically for a wheel when he crashed. He panicked instead of staying focused.
Van der Poel is back chasing, with a teammate, but the race is about to explode on the Kwaremont.
Stijn Vandenbergh (AG2R) edges away on the early slopes.
57km remaining from 267km
Sep Vanmarcke is with him. They're perhaps trying to gain some road before the race explodes behind them.
Asgreen leads the peloton but is suffering.
Everyone is going deep on the cobbled climb.
Yet some how, van der Poel is chasing and moving past many in the peloton. His race is not over just yet. But will he pay a price for the chase?
After the Kwaremont, the attack is on the fast main road.
It's time for the Paterberg.
54km remaining from 267km
Zhandos Bizhigitov (Astana) crashed at speed on the descent in the lanes.
Before the race, van der Poel spoke briefly to Cyclingnews.
"It’s hard to be nervous for a road race because the start doesn’t matter. I think that the nervousness will come when the race will be at it’s end," he said.
Do you consider yourself a favourite?
"No, in my opinion it’s a bit too son there are already other riders that are stronger in long races. Of course, with the victory in Dwars door Vlaanderen, people expect but that was a race of four hours and I think that this will be almost seven, it think. It’s quite a long race."
Vanmarcke and Vandenbergh hit the Paterberg!
53km remaining from 267km
But the chasers are on them. The race is coming back together.
There's still lots of climbs to come but for many riders. the race is over.
Gilbert is off the pace and his chances are surely over.
51km remaining from 267km
Van der Poel is in a chase group, some 20 seconds behind the leaders.
Upfront Asgreen has joined Vanmarcke and Vandenbergh. But the chase is on.
48km remaining from 267km
Asgreen, Vanmarcke and Vandenbergh lead by 15 seconds.
Van der Poel is 30 seconds further back.
46km remaining from 267km
We're onto the Koppenberg now and the block of three nasty climbs backed into 10km.
There are at least 120 riders in the peloton but many will spat out the back very soon. The Koppenberg is a cruel, cruel climb after 220km of racing.
45km remaining from 267km
Team Sky's Dylan van Baarle leads the peloton over the top.
He can almost see the trio up front now.
Next up is the 2000m long Mariaborrestraat 2000m section of cobbles.
42km remaining from 267km
Back on the open roads, van Baarle is trying to go across the gap to the trio.
But van der Poel is still fighting to save his race.
As they hit the Mariaborrestraat cobbles, the group comes back together but the four lead by 20 seconds.
Incredibly, van der Poel is back in the group!
40km remaining from 267km
The road is flat after the short Steenbeekdries but the Taaienberg is coming up.
Van Baarle looks strong in the attack and Vandenberg cracks.
Gaviria and Oss have been gapped from the big chase group. The hard racing and distance is taking its toll now.
37km remaining from 267km
Valverde, van Avermaet are in the select chase group.
The best from this group will surely go on to fight for victory.
Stuyven, Naesen, Sagan, Kristoff and Betttiol are there.
36km remaining from 267km
There are 25 or so riders in the big-name group.
Gaviria is behind the group but Kristoff is there. We spoke to him at the start.
"I think I’m ok.. I’m ready to race, it’s going to be a long day and everyone knows it. It’s ok, there is plenty of time to warm up it is many kilometres before the race is really on," he said.
Do you feel you’re strong enough?
"I think it’s possible but if I wait until the strongest guys go on the climb, I think I will struggle, but maybe if I’m lucky to get an advantage ahead somewhere, I have a chance."
There are a lot of favourites, will that play to your advantage?
"It’s hard to say but if there are many guys on the same level then maybe the group gets a bit bigger and they will watch each other. It could be an advantage, but it could also be a disadvantage if everyone goes too hard."
What are you expecting?
"It’s hard to put an expectation, but I’m hoping for a good result in the top five and maybe be close to the podium. If I’m on the podium, then I will be very happy."
34km remaining from 267km
Attacks split the chase group on the flat roads as riders try to anticipate the attacks on the key climbs.
But the 2.5km long Kruisberg/Hotond is coming up.
30km remaining from 267km
The riders pass through Ronse, with the narrow roads helping the break extend their lead to 30 seconds, with 30km to go.
Degenkolb edges off the front of the chase group.
Bike change for Naesen! just as the climb begins. Tragic for him.
He's chasing in the cars but will be panicking a little.
Pieter Weening (Roompot-Charles) is with Degenkolb but soon distances him.
29km remaining from 267km
But they hunt him down from behind. Jungels is there and leading the pace.
Van Baarle ups the pace and goes solo in reply.
Van der Poel is there on Jungels wheel. He's back in the race for sure.
Valverde, van Avermaet and Stybar are also there.
As are Van Aert, Lampaerts, Sagan and Benoot.
28km remaining from 267km
Van der Poel tries a dig and some of the riders are spat out of the group.
Jungels surges on the top of the climb but it cracks Stybar.
26km remaining from 267km
Vanmarcke is caught but gives his last drops of energy to help Bettiol and force a split.
25km remaining from 267km
This race is constantly changing, with every attack ending somebodies chances.
Only van Baarle and Asgreen remain up front. 15 second ahead.
24km remaining from 267km
Sagan shows his nose near the front, he seems to be riding a more cautious race today, just like Valverde.
Everyone is tired and on their limits. There are just 15 riders in the chase group now.
Kristoff is there too.
So is Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). He spoke to CN at the start.
"I know I haven’t had the best preparation, I’ve missed a lot of the Classics coming into Flanders. I’m here to have a good time. I think that we have a good team, the guys have ridden really well in the Classics leading up to this."
How are you feeling, nervous, excited?
"A bit of both really. I’m excited it’s my first time and nervous because it’s my first time. Some really mixed feelings. It’s taken me eight years being a professional to start Flanders so yeah, I’m super happy to be here."
21km remaining from 267km
It's a clever move by van Baarle. He is back racing after fracturing his hand. He does not have the race speed in his legs but can ride steady in the attack.
He will be there if the strongest come across to him on the Oude Kwaremont that is coming up.
19km remaining from 267km
Riders and teams know that the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs will decide who goes on to fight for victory.
Of course it could always comeback together for a sprint on the final flat 13km to Oudenaarde.
19km remaining from 267km
Vanmarcke leads onto the Oude Kwaremont.
The cobbles bite and van Avermaet is leading the chase.
Jens Keukeleire is also working hard on the front for Benoot.
18km remaining from 267km
Bettiol attacks! He lines them out, Sagan is suffering.
Bettiol spins his legs and closes the gap on van Baarle.
It's gruppo compatto over the top of the Kwaremont. But agan and van der Poel and Valverde are at the back.
17km remaining from 267km
Bettiol leads alone by ten seconds.
Lampaert fights his way on to the tail of the group.
16km remaining from 267km
Bettiol commits on the fast main road. He has a 200m gap.
There are 15 or so riders behind him. But who will chase? Who has a teammate?
Van Avermaet leads the chase but Langeveld is there to block for EF.
15km remaining from 267km
Bettiol leads by 20 seconds as Stuyven tries to chase solo.
14km remaining from 267km
Here comes the Paterberg, the last cobbled climb before the 13km fast ride to the finish.
Bettiol is strong but so are the big-name chasers behind.
Van Averamet and Van Aert lead the chase.
Sagan is there but is suffering.
13km remaining from 267km
Jungels is slightly off the back of the chase group but Valverde is there.
Van der Poel is closed down by the other chasers.
Again, we ask, who will chase? All of them? Nobody? Or will it help Bettiol stay away?
12km remaining from 267km
Matthews chase back on. He's a fast threat for a sprint finish.
Asgreen tries to chase for Deceuninck. He has Lampaert and Jungels there. But neither are fast finishers.
11km remaining from 267km
Kristoff is also there. But Bettiol has 25 seconds!
10km remaining from 267km
Bettiol leads by 30 seconds as they play games behind.
Lampaert does a turn and moves off, Sagan does the same.
9km remaining from 267km
Bettiol is trying to time trial to the finish.
They're still racing each other behind or fighting for the podium places.
Benoot jumps away but Langeveld marks him for EF.
7km remaining from 267km
Bettiol leads by 25 seconds.
Never has a teammate behind been so vital for EF.
6km remaining from 267km
The chasers start to work together finally but it could be too late.
4km remaining from 267km
The chasers can see Bettiol but they can't close the gap. He leads by 20 seconds.
There's a slight head wind but that is also slowing the chasers.
Now Sagan tries to inspire the chase but it's not enough. Others won't come through.
3km remaining from 267km
Jungels goes on the front but he lacks speed. He's tired.
2km remaining from 267km
Valverde does a turn but he's tired too.
Bettiol leads by 20 seconds.
1km remaining from 267km
Final km! Bettiol is still clear!
Asgreen is solo chasing but he lacks the legs.
Bettiol was second in the final Tirreno-Adriatico TT, he know how to ride hard.
Bettiol can see the finishline!
He's going to win the Tour of Flanders!
Alberto Bettiol wins !!!
Asgreen takes second, with Kristoff winning the sprint for third.
"I still can't believe it," Bettiol says in Italian.
Incredibly it was Bettiol’s first professional victory.
"I still can't believe it," Bettiol said.
“I still don’t believe what I did. My first win.. I don’t believe it…"
It's a double victory for Italy at the Tour of Flanders after Marta Bastianelli won the women's race.
Bettiol savoured his win, touching his EF logo on his jersey and then pointing to his eyes, as if to say watch out for us.
Today the EF pink jerseys overshadowed even the blue of Deceuninck, the rainbow of Valverde and all the other colours.
This is the top ten of the 2019 Tour of Flanders.
1 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) EF Education First
2 Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
4 Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Corendon-Circus
5 Nils Politt (Ger) Katusha-Alpecin
6 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
7 Oliver Naesen (Bel) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) CCC Team
This is one of the first images of Bettiol winning the men's Tour of Flanders.
Now it's time for the podium ceremony of both the men and women's races.
It was Bettiol's first professional victory but we should remember how he finished third on the uphill finish at Tirreno-Adriatico, was second in the final TT and then attacked on the Poggio.
He was also fourth at the E3 BinckBank Classic after going in the decisive move.
Marta Bastianelli climbs on the top step of the women's podium after she beat Anniemiek van Vleuten and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
They celebrate with a selfie.
Now it's the men's turn. Kristoff, Asgreen take the lower steps before Bettiol climbs on the top step as the winner.
He lifts the winner's trophy and celebrates!
They open the champagne with Bettiol savouring his big win.
What a day for the young and talented Tuscan.
Now Bettiol and Bastianelli pose together on the podium.
It's a big day for Italian cycling after years of decline.
The local crowd sing out 'Bella Ciao' to the two Italians.
Here's a shot of Bettiol as he rode to victory.
Alberto Bettiol struggled to believe what he had done but wanted to celebrate with his EF Education First teammates.
“I don’t know how I did it. I felt really good on the Kwaremont and Andreas (Klier) from the car said: 'If you can, just go.' I closed my eyes and went."
"I looked down at the top and had a really good gap. They said 'keep pushing, keep pushing.'
"On the Paterberg I don’t think I lost a lot and then it was the longest 14km of my life."
"I knew Sebastian (Langeveld) was there protecting me. Seb (Vanmarcke) did an amazing job too; a champion like him worked for us all day.
"It was just crazy. All the guys, Matti (Breschel), Sacha (Modolo), Tom (Scully), Taylor (Phinney), everybody.
"I think EF was in the front all day. We showed we can win the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
"From now on you (people) should look out more for the pink in the front."
To read out full race report and see our massive photo gallery, click here.
Ten years after Alessandro Ballan's win, an Italian strikes at the Tour of Flanders.
After the finish, as Bettiol and EF celebrated, the other teams were left trying to understand how they missed out.
Kristoff landed another good result for UAE but Kasper Asgreen's second place will be of little consolation to Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Their big-name four team leader's all failed to make a major impact today.
According to excellent Twitter statistician @ammattipyöräily, Alberto Bettiol (25y 160d) is the youngest Ronde van Vlaanderen winner since Tom Boonen who was 24y 170d when he won in 2005.
What a day, what a race. With so many stories to tell. We will have them all on Cyclingnews in the next few hours and into next week from our team on the ground in Flanders.
The Belgians again missed at in the Ronde but praised Bettiol for his win.
Wout van Aert was one of the Belgians who was tipped to do well but in the end he failed to leave his mark on the race story.
"I had nothing left today," he was afterwards on Sporza TV.
"On the last passage on the Kwaremont I was at my limit. That was just when Bettiol left. I also struggled on the Paterberg.
"There was no organization among the pursuers. The strongest left at the right moment."
Oliver Naesen (AG2R) was the best Belgian in seventh place. Van Aert was 14th in the sprint for the podium spot, while Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team) was tenth.
Greg Van Avermaet saw another chance to win his favourite race go up in smoke. Nevertheless, he also admitted that he was beaten fair and square today.
"Bettiol went at the right moment. I then had to set my own pace. I certainly couldn't follow him," he admitted.
"I had hoped to be able to drive away with a small group on the Paterberg. We might have been able to get forward but with such a large group it was very difficult."
Van Avermaet was teammate of Bettiol last year at BMC but was not too impressed.
"I know him a bit. He was a great talent, but also a bit lazy. Last year he was too fat. Now he may have made that click and he will finally do everything for it," he told Sporza TV.
Here is Bettiol on the podium.
This shot shows Bettiol and Bastianelli celebrating a big day for Italy at the Tour of Flanders.
Peter Sagan was modest in defeat. He finished 11th in the sprint, 17 seconds behind Bettiol.
"It was a hard and exciting Tour of Flanders and it is always a pleasure racing here as the amazing crowds create an incredible atmosphere," he said via Bora-Hansgrohe.
"I was able to be in the front when it was needed in the final kilometres but I didn't have the legs to counter the attack of Bettiol and challenge in the reduced sprint."
Alexander Kristoff (UAE) was happy to add third place to his win at Gent-Wevelgem.
"I came to the foot of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg for the last time with very tired legs and I was a bit surprised to see that I was able to stay with the main group, there I realised that they were all very tired," he said.
"The situation worked better than I could have imagined and I tried to take advantage of it.
"The result makes me happy, I have a good shape, I have high morale after these races, I can count on a team that is racing well and I hope that these conditions will recur in a week in Paris-Roubaix."
We'll have lots of reaction, interviews and race analysis in the next few hours and days on Cyclingnews.
That was a superb day of racing, with men's and women's races
To see our growing photo gallery and full race report from the men's race, click here.
To read our full report and see the photo gallery of the women's race, click here.
We're going to sign off with this image of Bettiol and Bastianelli together on the podium.
See you during the week for live action from the Itzulia Basque Country WorldTour stage race and Wednesday's Scheldeprijs Classic.
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