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Tour of Flanders 2011

Tour of Flanders – Ronde van Vlaanderen -- Vlaanderens mooiste  -- whatever you want to call it, it is here.  256km, 18 hellingen und who knows how many cobblestones will face the field today.  And will the top favourite win, or will we have an upset?

 

Hello and welcome to the Tour of Flanders, one of the monuments of cycling.  Things are getting serious in the cycling season now, with this race.

We are up in the blimp today, looking down at the action. Cyclingnews' Dan Benson is on the ground, and tells us, "There's a little wind and it's overcast.  Could have some light rain in a bit."

The race has started!  Sort of.  Now the field will ride for 15 minutes until the official start.

Who is going to win today?  Or should we say, does anyone other than Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) really have a chance?  Talk about an overwhelming favourite!

Let's take a look at the podium for the last six years:

There was a rather large nature stop along the way, so some riders are still straggling along to the official start.  That means things will start a bit later.

And they're off!  A Skil-Shimano rider is the first to attack, right from the get-go.

Who can forget Cancellara's stunning win last season?  He simply pulled away on the Muur-Kapelmuur and kept on going and going and going, beating Tom Boonen by over a minute.   If you have forgotten what it was like, you can read more here.

It looks like everyone wants to be in the escape group of the day.  That means everyone is taking off and no one is really getting away.  It makes for a fast start, though.

Can Cancellara be beaten today?  Marc Sergeant (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin-Cervelo), Johan Muuseuw and Bernie Eisel (HTC-Highroad) talk about it here.
 

We have a group trying to form.  Koen Barbe, Steven Caethoven, Roger Kluge, Yaroslav Marycz and Jesus Herrada are trying their luck.  Give us a minute to track down their teams.....

And here they are with team names:   Koen Barbe (Landbouwkrediet), Steven Caethoven (Veranda's Willems), Roger Kluge (Skil-Shimano), Yaroslav Marycz (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Jesus Herrada (Movistar).

Why did we go to all that bother?  They are all back in the peloton again.

The pressure is on Cancellara today, but his narrow shoulders are more than capable of carrying the burden.  “To come here as strong as I’m feeling and to be defending champion and number one favourite has not always happened, but I’m ready for that. The world knows I’m strong and the world knows I’m ready, so why should I step back,” he said at the team press conference this week.

Four riders have won this race three times each:  : Fiorenzo Magni, Achiel Buysse, Eric Leman, and  Johan Museeuw.
 

We have our first abandon of the day:  Jens Keukeleire of Cofidis.  We don't know why the young sprinter decided to throw in the towel so early.

And now we are told that Keukeleire did not abandon.

Things really are speedy today.  They covered the first 25km at a pace of 50kmh.

Dominique Cornu tried to get away, but wasn't successful.

At the front, David Boucher is trying to get away. At the back, Bert De Backer punctured and is now trying to catch up with the field.

The group decided against Boucher, so everyone is all together again.

If Cancellara needs any help today, he need look no further than his Australian teammate Stuart O'Grady.  He has been the Italian's main lieutenant in recent weeks, and looks to bring the “Swiss machine” to the finish line again today. 

206km remaining from 256km

Four more riders, including Caethoven again, tried to get away.  No go.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) would like to win here. Or finish second. Or even third.  Hey, the guy is just out to have fun!

Five riders have gotten a 30 second lead now:  Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Stefan van Dijck, Mitchell Docker and Sébastien Turgot.

That would be:  Roger Hammond (Garmin Cervelo), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda's Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar)-

Tom Boonen (QuickStep) hopes it comes down to a two-man sprint today, Boonen vs. Cancellara – and the Belgian has no doubt about what the outcome would be.......
 

We have another report of an abandon:  Grega Bole of Lampre. The team started with only seven riders, so now they are down to six..

The field isn't giving this group an easy time.  Their lead is only 45 seconds.

Not surprisingly, Boonen has had rather a lot to say about today's race.   He said that not being the top favourite this year may make things more relaxed for him and take the pressure off of his team.

Apparently the peloton decided to let them go.  The field took a mass nature break (so to speak) and the five leaders now have a gap of 1:30.

The Italians got out on Friday and hit the road, deciding to try out the course rather than holding press conferences as so many other teams did.   You can take a peek at the action here. 

189km remaining from 256km

The leaders have now built their lead up by another minute.  The real fun and games are just about to start though, as they approach the first climb, the Tiegemberg.
 

Dan Benson is here to take you along through Flanders.  Time for me to strap on the parachute and turn the blimp controls over to him.

Thanks to Susan for getting us up and running with live coverage this morning. I'm back in the blimp after being at the start this morning.

189km remaining from 256km

On the road we have 189km left to race.

Back to the favourites and Gilbert, for a second, the Belgian is in good form but it's going to be a big ask if he's to improve on his third place from last year. He'll have to be aggressive but if it comes down to a small group at the end of 256km, then he'll be in with a very good chance of cleaning up in the sprint.

In Blythe - who'll look after him in the first 100km - Roetlandts, Boucher and Sieberg he's got the basis of a strong supporting cast.

Our leaders by the way are on the top of the Nokereberg, the second climb of the day and their lead is up to 6 minutes. Hunt and Hammond in the lead group. Interesting stuff.

Will Fotheringham has just Tweeted:  willfoth

Durand of course was the last French winner. Moncassin  - I think  - was the last Frenchman to make it onto the podium. That was in 1997.

And here are today's climbs. All 18 of them::

1 Tiegemberg 70 km

Talking of Durand, he's part of our feature on the most iconic images seen in Flanders. You can view the lovely gallery, right here.

You can tweet your thoughts on today's race to me at twitter.com/dnlbenson

I don't really know the form of a couple of the rider's in today's break but good on Skil and Willems getting men in the early move. A lot of teams, in fact pretty much all the teams would have wanted a man present up there. Sky and Garmin will enjoy the fact they dont have to chase either.

We spoke with Boasson Hagen at the start this morning. This is his first race since San Remo - he was out with an ankle injury - but he's up for today. I'm not sure if he'll have the form when the other big guns open up but he'll certainly be able to support Flecha for a good proportion of the race.

165km remaining from 256km

165km to go and the leaders have stretched their advantage to 6.15

Back in the press room we're hearing things aren't going too well. The home press aren't too impressed with the fact that there are no Belgians in the early break.

157km remaining from 256km

The lead keeps going up. It's nearly 8 minutes.

I've just been reminded that it's mother's day in the UK. Guys, make that call now and get it done before the race kicks into life. You don't want an angry mum calling you with 30km to go.

From our Australian editor who is staying up late to watch the race from Sydney. @janeaubrey

During the week we compiled a list of videos, interviewing the likes of Vaughters, Eisel, Museeuw and Sergeant on whether Cancellara was beatable. Here they are.

News from Spain just coming in.... Carlos Sastre is out of pais vasco with bronchitis

The lead is 8 minutes but back in the bunch there's a crash and Neirynck hits the deck.

The leaders, their advantage holding at 8 minutes have just gone through the village of Zwalm. They'll face two sections of cobbles before hitting the next climb. Positioning will be critical before they hit the stones. they're not the most difficult sections of the day but you really dont want to be caught out or involved in a crash. As Haussler said in his blog, today is total stress, and you can't let up for even a minute.
 

At the start this morning we caught up with Jim Ochowich. He's in the BMC car today, tweeting updates. But here's what he had to say at the start of the race. 

“We’re good but you never know until they start riding. They feel good, they’re healthy and in very good form from the last races they came off of, so they’re starting the day in good shape.”

“George and Ballan are spearheading the group. We’re looking to them for the final and the rest of the group will do what they need to do during the day to help them.”

On Cancellara:

“It’s never easy to be the favourite, and there’s no doubt that he is the favourite, but I think you have to counter that with some other opportunities during the day and put him on the defensive when he’s not expecting it, and then you could take advantage of that.”

On Cancellara’s Leopard Trek team:

“He doesn’t have the team he’d probably like to have here. That’s not discrediting anybody on his team, but they’re probably not as experienced as some other groups are.”

On the possibility of sending a BMC leader up the road early on:

“You’ve got to look for opportunities. You’ve got to put Cancellara on the defensive, because if you go when he goes, it’s awfully hard to stay there.”

That quote about Cancellara's team is very interesting. Cancellara is going to have to marshal his troops well today. It could be his weakness but not all the riders at Leopard will have ridden the roads here as many times as guys like Andreas Klier, or Knaven, who's in the team Sky car. Or someone like Hayman.

PiesG @dnlbenson Hammond Hunt and Docker is a strong group: Sky looking strong for today. My new bike light: http://flic.kr/p/9vq1Qt #flanders

The bunch are on  that stretch of cobbles now and they're already strung out, with riders in the gutter. Shack are on the front setting the pace. they must be confident that Rosseler can do something. The gap is 6.26

Garmin already near the front, in a little group, all  riding together. Similar to how they rode at Cervelo.

They'll be looking to keep Hushovd and Haussler out of trouble today.

Farrar of course too.

Fighting position here with riders looking for the best line to take. Oh dear, Euskatel dont like Belgium do they? A couple of their riders out the back already.

Klier on Eisel's wheel talks into his radio.

Sharp turn from that section of stones and the back of the bunch grinds to almost a complete stop. And we have an atttack from Rabobank

That's Maarten Tjallingii (Ned) who has gone off the front. Garmin trying to chase.

Haussler has chased, that's interesting, and a group of around 15 riders has gone off the front. They've only got a few meters.

We also spoke to Rolf Aldag at the start this morning.

On Matt Goss:

“Gossie was still suffering a little bit from illness, but he says he’s getting better and better and better, so let’s see what that means. It’s really hard. On the form from San Remo, I would definitely claim him as a main contender here, even if they wouldn’t bring him to the sprint but he’s struggling a bit, so we’ll have to see how that goes.”

On HTC-Highroad’s tactics:

“The ideal would be to get somebody in a good group before, and then they would be there to help each other, or if Cancellara comes from behind, at least we have a chance.”

On the team’s ambitions:

“Top 10 is always nice and is an amazing result in the Tour of Flanders, but the ambition should be to try and win it. If we waste energy in controlling the race and stuff like that, it will be difficult. So if we try to win it, we really have to play it the best way, act carefully and really save energy we have and then we might have a chance. It could be Gossie, it could be Bernie, depending on how the weather develops. If it stays dry it should be alright.”

On Mark Cavendish’s selection in the HTC-Highroad team for Flanders:

“It’s a little bit about experience, but he’s also really good at positioning, so if he stays with Bernie, he will bring him into the climbs and then see how far he gets, but I don’t really see a massive sprint with 80 guys.
If he’s still he’s in a good position, we still have the tactical possibility of not riding on the front and waiting for him, but I haven’t seen any Tour of Flanders with a massive sprint in the last 200 years!”

ChrisOHearn

Hagen and Eisel are also in this group. they've got around 150 meters. I cant see any Leopard riders though. This could be a dangerous move.

Haussler is driving along, Eisel too. They're going for it here. This could be very dangerous.

Back in the bunch and Jens Mouris (Ned) hits the deck. Looks like he'll be okay though.

Meanwhile, Hammond drives things along in the lead group as they're on the Rekelberg

Ballan off the back. Not sure what the problem was for him. I think it was a problem with his bike.

This big break might be too big if you know what i mean. There are a few too many passengers.

Actually the gap has gone up. It's maybe 10 seconds. Leopard leading the chase.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)

On his injury:

“Hopefully it’s good. I’ve been doing some good training now. I don’t feel it since Milan-San Remo. Hopefully it handles the cobblestones as well.”

On his form:

“I haven’t been racing since Milan-San Remo, so I have to see how the form is. Juan Antonio is strong, Matthew is strong, there are a lot of strong riders in the team.”

On riding Flanders to prepare for Paris-Roubaix:
“It’s a big race to do as preparation, I don’t know exactly how the form is. I think it’s good, hopefully I do as good a job as possible for the team and then I’ll see.”

Garmin at the front of the bunch. They're not chasing, just making sure they're all in good positions. The leaders have 4.47. The splinter group are at 4.18

Stuart O’Grady (Leopard Trek)

“We’ve got the odds-on favourite on the team, so my job becomes a little more complicated. Pretty much via the media we’ve got everything to lose but at the end of the day it’s a bike race and we’ve got to do everything we can, be at front, keep out of trouble and let the legs do the talking.

“We’ll see what happens out on the road. Anything can happen. We’ve prepared for everything, we’ve trained for everything, we’ve raced this before and been in this situation before, hopefully we can handle it again.

“There’s a lot of strong riders here today. Fabian’s definitely shown that he’s strong and he has the confidence, but it’s a bike race and anything can happen.”

Cavendish is also in the second group. So that's at least Haussler, Eisel, Hagen and Cav. Leopard are chasing.

Greipel is also there, a couple of Quick Stepers and Gusev. Group of about 20 including Gusev, Selvaggi, Steegmans, Kroon, Boasson Hagen and Tjallingii.

124km remaining from 256km

Leopard are having to do all the chasing here. And they're having to work from a long way out today. Katusha are helping though.

Daniel Lloyd (Garmin-Cervélo)

“I’m super nervous, which is normally a good sign. It’s a race I’ve been thinking about for a long time, hopefully it all goes to plan, but you can only plan so much.

“There are so many experienced riders on the team, so we have their collective knowledge and Peter’s as well. A lot of the things that you hear in the team meetings seem simple but a lot of the teams don’t know it, and that plays to your advantage.”

On Andreas Klier:

“They used to call him GPS, but it’s probably best not to call him that now that we’re Garmin.”

O'Grady is drilling it on the front but the gap to the Haussler group is 30 seconds.

SITUATION
Roger Hammond (Garmin Cervelo), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda's Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar)

Group of Cavendish, Eisel, Gusev, Haussler, Wilson, Boasson Hagen 3.27

Peloton at 4.00


 

Grivko attacks from the bunch on a long flat stretch of road with Leopard already chasing. Not sure what he's doing there.

121km remaining from 256km

SITUATION
Roger Hammond (Garmin Cervelo), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda's Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar)

Group of about 20 including Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil), Gert Steegmans (QuickStep), Kartsten Kroon (BMC), Andre Greipel (Oemga Pharma-Lotto), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Martijn Tjallingii (Rabobank)

Peloton at 4.00
 

Leopard win that battle and bring that very dangerous group back.  Greipel isnt giving up though and presses on with a couple of helpers.

Crash in the bunch a number of riders are caught up. Doesn't look like anything serious though.


SITUATION
Roger Hammond (Garmin Cervelo), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda's Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar)

Peloton at 3.00
 

That break and subsequent chase has halved the gap to the leading group in just a few kms.

the bunch are on the Kaperij now. No one taking control at the head of the bunch yet. Thomas is near the front though. Eating.

That big break showed a real measure of intent from the likes of Quick Step and Garmin. They're not going to wait for Cancellara to go on the attack.

The BMC team has one of the strongest line-ups for this Tour of Flanders. With Alessandro Ballan they have one of the three former winners at the start in Bruges in their ranks, and in Greg Van Avermaet, Karsten Kroon, Marcus Burghardt, George Hincapie and even Manuel Quinziato they have a lot of riders who can ride well in the finale today.

Kroon has finished twice in the top 10 and the Dutchman hoped to be up there once again this year. “I'm the only rider who rode the Volta a Catalunya in preparation of the Tour of Flanders. I don't mind, as for me it seems to be the perfect build-up. Afterwards I rested a lot and now I'm 100% ready for a good race,” Kroon told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé this morning.

His teammate Van Avermaet showed during Milan-San Remo that he can deal with the distance of a race like Flanders. “I'm a bit nervous. When riding to the podium the crowd was very enthusiastic. It's fun to receive appreciation for my performances,” Van Avermaet said.

Some riders at the start in Bruges were showing battle wounds from recent races, among them former ice hockey player Rob Goris (Veranda's Willems-Accent), who crashed in Gent-Wevelgem. He waved goodbye to ice hockey for races like today’s, and despite knowing that the cobbles wouldn't do his hand any good, he's starting the race. “The doctor put six screws in my hand instead of three. Right now I'm heading back to the team bus to sedate the hand,” Goris said.

Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) attacks. We'll be sure to mention that in our race report.

Puncture for Hushovd. Klier is with him. The Norwegian stops, takes off a layer of clothing and gets a new wheel. The bunch look like they've sat up and the lead holds at 3 minutes.

Last year's breakaway hero Steve Chainel (FDJ) wasn't planning to repeat those exploits this year. “It's too bad because my hand is in bad shape. It was already hurt and during the Three Days of De Panne I crashed on it once again. Today I'll be riding as a domestique for William Bonnet and Dominique Rollin, who are both in good shape,” Chainel told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé at the Bruges market square this morning.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) was his usual cool self this morning, and the former cyclo-cross world champion was not intimidated by top favourite Fabian Cancellara (Trek Leopard), even though he was unable to get back up the Swiss when he attacked on the Oude Kwaremont in the E3 Harelbeke.

“I think it's not all that special. Anyway, you've got to be in front all the time from the Kruisberg on. Every race I'm participating in I start to win and this race isn't different although I realize it will be very difficult,” Boom told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé.

The bunch go through the feed zone and the lead creeps up by a few seconds.

Matthew Hayman (Sky) is one of the riders with a free role in Flanders and the Australian who lives in Belgium was even named as an outsider for the win by a Belgian newspaper. “That's nice. I've done these races before and I know I can do well in them. The goal is to go out and take my chances,” Hayman said on the startline this morning.

It was actually surprising to see him at the start as his wife was supposed to give birth on Saturday. “There were no contractions yet so I told her I would go out and do a bike ride. I'm really in a good place right now. Life is good,” Hayman said. With a bit of luck the Australian might even bring along some flowers to the maternity ward.

110km remaining from 256km

110 km to go. The climbs are going to come thick and fast. here's a list of what's left.

 

5 Kruisberg 154 km
6 Knokteberg 164 km
7 Oude-Kwaremont 171 km
8 Paterberg 175 km
9 Koppenberg 181 km
10 Steenbeekdries 187 km
11 Taaienberg 190 km
12 Eikenberg 194 km
13 Molenberg 209 km
14 Leberg 216 km
15 Valkenberg 225 km
16 Tenbosse 232 km
17 Muur – Kapelmuur 242 km
18 Bosberg 246 km
 

Vaitkus (Ltu) has around 40 seconds on the bunch but is still 2 minutes down on the leaders.

Everyone is starting to fight for position now into the next climbs. Devolder, fresh from scoffing down his lunch, is in second wheel behind a teammate. Farrar close to the front.

Recent winner of the Three Days of De Panne Sébastien Rosseler (RadioShack) was busy receiving the compliments of his colleagues for his victory. After his victory the Belgian enjoyed a nice Ename beer while talking to the press, as he did after his win in the Brabantse Pijl last year.

“It's becoming a nice tradition. It's also a way to show that I'm not drinking often since I'm not racking up many wins in a season,” Rosseler told Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé while taking his position at the start line. “I think I recovered just in time from De Panne to do a good race today,” Rosseler added.

Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé talked with Serguei Ivanov (Katusha), who had high aspirations for this year's Tour of Flanders as he probably has more experience in this race than any other rider in the field.

“It's going to be very hard but I'll try to win. I hope to avoid mistakes and be there late in the race,” Ivanov said. When asked about top favourite Cancellara, the Russian had mixed feelings. “Normally he can't lose but to me, Cancellara has showed he's good too early and everybody else will be riding tactically against him,” Ivanov said.

Crash and Burghardt, is down. The former Gent Wevelgem winner is on his feet and chasing. I think he just clipped someone's wheel.

Griepel on the front, you have to admire the way he's riding for his team here.

Everyone is trying to move up now, riders not giving an inch. Hayman leading the field around long corner and there's another crash. This time a Quick Stepper goes down.

Malacarne. he's on his feet but he doesn't look great.

Malacarne hit the ground hard. Looked like he simply ran out of tarmac and went up over the curb.

The bunch hit the Kruisberg, the gap to the leaders is 2.15 as Posthuma hits the deck this time.

Quick Step set the pace on the climb.

Riders getting dropped already.

Over the top and no real damage done. The big climbs are still to come but that will have sapped energy from everyone in the bunch.

Skil and Vacan start to wind things up and the bunch splits slightly but then comes back together.

Hammond, meanwhile, leads the break, who have 1.45 on the bunch. Sieberg from Lotto attacks.

He's brought back without much trouble from the bunch.

96km remaining from 256km

Cav is there, at the back of the bunch, around 30-40 riders have been dropped already.

Riders at the back of the bunch are practically sprinting to keep contact. The pace has shot up, with Voeckler's team and Garmin on the front. The gap to the leaders is just 1.19

There's a slight headwind at the moment but a Skil rider has jumped off from the front of the bunch.

Hushovd near the front , Gilbert too, that's the first time we've seen him as Astana send a rider up the road.

Turgot leads the break up the next climb but the bunch aren't far behind now..

Five Garmin riders on one side of the road, led by Klier as behind more riders are shelled out the back.

Lloyd was leading the field there, took a corner too wide and hit the deck. Lucky he was going so fast and had a gap, otherwise he would have taken all the favourites down too. he's back up and with the bunch now.

over the top and Lotto have put the hammer down. Must be a pre-planned tactic and they've got the field all strung out.

On the radios Saxo Bank tell their riders to fight for their positions and that's just what they're doing. Theyll be looking to make sure Nuyens keeps near the front and out of trouble, in the hope he can do something later in the race.

keep your tweets coming in. What have you made of the race so far. http://twitter.com/dnlbenson

88km remaining from 256km

Devolder. He's trying to get back on . he must have been dropped earlier. As Kroon crashes. That didnt look good. He's holding his shoulder.

The leaders hit the Oude-Kwaremont 171 km and Turgot is doing all the work on the climbs. The gap to the bunch is 1.22

Looks like Hunt has popped as boom Chavanel and Boonen hit the climb all on the front.

Cooke is there. Sep from Garmin, BMC lead, Hayman close by.

86km remaining from 256km

At the back some riders are reduced to a crawl as Chavanel attacks! That's big move.

Kroon is out of the race.

PiesG

86km remaining from 256km

Sky move up. That's Hayman and Boonen is right on his wheel.

Cancellara is perhaps 15 riders back.

Flecha, Farrar, Boom all moved when Hayman set up a fast pace. No sign from the champion yet. Now Thomas hits the front.

Haussler too.

The main bunch is down to around 60 riders. We have three riders up front left.


SITUATION
Roger Hammond (Garmin Cervelo), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Turgot (Europcar)

Peloton at 57 seconds
 

Onto the Paterberg now.

It's short but has sections of 20%. Chavanel has been brought back and Gilbert and Boonen hit the front. Still nothing from Cancellara.

Gilbert, boonen then Thomas.

Cancellara is way back.

Hushovd too. they're playing a dangerous game here. Still a long way to go but.....

Nuyens, way back in the main field.

Goss is well back too.

Chavanel is still up the road. he's with Clarke from Astana. He's got around 15 seconds on the Rabo led bunch.

Thomas takes up the chase for Flecha as it looks like the Chavanel group will catch the three leaders soon. Things are building up nicely.

CadelOfficial

78km remaining from 256km

Attack from Saxo Bank, Sky and then Quick Step react and bring it back together. Chavanel and Clarke make contact with the three leaders

The Frenchman moves to the front straight away. He's got 12 seconds on the bunch. Now 10. He's too dangerous to get away and the riders behind are still fresh. This should help Boonen though.

Nuyens and Devolder are out the back and chasing the main field.

Chavanel isnt asking for any help. he's on the front, setting the pace. he finally asks for some help from Clarke but it doesn';t come and now they're on the Koppenberg

The Frenchman puts down the hammer and only clarke can stay with him. behind are the bunch and it looks like they're sprinting.

Saxo lead, Gilbert attacks.

boonen chasing, Cancellara around 6 back but moving up. No sign of pippo.

Flecha, Pippo coming back up Voeckler too.

Gilbert is ripping everyone's legs off but is it all too much too soon?

There are maybe a dozen riders in the Gilbert group. Cancellara, Boonen, Hushovd, Flecha all there.

Hammond has done a good job staying in there and leads the Gilbert group.

BMC have two riders in there. Garmin 3. Quick Step at least one.

Chavanel is sitting up, he'll wait for Boonen now, Clarke is forced to do the same. Still 71km of racing.

Boonen has Steegmans with him. Is Cancellara alone? Not any more as another group catch Gilbert and co.

Onto Steenbeekdries and Bak has a dig and gets a small gap.

SITUATION
Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep) and Simon Clarke (Astana)

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:20

Thomas leading the field again. he's having a good, good race for team sky.

Advantage Boonen , he doesnt have to do any work for the moment and has a very dangerous teammate up the road.

Despite Cancellara not being near the front yet he's done enough to stay with the leaders. He's either on a bad day of very confident he can close any gaps.

69km remaining from 256km

Dangerous group off the front now. Langervald, Flecha, Boonen and Van Avermaet.

Taaienberg now and Hushovd is leading the chase of the boone group. Flecha setting a fast pace though.

Hushovd doing all the work for Cancellara. Chavanel and Clarke press on but the Boonen group is caught.

Langeveld is stretching the peloton again, leading everyone on the downhill.

Great riding from the Dutchman who has the entire field struggling to keep up with him.

Chavanel and Clarke have 14 seconds.

66km remaining from 256km

66km to go and the race is delicately poised. Chavanel and Clarke have 14 seconds. Sky, BMC and AG2R on the front leading the chase. Leopard look like they've been blown away but Cancellara is still up there.

The bunch hit the Eikenberg. Rabo setting the pace.

the leaders have 30 seconds.

Flecha looks strong. he's near the front, and hes' been there all day.

Boom attacks.

Boonen lets him go.

Voeckler is leading the chase, Boonen on his wheel.

Boasson Hagen is in between the Chavanel Boom group.

Saxo are leading the chase.

This group is good. Chavanel, Boom, Hagen, and Clarke. Garmin have to react, Leopard too. And Lotto.

Cancellara sends a man to the front. he doesnt like that group ahead and he;ll need to chase them down. BMC look like they want to help chase too.

Farrar is still there. he's got Hushovd on his wheel.

The lone Leopard rider still on the front as Quick Step just sit in and keep Boonen near the front.

The leaders have just 16 seconds but they're doing a good job of softening up the riders behind.

It's mortensen on the front, burying himself for Cancellara but it's a tough job. he takes a corner so badly he leads half the field off the road.

That's just tiredness not bad bike skills.

Oh and Devolder is back with the leaders now.

We've not seen a thing from Liquigas today. Thought they'd be in the thick of the action.

guesdon attacks from the bunch. Lotto spring into life and put a man on the front.

Cancellara near the front now. He's not had to lift a finger yet today. he was quite far back on some of the early climbs but he's still looking strong.

Guesdon joined by three riders, BMC, Sky and Rabobank but the bunch aren't far behind.

Guesdon, Hayman and the two other riders are closing in on the Chavanel group. The gap 18 seconds.

SITUATION
Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep), Simon Clarke (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Lars Boom (Rabobank)

Van Avermaet (BMC), Mathew Hayman (Sky), Tom Leezer (Rabobank) and Frederic Guesdon (FDJ) at 0:20

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (QuickStep) Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:30

49km remaining from 256km

Guesdon driving the second group along but he's not getting much help from the men with him. Sky and Rabo already have a rider up the road.

They're sprinting into the foot of the Molenberg.

Lots of riders blocked including Devolder. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

Flecha leads, Hushovd, Cancellara and Boonen lead.

First time we've seen the champion in the front.

he's just following moves, showing that he's there.

Chavanel is on his own now. He dropped his breakaway companions.

47km remaining from 256km

Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)

Simon Clarke (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Lars Boom (Rabobank)

Van Avermaet (BMC), Mathew Hayman (Sky), Tom Leezer (Rabobank)

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (QuickStep) Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:33

Chavanel is riding a great race. He has 43 seconds on the bunch, is all alone and still looks strong. Still a long way to go, 46 km in fact.

Cooke and Leukemans have attacked together and are also clear of the bunch. Thomas is trying to go too.

Gilbert has to stop. Not sure if it's a crash or a problem with his bike.

44km remaining from 256km

That's not the time to have a problem in Flanders. Chavanel, meanwhile, extends his lead to 55 seconds.

SITUATION
Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)

Simon Clarke (Astana), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Lars Boom (Rabobank)

Van Avermaet (BMC), Mathew Hayman (Sky), Tom Leezer (Rabobank)

Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Cooke

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (QuickStep) Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:54

Gilbert is back with the bunch at the back though, as they reach the next section of cobbles. Chavanel's lead is now 1 minute.

Hushovd, the world champ, on the front.

42km remaining from 256km

Boonen attacks!

Cancellara and pippo go with him

Gilbert had no chance but this trio have a gap already.

They're caught but Cancellara goes again. Boonen trying to chase. And gets there. Just

40km remaining from 256km

Cancellara catches boom and hagen, goes around but boonen cant and he's caught behind.

Cancellara is on his own. 40km to go and just Chavanel ahead. Can Boonen come back. Cancellara is just 28 seconds behind the Frenchman.

SITUATION
Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek)

Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Lars Boom (Rabobank)

Van Avermaet (BMC), Mathew Hayman (Sky), Tom Leezer (Rabobank), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-SunGard), and Filipo Pozzato (Katusha)

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:57

 Boom, Hagen, Boonen, Leukemans, van Avermaet, and Pippo, can they bring back Cancellara?

Cancellara already has 20 seconds on Boonen's group.

Chavanel knows what's coming. How long can he stop the inevitable?

Cancellara is 20 seconds behind the lone leader. The chasers are still working but it's not having any effect. The champion continues to stretch his lead.

SITUATION
Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) at 0:26

Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Lars Boom (Rabobank),Van Avermaet (BMC), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Filipo Pozzato (Katusha) at 0:45

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at ??

Chavanel is giving it everything while behind, Boonen is urging the other riders to chase Cancellara. The leopard rider has 25 seconds on those behind him.

Cancellara is closing in on Chavanel. the gap is 8 seconds.

the Frenchman turns, sees Cancellara and eases up.

32km remaining from 256km

Cancellara doesn't even pay him any attention, and the Frenchman sits in.

Gilbert is back with the Boonen group. There are many 15-20 riders together. Can they change the outcome of the race?

SITUATION
Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)


Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Lars Boom (Rabobank),Van Avermaet (BMC), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) and Filipo Pozzato (Katusha) at 0:38

Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at ??

Cancellara and Chavanel have 35 seconds on the chasers.

So to summarize, 31km to go and it's Cancellara, along with a very tired Chavanel vs the entire peloton.

flecha attacks from the bunch voeckler goes with him. and the gap is now 45 seconds.

Cancellara as you would expect doing all the work on the front. The gap going out to 50 seconds. 29 km remaining.

Geraint Thomas, a young rider who has had a great race, sits on the front but he's powerless to stop Cancellara. The gap is now one minute.

All of BMC . The entire BMC team minus Kroon are on the front and work. That's 7 men. The gap holds at a minute.

We're on the Tenbose. Cancellara sets the pace, still. Chavanel hanging in there.

A slight gap but Chavanel manges to close it. Over the top and the gap is down to 56 seconds. BMC hit the climb now and set the pace. They're not racing for third, they're trying to close this gap.

Garmin effectively say they're riding for third. Vaughters on the radio telling his riders not to work and to wait for the sprint.

Devolder attacks! Oh he's caught.

peters tells the Leopard car that Cancellara is 'too strong'.

The Muur and the Bosberg still to come. How long can Chavanel hang on?

Chavanel is doing all he needs: sitting in and letting Cancellara do all the work. He's under no obligation to work. Not sure he'd be able to either to be honest. The gap still 57 seconds.

Coming to the Muur now. I dont have to tell you who is leading. the gap has come down though. it's 47 seconds.

big moment now. Can Chavanel hang on. Can Cancellara drop him? 37 sec gap.

He's still there the gap is 24 seconds!

Langeveld doing all the work for the bunch.

12 seconds!

they're coming back.

Gilbert now leading.

Cancellara is getting caught. Boonen up there. Ballan too.

Cancellara not giving up and digs in. he still has a gap.

15km remaining from 256km

SITUATION
Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Sylvain Chavanel ( QuickStep)

Peloton including Tom Boonen (QuickStep), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Lars Boom (Rabobank),Van Avermaet (BMC), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil), Filipo Pozzato (Katusha),
Chase group including Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) , Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) at 0:15
[14:45:04] Susan Westemeyer: SITUATION
Peloton together

Caught. Ballan, Leukmans, Chavanel, Cancellara, Gilbert in the lead.

Boonen is leading the chase with Flecha, they should come back.

Boonen and co are losing group. These five look  set. They're working well.

SITUATION

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil)

Field at ??

Thomas is bringing Flecha and Boonen back in

Gilbert attacks on the bosberg.

ballan chasing.

Cancellara is dropped!

Chavanel goes passed him.

Gilbert has a gap. He's got a gap!

Gilbert has a gap. Maybe 100 meters and he's got 11km to go.

Can he do what Cancellara couldn't and finish this race off?

Ballan chasing, leukemans and Chavanel behind him.

SITUATION

Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), Alessandro Ballan (BMC), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil) at ??

Field at ??

And over to susan for the finale!

10km remaining from 256km

Susan jumping back in for the last 10 km.

This has turned into a race!  It looked as if Cancellara would just ride off with the whole thing, but then things changed!

Gilbert is hanging on to a narrow 5 second lead.

9km remaining from 256km

Cancellara leads the group up to Gilbert, and now a large group is coming up from behind to join them as well.

We have 12 riders in the lead group now, including George Hincapie (BMC).

5km remaining from 256km

Nuyens takes over the lead work now.  Cancellara and Boonen are practically joined at the hip.

A Sky rider at the head, now a Leopard, now  QuickStep....

4km remaining from 256km

Langeveld attacks!

Cancellara goes for it again, followed by Chavanel and Nuyens.

They have a lead but not a definite one.  Gilbert chases.

AGain, Chavanel is letting Cancellara do all the lead work.  But now he jumps up front.

2km remaining from 256km

Will this trio hang on to its tiny lead?

1km remaining from 256km

The last km!

The last cruve, and the three might make it.

Cancellara opened the sprint and looked like he had good chances, but Nuyens was able to pass him and take it!

Boonen launched a last-minute attack and came close, but it was too last minute.

Cancellara hangs his head over his bike.  He probably can't believe that he didn't win.

But we have an overjoyed winner in Nuyens!

Our podium today is Nuyens, Chavanel and Cancellara.  Congratulations to all!

Well, this race didn't turn out as expected but if anything, it was even more exciting!

Thanks for joining us and reading along.

RESULTS

1 Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank Sungard)
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep Cycling Team)
3 Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek)
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team
5 Sebastian Langeveld (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 George Hincapie (USA) BMC Racing Team
7 Björn Leukemans (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8 Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Veranda's Willems - Accent
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Procycling

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