02/04/17 - 10:45 AM
Road race - Men
Ronde van Vlaanderen • Stage2

Road race - Men

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Thanks for following the race with us today... here's a final picture of the podium celebrations. See you at Roubaix!


Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) wins the sprint for prestige at the front of the chasing pack, 54 seconds down.


Greg van Avermaet (BMC) wins the sprint for second place ahead of Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors), 28 seconds in arrears. Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac) missed out on the podium with fourth.


Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) has time to salute the crowd and milk the applause as he freewheels on the home straight, dismounts, raises his bike over his head and walks over the line.


Under the flamme rouge for Philippe Gilbert, who knows now that he has won this race...


The gap is still 30 seconds for Gilbert who looks all but certain of taking the first Tour of Flanders victory of his illustrious career. This, the 70th win of his career, could well be his biggest yet.


Gilbert made his move on the Oude-Kwaremont with 55km remaining. He now has 4km to ride and 35 seconds to play with. What a ride - but it's not quite in the pocket yet.


The gap is down to 40 seconds for Gilbert over the three chasers, with the second chasing pack is a further 25 seconds back.


Massive respect to Van Avermaet. He went down heavily in the crash and has a cut hip and elbow. But he's back leading the chase and could still win this if Gilbert has a mechanical.


So, back to the race and Gilbert has 50 seconds over Van Baarle, GVA and Terpstra. It seems unlikely that they will crash him, but anything can happen in this cycling. One puncture and the dream could be over for our lone leader...


Sagan is over the Paterberg but he's soft-pedalling now. He knows that he cannot win this race. Here's another angle of that crash...


Here's that earlier crash for you...


Van Baarle leads the chase, with Van Avermaet hot in pursuit with two Quick-Step Floors riders on his back wheel. Drama: it emerges that the gap is actually down to 45 seconds for Gilbert...


Meanwhile, Philippe Gilbert is onto the final climb of the Paterberg. His lead is now 1:15 and so only a mechanical or a crash will stop him now.


And you know what, that's such a shame for Gilbert because should he win - and he should do so now - then it will take a lot of the gloss of a masterful ride.


Sagan's bike was smashed in two! So while GVA could remount and continue, and Naesen too, albeit a bit later on, Sagan had to wait an eternity for a new bike, and that's his race over.


CRASH! Sagan, Van Avermaet and Naesen all go down! The world champion clipped the barriers and took GVA down with him, meanwhile Naesen gets tangled up in a flag or coat and hits the deck.


"It's a monstrous ride by Philippe Gilbert. I think it will go down as one of the most historic rides in the Tour of Flanders. I cannot remember a ride like this in all my year of commentating." That's some praise by Sean Kelly, who never managed to win this race.


Gilbert takes solace in a rain gutter for 10m. Every little helps. His lead is up to 57 seconds now and looks like this will be his win - unless he has a mechanical or something dramatic happens from behind.


Gilbert approaching the Oude-Kwaremont for the third time - it's the penultimate climb of this race: 2.2km at 4% with a maximum of 11.6%. It's showtime, and the local fans are loving it.


Still 52 seconds for the lone leader, the Belgian national champion Philippe Gilbert.


If Gilbert gets over these climbs in pole position he'll have to contend with a cross headwind on the ride back to Oudenaarde... he won't like that too much.


Numerous riders are trying to bridge over from the second chasing group, including Pozzato, Lutsenko and Greipel. Gilbert, meanwhile, looks to be tiring. His lead is down to 50 seconds over the Sagan group.


Wise words from a man who's done it all before... three times.


There's another 10km before the final Kwaremont-Paterberg climb double-header. It's going to be crucial for that man Gilbert, who is receiving fresh bottles and gels from his team car. He has 1:01 over the chasers and another 30 seconds over a second group on the road.


The first half of this climb is cobbled before a wide smooth section on the road. Van Avermaet and Sagan lead the chase as the fans step back to allow them through. Sagan reaches for a gel - they're all doing it in fact. He'll be weighing up his options now as we approach the business end of the race.


If Philippe Gilbert wins today this will be one of the greatest Flanders win in history. It's a big ask, however. He still has 55 seconds to play with, but he's all on his own and cannot rely on the support of other chasing riders - like those behind him can. We're approaching the Kruisberg, which is 2.5km at 5%.


Boonen is now in a chasing group 2:40 down on Gilbert and almost two minutes behind the Sagan group. Heartbreak on his final Flanders, which was going so well until, ironically, the Taaienberg, the site of so many decisive Boonen attack of yesteryear.


The Sagan-GVA chasing group have caught up with Van Baarle and Felline. They trail lone leader Gilbert by one minute. No sight of Greipel - he must have popped on that last climb.


Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) have joined Sagan, GVA and Naesen after the Taaienberg. This could well have been the decisive move of the race.


Meanwhile, Peter Sagan has attacked on the Taaienberg and has taken Oliver Naesen (Ag2R-La Mondiale) with him, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) too.


Nightmare for Boonen who has a mechanical on his favourite climb. He needs a bike change. And then another one when it's not right. Echoes of Paris-Roubaix in 2011 there as Boonen is left stranded on the cobbles, stewing in anger...


Onto the Taaienberg goes Gilbert. This is his teammate Tom Boonen's favourite climb. His lead over the pack is extending. What a ride this is for the Belgian national champion - although you fear that both Sagan and Van Avermaet have a lot more left in the tank for the finale.


Greipel is still riding solo in pursuit of Felline and van Baarle. Daniel Oss leads the chase for BMC with three Quick-Step Floors riders sandbagging his wheel. They have Gilbert up ahead, after all.


Gilbert's on to the 14th climb, the Steenbeekdries (700m at 5.3%). He has 1:10 over the pack of favourites and 50 seconds over the two pursuers, Felline and van Baarle.


Andre Greipel has put in an attack from the chasing pack, which trails Gilbert by one minute now. The big German will look to join forces with Felline and Van Baarle.


Here's a GIF of that crash that took down Vanmarcke and Rowe...


Degenkolb and Pozzato are there with Sagan and GVA. It's shaping up nicely. Gilbert has 40 seconds over the chasing duo and 55 seconds over the main pack.


Felline drops Van Baarle on the climb. Gilbert gets over the steep bit and nears the summit. Andre Greipel is in this chasing group, impressively. Sagan rides in the wheel of van Avermaet: the two big favourites sticking together like glue.


Lone leader Philippe Gilbert swings onto the Koppenberg (600m at 11.6% and a maximum of 22%). He has 44 seconds to play with over Felline and Dylan van Baarle of Cannondale and another 10 seconds over the others.


Almost Koppenberg time now...


Peter Sagan had dragged the main pack back into contention. They have caught the remnants of that break and trail Gilbert by about 35 seconds. I say main pack, it's actually a group of around 30 now. Fabio Felline is chasing Gilbert with another rider in between.


Sep Vanmarcke, his jersey and bibs torn to pieces, has a new bike and is on his way, but it will be a surprise if he finishes this race. No news about Rowe, who also went down in that crash after the Belgian inexplicably fell in the middle of the road.


The break has been whittled down to nine riders in pursuit of Gilbert after all that drama. They are: Boonen, Trentin, Coquard, Chavanel, Moscon, Demare, Stuyven, Modolo and Kristoff. So it wasn't Coquard who dropped back for Direct Energie, but Chavanel earlier.


We're onto the Paterberg now and Gilbert has 28 seconds to play with. The pack are closing in with Jesper Stuyven being caught by Fabio Felline, his Trek teammate, over the top. Sagan is right there... this could still be his race.


CRASH: Sep Vanmarcke goes down inexplicably and takes Luke Rowe with him. Bodnar is driven off the road into a ditch - and he's the best off, getting back on his bike and on his way quickly. Rowe doesn't mess around too much, but Vanmarck went down the hardest and has been forced off the road as the pack zips through at speed. That could be the end of his race.


Gilbert has 23 seconds over the break and 55 seconds over the main pack. Some of the escapees have been caught...


Vanmarcke leads the chase with the two other Quick-Steppers sandbagging his wheel. Luke Rowe is there for Sky too. The big questions is whether or not Gilbert has gone too early. This is a Boonen-esque move from his Roubaix heyday - but Flanders is a very different kind of race.


Wow, Gilbert has gone. He's opened up a big gap on the front on the Kwaremont and he really means business. What a race this is proving to be - and Quick-Step Floors still have other options, remember.


Riders from the initial break - and Bryan Coquard - are being shelled out the back. It's Gilbert leading the race with Trentin and Vanmarcke behind.


Boonen leads the break onto the Oude-Kwaremont for the second time. It's a 2.2km climb at 4% with a maximum gradient of 11.6% and this is the first of two occasions it will be used in tandem with the Paterberg. The gap is 37 seconds.


When Trentin and Boonen come to the front and open a little gap it's Kristoff who reacts the quickest and latches on. Interesting stuff from Quick-Step Floors. Gilbert is further back hitching a lift.


BMC and Orica-Scott are leading the chase, with a spattering of Bora riders and a regulatory presence of Cannondale and Astana. The gap is down to 35 seconds so it looks like this one will come back together - unless the leaders use the forthcoming Kwaremont-Paterberg double as skome kind of springboard. Kristoff, it's worth adding, is doing no work in the break, sitting on the back and in the wheel of Vanmarcke.


The connection has been made by the chasers and leaders. They have 45 seconds over the main pack. Of course, the upshot of this scenario is that all the big guns in this break suffer in the finale and the two favourites - Sagan and Van Avermaet - are rewarded for their patience. We will see.


There's a 14km flat run until the next climb, the second passage of the Oude-Kwaremont. It will be crucial for the chasing pack, which trails the leaders by 22 seconds but leads the main pack by 50. This is where the race could be lost...


Looij is the first of the initial escapees to be caught by the chasing group, which is being led by Matteo Trentin.


Back with the main back and Eisel is there with Boasson Hagen for Dimension Data, while Tony Martin has come to the front for Katusha.


The leaders, who will be caught soon by the chasing pack, are onto the Kanarieberg. There are some tired legs and Andre Looij appears to have been dropped.


Another crash in the peloton as numerous riders hit the deck, including Marco Haller of Kausha and some Sunweb riders. It's the feed zone as well so many teams are refueling.


We're onto the Pottelberg now, one of the non-cobbled climbs. It's 1.3km at 6.5%. Gilbert is setting the tempo while his former BMC teammates lead the chase back in the pack. The eight-man leading group have 1:02 over the chasing 14-man group with the pack a further 1:10 back.


Confirmation that Taylor Phinney withdrew from the race following that earlier crash, which occurred just as he was being caught by the pack after an attack.


The big losers are BMC who missed that move completely. But it's early days and Greg van Avermaet won't be too concerned just now - especially seeing that Peter Sagan didn't make the split either, even though Bora do have one man ahead in Bodnar. Interestingly, Sky have two cards to play while Quick-Step Floors have three of their big riders out ahead in Boonen, Gilbert and Trentin.


This chasing group in full: Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Sylvain Chavanel, Bryan Coquard (both Direct Energie), Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Matteo Trentin (all Quick-Step Floors), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe), Luke Rowe, Gianni Moscon (both Team Sky), Sacha Modolo (Bahrain Merida) and Pieter Vanspreybrouck (Wanty-Groupe Goubert). They now have 1:05 over the main pack and trail the leaders by 2:00. Nail-biting stuff.


The gap has opened up a bit for the Boonen-Gilbert group. This is very exciting. The 14-man group trails the eight leaders by 3:15 and now has 20 seconds over a splintered peloton. Sep Vanmarcke (Cannondale-Drapac), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step), Gianni Moscon (Sky) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) are in this group alongside Gilbert, Boonen, Kristoff and Rowe. Interestingly, both the race favourites Sagan and Van Avermaet have missed the split and so will need their Bora and BMC teams to lead the chase.


NEWSFLASH: Coryn Rivera of Team Sunweb has won the women's Ronde van Vlaanderen. The pint-sized American won an exciting bunch sprint in a photo finish.


The gap is very small but this is quite interesting. Luke Rowe of Sky is there, as is Kristoff, the 2015 champion. Coquard has Direct Energie teammate Sylvain Chavanel with him. But the chasing pack - which includes favourites Sagan and van Avermaet - are closing the gap fast.


It's all single file over the top and there's a group of about 15 riders out ahead of the pack - including Gilbert, Boonen and, er, Bryan Coquard.


Sky and Quick-Step have three riders on the front and it's Tom Boonen who comes to the front with Alexander Kristoff on hiw back wheel... Sagan and Vanmarcke are quite far back and there are splits in the pack.


Yet another crash from a Bahrain Merida rider - not sure who it is, but he's gone down hard on the kerb. It's Borut Bozic, the veteran from Russia. His bike appears to be broken in two. The pack is really strung-out on this climb. Bernie Eisel of Dimension Data has been held up by a mechanical as well.


The eight leaders hold a gap of 5:50 as they start the Muur van Geraardsbergen - aka the Muur Kapelmuur or simply just the Muur. It's back in the race after a six-year absence. It's 1.1km long with a maximum gradient of 19.8km and an average of 9.2km. It's where Fabian Cancellara once famously dropped Tom Boonen just ahead of the chapel which crowns its summit. It used to be one of the final climbs in this race, but it now features at a less-than-decisive spot very far from the finish. Still, it will be interesting to see if anyone launches an attack here from distance.


Attack by Nils Politt of Katusha. Meanwhile, the break are approaching the Muur van Geraardsbergen. And CRASH! Niccola Bonifazio has come down hard in the break for Bahrain-Merida.


Tony Martin drops back to the Katusha team car to pick up something. The German is riding his second Tour of Flanders after making his debut last year. Meanwhile, Ligthart has been caught as Team Sky come to the front to control the tempo. They're there with Trek-Segafredo and FDJ. Philippe Gilbert, in his Belgian national champion's jersey, is right on the front as well.


Pim Ligthart (Rompoot) has broken clear of the pack. He has a teammate in the break, which rolls along 5:50 further up the road.


The leaders have passed over the seventh climb of the day, the Tenbosse (450m at 6.9%).


Edward Theuns of Trek Segafredo darts ahead on the front of the pack and that sparks a response by numerous other riders and teams. Theuns could be a good foil for Stuyven and Degenkolb later on.


Yet another puncture for Yves Lampaert of Quick-Step Floors. He'll have another chase back on. Meanwhile the peloton is onto the Berendries climb - and once again there's a standstill at the back of the peloton because of the inevitable bottleneck. The gap is down to 6:35 for the leaders.


The pack, however, is still on the Leberg and Arnaud Demare has taken up the pace for FDJ on the front. De Backer and Docker have finally been caught over the top, while BMC's Silvan Dillier has had a mechanical.


In all the rush we've had both the Wolvenberg (645m at 7.9%) and Leberg (950m at 4.2km) and the leaders are now onto the Berendries (940m at 7%).


Mechanical for Tiesj Benoot of Lotto Soudal, who is drafting his team car to get back on. The Belgian came 5th in his Flanders debut two years ago but crashed out last year.


Docker and De Backer are about to be caught by the peloton. All the big teams have come to the front now. The eight leaders have 7:15.


Haller and Phinney have joined forces with an Ag2R-La Mondiale rider - but they've been swept up by the pack now. It's really strung out now. It's getting pretty feisty... and CRASH! Phinney goes down after touching wheels with Haller just as Philippe Gilbert came to the front of the pack with a Quick-Step teammate. That's a nasty one because it came from nowhere and he had no time to prepare himself for shouldering the concrete.


And another attack from Cannondale-Drapac who this time send the American Taylor Phinney up the road over the top of the Eikenberg. The eight leaders still have eight minutes to play with.


Loads of mechanical issues going on: Marco Marcato swaps bikes with a UAE Team Emirates teammate while Marcus Burghardt has a punture and will need to wait for his Bora-Hansgrohe car. That's a setback for one of Peter Sagan's main lieutenants.


Another crash in the pack, and once again it's the Taipei rider Chun Kai Feng, who doesn't realise the peloton has bottled up and ploughs into the back of one of his teammates. The Bahrain Merida rider was one of those who went down moments earlier, so he's experiencing a bit of a shocker in his Flanders debut.


A few riders go down on the Eikenberg, but none of the favourites. These little incidents happen regularly near the back with tired legs producing erratic riding and frequent touches of wheels. Meanwhile, Marco Haller (Katusha-Alpecin) has launched an attack in pursuit of those two riders out ahead of the pack, De Backer and Docker.


The Sunweb rider who attacked was Bert de Backer and he's been joined by Docker ahead of the pack. They have about 25 seconds to play with. They're on a wide double laned road ahead of the next climb.


Meanwhile, the leaders are onto the third climb, the Eikenberg (1.2km at 5.3% with a maximum of 10%). The gap is down to 8:10.


Attack from Mitch Docker of Orica-Scott on the Kortekeer climb. Lampaert has fought back but he's right on the back of the pack and will be held up once the road snakes around and ramps up to 17%.


Wheel change for Yves Lampaert of Quick-Step Floors. That's not a good time to have a mechanical. Meanwhile, a Team Sunweb rider breaks clear after echanging a few words with two Trek-Segafredo riders on the front.


Tom van Asbroeck, the Cannondale-Drapac rider who broke clear on the Kwaremont, has been reeled in. Bora-Hansgrohe, FDJ, BMC, Quick-Step and Trek have all come to the front. It's a real fight now that the climbs are coming thick and fast.


Rear puncture for Edvald Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian national champion from Dimension Data. He'll need to chase back on now.


Despite the increased animation in the main pack, the gap for the eight leaders remains 9:30 so they're rolling along very well. But the 17 climbs left on the menu will take their toll, for sure. They're on one of them now - it's not cobbled, but the gradient does pitch up to a maximum of 17%. It's the Kortekeer, a short and sharp 1km climb.


ATTACK: A Cannondale-Drapac rider zips off the front on the Kwaremont - it's Belgian Tom van Asbroeck. Further back, there's another bottleneck and standstill in the peloton as Kristoff is caught out once again.


There's a real bottleneck as the peloton turns sharply ahead of the Oude-Kwaremont and some riders have been caught out, including Alexander Kristoff of Katusha-Alpecin. The 2015 champion has to unclip and stop, and now needs to chase back on as Team Sky and Cannondale-Drapac set the tempo on the front.


Over the top they go with a lead of 9:45 over the pack. It's a sunny day in the Flemish Ardennes despite the odd patch of mud from the previous days' rainfall.


And here's the break on the Oude-Kwaremont for the first of 18 climbs. It's a 2.2km climb with a maximum gradient of 11.5% and an average of 4%.


A reminder of the eight leaders as they approach the first cobbled climb of the day. They are: Mark McNally (Wanty-Gobert), Oliviero Troia (UAE Emirates), Julien Duval (AG2R-La Mondiale), Stef Van Zummeren and Michael Goolaerts (both Veranda's Willems Crelan), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and André Looij (Roompot). The first six went inside the opening kilometre, to be joined by the other two half an hour later once they'd bridged across. The gap is under nine minutes now, having hit 12 minutes at its maximum.


Right, put the kettle on and get ready: the riders are approaching the finish town of Oudenaarde which they will pass through ahead of the first of 18 hellingen, or climbs. The first of three ascents of the Oude-Kwaremont is coming up in about 15km. The gap for the eight leaders, who have been out pretty much since kilometre zero, is a shade under 10 minutes. Buckle up and prepare for the mayhem.


Sticking with Sagan, this illustration is a classic... can Belgian duo Greg van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert upset the defending champion?


Early contender for picture of the day...


Here's a run through of today's 18 hellingen, or climbs.


It's worth noting that Gent-Wevelgem runner-up Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) did not take to the start today because of a minor illness. The Belgian is resting up ahead of next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. That means Orica will put all their eggs in the basket marked Luke Durbridge, the Australian powerhouse who showed good form in last week's Three Days of De Panne.


Two hours in and the average speed is 40.85kmph. The eight-man break has passed through those two early sections of cobbles and retain their 10+ minute gap on the pack.


Here's another triple Ronde winner, Johan Museeum, sharing his thoughts on today's race from atop the Paterberg climb.


Back to the race after our Facebook Live interlude, and the eight leaders have seen their gap brought down to 10:40. We're getting nearer to the first cobbled section, the Lippenhovestraat, which is swiftly followed by the Paddestraat. These aren't climbs, mind. The first of the hellingen comes with 145km remaining and it's the first of three passages of the Oude-Kwaremont.


A reminder of how much the fans love Flanders... this image from our TV reporter Laura Meseguer at the start in Antwerp.


Look who it is! Three-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner Fabian Cancellara is shooting the breeze on Belgian TV.


With regards to the route, the famous Muur van Geraardsbergen (Kapelmuur) returns to the race for the first time since 2011 - albeit some 95km from the finish so at a point where it won't prove very decisive, certainly not in the same way as when Cancellara rode clear of Boonen back in 2010...


We're about to go live on Facebook with a chat about today's 101th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Tune in to discuss the course and the favourites and much, much more.


Not surprise to see the BMC and Bora-Hansgrohe teams of Van Avermaet and Sagan with men on the front of the pack, regulating the tempo. The gap is 11:15 for those eight leaders, who are: Mark McNally (Wanty-Gobert), Oliviero Troia (UAE Emirates), Julien Duval (AG2R-La Mondiale), Stef Van Zummeren and Michael Goolaerts (both Veranda's Willems Crelan), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and André Looij (Roompot).


Crowds are out in their thousands for race favourite Greg van Avermaet as he passes through his home town of Hamme-Zogge.


Lots of the cold weather gear is coming off - knee warmers, arm warmers, gilets, all that jazz. Peter Sagan is currently de-robing off the back of the pack as the gap extends to 10:50 for the eight leaders.


The gap is up to nine minutes now! Remember, the first of those 18 climbs does not come until the 115km mark - so that's with 145km remaining.


Mechanical for Stefan Kung of BMC. He needs a rear wheel change. He'll be one of Greg van Avermaet's big lieutenants today. Remember, GVA has never won a monument and this is his 36th... could be finally break his duck?


Trek-Segafredo rider Jasper Stuyven produced this little video from the sign-in at sunny Antwerp this morning.


The two chasers have finally caught up with the leaders so we now have eight riders out ahead with a large gap of seven minutes.


A look at some of the favourites today... can't argue with those top two, Sagan and GVA.


The gap is six minutes now for the six leaders as they pass through the town of Sint-Niklaas, which has fans out in their droves - many of which waving the yellow and black Lion of Flanders flag.


There was a rousing reception this morning for home favourite Tom Boonen, the triple Ronde winner. He's one of four previous winners lining up today. The others? Norway's Alexander Kristoff, Belgian veteran Stijn Devolder and that man Sagan.


There's an extremely convivial atmosphere in the pack now as riders chat among themselves and catch up with old buddies. The joint race favourites Sagan and Greg van Avermaet are chewing the fat while Gilbert has dropped for a third time, on this occasion to check his rear brakes. The gap is up to four minutes now, with the two chasers a minute further back.


And if you have to see one picture from the start today, this is it... Peter Sagan, the defending champion and man in the rainbow stripes, pulling a wheelie on the start ramp. Pure class from the man who recently claimed that "living your life is more important than racing".


Some scenes from the start at Antwerp this morning, courtesy of Velon.


Numerous riders - including the Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert - taking the opportunity to answer a call of nature. This happens frequently in big races after riders nervously over-hydrate themselves in the start pen. Once the break goes there's always a chance for a pee during the ensuing lull. The gap grows to two minutes.


It was British youngster McNally who made the first move inside the opening few hundred metres today. He rides for the Wanty-Gobert team whose rider Antoine Demoitie was killed during last year's Gent-Wevelgem. The two riders trying to bridge over are Edward Planckaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and André Looij (Roompot). The gap is growing fast - over a minute now.


The six riders who are out ahead are: Mark McNally (Wanty-Gobert), Oliviero Troia (UAE Emirates), Julien Duval (AG2R-La Mondiale), Stef Van Zummeren and Michael Goolaerts (both Veranda's Willems Crelan) and Julien Morice (Direct Energie). They have 30 seconds over the pack with two other riders still trying to close the gap.


It's a sunny but fresh day in Belgium with the temperature currently 12 degrees, set to rise to 18 degrees later in the day. There has been some rain over the past two days, however, and so some of the cobbled sections may be rather muddy.


ATTACK: Two riders nip off the front, two more join, and then two others bridge over. There are another two trying to close the gap now... action from the outset.


And that's it! After a slight delay - during which some of the favourites, including world champion Peter Sagan, were off the back of the bunch in the neutral zone - the race commissaire throws down the flag and the 101th edition of the Rnde is under way.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of the 101st edtion of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, the Tour of Flanders, the second monument of the classics season and a gruelling 260.8km ride over 18 hellingen - 11 of which are cobbled - in Belgium's cycling hinterland, from Antwerp to Oudenaarde.