So today’s race got under way a little over an hours ago, the peloton rolling out of the port city of Antwerp at a fairly leisurely pace. Weather-wise it is fairly still and although not especially sunny, it is not too cold. The peloton is fairly evenly split between those riders wearing leg warmers and jackets/gilets, and those with exposed legs.
A flurry of early attacks kicked off proceedings, leading to Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) instigating the move that led to a breakaway forming. Bissegger, the Swiss neo-pro who won the time trial at last month’s Paris-Nice, was soon joined by Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Wallonnie Bruxelles), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) before Nico Denz (DSM) and Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech) bridged over to form a seven-man group. As it stands, that breakaway leads by a shade over 10 minutes with just under 185km of the race remaining.
The big talking point of the day, thus far at least, has been a coming together between Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Otto Vergaerde (Alpecin-Fenix). Fedorov, the Kazakh neo-pro, appeared to touch his brakes while on the front of the bunch which upset a number of riders that were sat on his wheel. While a number of riders gesticulated in his direction, Vergaerde reacted. As a result, both riders have been kicked off the race and one of the pre-race favourites — that’s Mathieu van der Poel for anybody who has been living in a cave — is already a man down and the race has yet to reach its first cobbled sector of climb.
EF Education-Nippo (US): Alberto Bettiol (Ita), Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Jonas Rutsch (Ger, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Michael Valgren (Den).
Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Antione Duchesne (Can), Kevin Geniets (Hol), Stefan Küng (Swi), Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra), Olivier Le Gac (Fra), Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe), Valentin Madouas (Fra).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Owain Doull (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Ethan Hayter (GB, neo-pro), Tom Pidcock (GB, neo-pro), Luke Rowe (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Wesley Kreder (Hol), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Boy van Poppel (Hol), Danny van Poppel (Hol), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Alexis Renard (Fra, neo-pro), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel).
Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Edoardo Affini (Ita), David Dekker (Hol, neo-pro), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Hol), Timo Roosen (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel), Maarten Wynants (Bel).
Lotto-Soudal (Bel): John Degenkolb (Ger), Frederik Frison (Bel), Roger Kluge (Ger), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel, neo-pro), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Movistar (Spa): Imanol Erviti (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Juri Hollmann (Ger, neo-pro), Johan Jacobs (Swi, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa).
Qhubeka-Assos (SA): Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Dimitri Claeys (Bel), Michael Gogl (Aut), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Emil Vinjebo (Den), Max Walscheid (Ger), Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol).
Trek-Segafredo (US): Koen de Kort (Hol), Ryan Mullen (Irl), Mads Pedersen (Den), Kiel Reijnen (US), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel).
Hello, good morning and welcome to our live rolling blog from the 105th edition of the Tour of Flanders, or De Ronde van Vlaanderen as the locals say.
As most of you will know, today’s 254.3-kilometre jaunt from Antwerp to Oudenaarde is one of the most prestigious one-day races in the calendar and following last month’s Milan-Sanremo is the second monument of the season. Following the postponement of Paris-Roubaix this cobbled classic has taken on added significance among those that make their living in these tough races.
For the locals, De Ronde is the biggest day in the Belgian sporting calendar and has been described as being like the Boat Race, Royal Ascot and the FA Cup final. All rolled into one. So as you can imagine, having no fans at the roadside today — or very few, at least — the race will, as we saw last year when Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) prevailed, feel a little quieter than usual.
In an effort to discourage spectators heading to the race due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, organisers did not release a map or profile. However, all of the usual cobbled climbs — Molenberg, Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg — will feature, while a number of cobbled stretches of road are included.
The combination of narrow, twisty lanes, coupled with some brutish cobbled climbs — raced over a multitude of road surfaces — makes the Tour of Flanders, arguably, the most technical and toughest of all of the one-day races to win. Concentration is absolutely key to success here, while positioning on the climbs can make or break a riders’ ambitions.
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