58th Omloop Het Volk
Welcome to our live coverage of the opening Belgian semi-Classic of the season. Please remember to hit the F5 button to refresh the page.
For the first time, the start of the Omloop het Volk is in front of the Smak museum in Gent. It’s near the Citadelpark, where till last year the start of Gent-Wevelgem took place.
The weather is grey and overcast - but no rain yet that threatened earlier on.
12.30 - Four riders, Bracke (Landbouwkrediet), Trouvé (Palmans-Collstrop), Durand (FDJeux.com) and Agnolutto (AG2R) have made the first attack. No surprise to see escapee specialists Durand and Agnolutto make this sort of move Meanwhile. Sebastien Mattozza (Marlux) and Mickael Buffaz (Jean Delatour) have tried to bridge the gap to them. The four riders have a lead of around four and a half minutes on the peloton - and who will remember Durand's famous lone victory in the Tour of Flanders a few years ago - will be aware that it is dangerous to let the riders get too much of an advantage.
12.50 - Over the Kluisberg - 37 kilometres covered and 160 kilometres to go. Bracke punctures but the other escapees slow and wait for him - Meanwhile Sebastien Mattozza's (Marlux) and Mickael Buffaz's (Jean Delatour) efforts have come to nothing they are back in the peloton.
The climbs today are:
km 37: Kluisberg (1,1 km à 6%)
km 44: côte de Trieu (1,1 km à 8%)
km 51: Vieux Quarémont (2,2 km à 4%)
km 59: Muziekbos (0,4 km à 4%)
km 84: Mur de Grammont (0,8 km à 9%)
km 102: Valkenberg (0,4 km à 8%)
km 113: Eikenberg (1,2 km à 5%)
km 124: Leberg (0,6 km à 4%)
km 129: Berendries (0,9 km à 5%)
km 139: Molenberg (0,3 km à 10%)
13.05 - still 152 km to go, over the the top of the côte de Trieu (1,1 km à 8%). Bracke, Trouvé, Durand and Agnolutto have 6'50'' on the peloton.
Jacky Durand - “Du Du” - has been in the peloton since 1990 when he turned pro with the Castorama team - he has had 25 victories - the majority coming from his famous breakaway style. His most famous being in the 1992 Ronde van Vlaanderen when he soloed to an astonishing victory.
13.14 - still 149 km to go and the riders climb over the Vieux Quarémont. The escapees still have 6'40 on the peloton, however, they are down to three men; Christophe Agnolutto has been dropped.
13.18 - still 141 km to go as the escapees cross the Muziekbos. Agnolutto is 50 seconds behind the three leaders - Bracke, Trouvé and Durand.
Tony Bracke - (Landbouwkrediet - Colnago) - has been a pro rider since 1996 when he joined the Lotto team. He has 4 victories to his credit - 1997: Tour of the Cotswolds, 1998: Boucles de la Seine St Denis, 1999: Stadsprijs Geraardsbergen, 2000: Grote 1 Mei-Prijs Hoboken. His work at the front today, even if he gets caught, will help Tom Steels and his teammates. They can let the other teams do the work to close the gap.
Trouvé (Palmans-Collstrop) has been a pro since 1998 - certainly the presence of Trouve, Durand and Bracke in the break gives an advantage to the Palmans, FDJeux.com and Landbouwkrediet teams - Agnolutto is still in no man's land.
Tom Boonen explained this morning why he liked these races so much:
"It is the crowds that give me the shivers, that is why I am looking forward to these to races. Nothing compares to these races in any other country. In the Ruta del Sol, for example, you go over climbs and there are maybe fifteen or twenty people to applaud you. Most of the time you are on your own. On Quaremont, on the other hand, spectators are massed three or four deep on the pavements. That is exciting for a rider. Especially when it is in the area you live and train in."
13.43 - still 129 km to go and the riders are in Everbeek. Tony Bracke, Kristof Trouvé and Jacky Durand have 3'30 on Christophe Agnolutto. The main peloton is a couple of minutes behind him, so the gap is beginning to fall. 36 kilometres covered in the second hour.
13.46 - 127 km to go and the trio of escapees have exactly six minutes advantage on the peloton.
Johan Museeuw has been training on these roads all winter and covered the course again on Wednesday -
"It was a good training" - explained Johan – "My condition is good, but still about 20% short of my top condition. However the Het Volk isn’t a real “classic”. The race is shorter than the Tour des Flandres. To be at 80% of my best condition I can still be amongst the protagonists."
14.06 - still 112 km to go and the riders climb the Muur - which splits the peloton. A crash sees Andreas Klier (Telekom) fall and hurt, he is taken to the hospital. The peloton will probably regroup, but it leads to nervous times for the riders.
14.12 - 110 km to go. Tony Bracke, Kristof Trouvé and Jacky Durand have 5'10 on Agnolutto, the peloton have slipped back, probably due to the crash, to 8'43''.
14.14 - still 109 km to go, Steffen Wesemann, is looking lively at the front of the peloton. Meanwhile, pre race favourite Peter Van Petegem punctures. Wim Van Sevenant and Aart Vierhouten wait for him to pull him back into the peloton.
14.19 - still 105 km to go Stefano Zanini (Saeco) is working hard at the front.
14.24 - 102 km to go, the three leaders start to climb the Valkenberg - Agnolutto is now at 7'30, the peloton is still at 8'20, alarm bells will be ringing soon -
14.27 - 100 km to go Agnolutto is caught by the peloton the three leaders, Bracke (Landbouwkrediet), Trouvé (Palmans-Collstrop), Durand (FDJeux.com) continue their great escape.
14.29 - still 96 km to go, Frank Vandenbroucke punctures and is on his own behind the peloton which is now 7'45 behind Bracke, Trouvé and Durand.
14.33 - 93 km to go, Quick Step-Davitamon and Lotto-Domo start to lead the peloton which is 6'53 behind the trio of escapees.
14.40 - 90 km to go. Te Quickstep boys force the peloton along, the escapees still have 6'08''advantage -
14.42 - 88 km to go. Serge Baguet punctures in the peloton while at the front Jacky Durand is finding it hard to keep up with his fellow escapees as they climb the Eikenberg.
14.42 - 86 km to go. Bracke and Trouvé drop Durand, the peloton is now at 5'56 while the Quickstep boys really up the pace at the front of the bunch.
14.43 - 85km - Frank Vandenbroucke attacks - he leaves the Quickstep controlled peloton behind - the escapees' lead is droppping quickly, now down to 5.05.
14.45 - 84 km - Frank Vandenbroucke's attack on the Eikenberg has caused chaos in the peloton behind - he will be caught by the peloton - but the attack will have had its effect.
14.50 - 81 km to go. The peloton is strung out - Durand has rejoined Bracke (Landbouwkrediet), Trouvé (Palmans-Collstrop) at the front; their lead is now around 4 minutes. Andrei Kashechkin (Quickstep) has a slight advantage on the peloton.
15.00 - 75 km to go - the escapees now have 3'35 on the peloton - which is still led by Quickstep and Bettini does a turn at the front.
15.05 - 74 km to go. Bernucci (LBK) has crashed but does not look too badly hurt - the three leaders are on the Leberg climb, their lead now 3.07.
15.10 - 73 km to go. Bettini forces the pace on the Leberg; the escapees' lead down to 2.51''.
15.15 - 70 km to go - the trio of escapees now on the Berendries, their lead 2.15. The peloton is reduced to 50 riders - still led by Quickstep as they approach the Berendries climb.
15.20 - 62 km to go. Boonen attacks; he is marked by Filippo Pozzato (Fassa).
15.21 - 60 km to go. Durand finds the going hard at the front again - while Bettini attacks for the Quickstep team and is joined by Museeuw.
15.22 - 59 km to go - 4 Quickstep riders off the front! The peloton a long ribbon, in their wake Pozzato is with them, as is a Cofidis rider.
15.23 - 58 km to go - the riders with the lead on the peloton are Museeuw, Bettini, Boonen, Vandenbroucke, Pozzato and Farazijn. Meanwhile Bracke (Landbouwkrediet) and Trouvé (Palmans-Collstrop) have a lead of only a minute now. Max van Heeswijk bridges the gap to the group Bettini.
15.25 - 55 km to go. Museeuw, Bettini, Boonen, Vandenbroucke, Pozzato, Farazijn and Max van Heeswijk are the leading group - the escapees' lead is down to less than a minute.
15.31 - 54 km to go. Group Bettini has 45 seconds on the second group of the peloton which contains Van Petegem, Bruylandts, Kasjesjkin, Cassani, Sacchi, Petitio, Eisel and Kirsipuu. The Bettini group catches the escapees and now lead the race.
15.36 - 53 km to go; it is starting to rain. Boonen leads the front group over a cobbled section - their lead over the chasers around 30 seconds.
15.40 - 51 km to go. Museeuw, Bettini, Boonen, Vandenbroucke, Pozzato, Farazijn and Max van Heeswijk at the front of the race - their lead goes up to 35 seconds on the Van Petegem chasing group.
15.44 - 50 km to go - the chasing group Van Petegem, Bruylandts, Kasjesjkin, Cassani, Sacchi, Petitio, Eisel and Kirsipuu realise that if they don't work together now the race will be lost - the gap still around 33 seconds.
15.50 - 48 km to go - the talk today will be all about the Quickstep team who have totally dominated the race so far - Max van Heeswijk (US Postal) did a great job to bridge the gap but he, Farazijn (Cofidis) and Pozzato (Fassa) must be wondering what they can do to break the Quickstep grip on the race...
15.55 - 45 kms to go - the chasing group seems to have lost all its impetus - the gap has gone up to 42 seconds.
15.56 - 44 kms to go. Museeuw is on the radio organising tactics - the leading group's gap is rising all the time.
16.00 - 39 km to go. Sidermec lead the third group on the road but now they are nearly two minutes down on the group Museeuw at the front, while the group Van Petegem is 1'20" down.
16.02 - 36 km to go - the Sidermec efforts were worthwhile as they have caught up with the Petegem group - but these chasers are now 2'09" behind.
16.05 - 32 km to go - Lotto are driving the chasing group for Peter Van Petegem - but the gap remains around 2'27".
16.10 - The Quickstep front group hit second section (of nine) cobbles which characterise the run in - they pass a fan playing the bagpipes! And the Quickstep riders will soon surely start to attack in order to get rid of Pozzato and Heeswijk - both fast men in the sprint.
16.15 - 25 kms to go - Boonen attacks! The front group splits!
16.16 - 23 kms to go - Museeuw and Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw now head the race.
16.20 - 20 kms to go - Bettini and Museeuw cannot shake off Van Heeswijk; he is sticking to them like a limpet...
16.21 - Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw have 11 seconds on VDB, Pozzato, Boonen and Farazijn.
16.24 - Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw's gap increases to 14 seconds - behind Pozzato is chasing like a man possessed - a great sight - the riders on the cobbles and the fans cheering them on...
16.28 - 17 kms to go - Van Heeswijk is riding very cannily - he will not take a turn at the front. Museeuw and Bettini take it in turns to drive the race on; their lead now 24 seconds.
16.29 - 15 kms to go - Bettini seems to be struggling on the cobbled section - Museeuw is, as always, awesome on the cobbles which are wet and slippy due to earlier rain - these three men now have 34 seconds on the 4 chasers.
16.30 - 14 kms to go - Bettini picks up the pace again on the tarmac section - Van Heeswijk sticks between the two Quickstep riders. Museeuw checks the radio again - the leading three men now have 50 seconds on the chasers.
16.34 - 12 km to go - Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw are working together now - while behind Boonen attacks and gets an immediate gap - can he bridge the gap?
16.35 - 10 kms to go, the three men have 55 seconds - while Boonen is in no man's land between the two groups...
16.36 - 9 kms to go - Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw, their faces pictures of concentration and determination - their lead 1.08 on the second group.
16.37 - 6 kms to go - it starts to rain. Bettini, Van Heeswijk and Museeuw still keeping the pace high - the crowds huge and Museeuw attacks - Van Heeswijk marks him down...
16.38 - 5 km to go - the three men still together, the Quickstep riders let Van Heeswijk take the lead - then Museeuw attacks again!
5 km to go Museeuw has got the gap - Van Heeswijk desperately tries to close the gap.
16.40 - 4 km to go. Museeuw at the front, "Mad Max" digging deep, trying to pull him back - but on his wheel is Bettini...
3 km to go - Museeuw is thundering down the road the gap is increasing...
16.42 - 2 km to go - Museeuw's face - pain and determination - he is surely going to win this race!
1 km to go - a masterful display by the Lion of Flanders - the crowds are going crazy! JOHAN MUSEEUW WINS!
Max Van Heeswijk, a tremendous race to bridge the gap to make the leading group, takes second place - Bettini, arms aloft, takes third!
Museeuw and Bettini all smiles - and what a race by this awesome Quickstep team - total domination and the other team managers will be wondering what they can do to stop this team of all talents in the spring campaign.
1. Johan Museeuw - Quickstep-Davitamon
2. Max Van Heeswijk - US Postal
3. Paolo Bettini - Quickstep-Davitamon
4. Tom Boonen - Quickstep-Davitamon
5. Frank Vandenbroucke - Quickstep-Davitamon
6. Filippo Pozzato - Fassa Bortolo
7. Peter Farazijn - Cofidis
So thanks for joining the Daily Peloton this afternoon for this live report - full results, interviews, etc., later. Don't touch that dial!