Tour of Flanders: 32km to go
Julian Alaphilippe is sat on the floor holding his right shoulder. That’s a heartbreaking way to end his Tour de Franders debut. Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, of course, plough on.
Tour of Flanders: 35km to go — Alaphilippe crashes!
The world champion has gone down heavily and he’s screaming in pain. He was sat on Mathieu van der Poel’s wheel before the Dutchman veered around a race motorbike at the last moment. Julian Alaphilippe had nowhere to go other than into the vehicle. That’s his race and season quite probably done.
Tour of Flanders: 37km to go
Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Julian Alaphilippe are holding on, a strong-looking group containing Oliver Naesen, Dylan vn Baarle, Anthony Turgis, Alberto Bettiol, Jens Keukeleire and a few Quick Step riders. Those Elegant-Quick Step team-mates, of course, will not help out in chasing down Alaphilippe.
Tour of Flanders: 38km to go
Wout van Aert bridges over to Mathieu van der Poel and Julian Alaphilippe.
Tour of Flanders: 38.5km to go
Mathieu van der Poel bridges over to Julian Alaphilippe, while all hell is breaking loose behind this leading pair.
Tour of Flanders: 39km to go
Julian Alaphilippe has put in another attack. He appears to be a natural on these cobble stones.
Tour of Flanders: 42km to go
Julian Alaphilippe and Anthony Turgis are caught, but that attack and subsequent chase has led to Sunweb getting caught out.
Tour of Flanders: 44km to go
Julian Alaphilippe has joined forces with fellow Frenchman Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Énergie) off the front, but the pair have a strong group in putrsuit.
Tour of Flanders: 45km to go
Julian Alaphilippe is dancing his way up the cobbled climb. His move has caused some minor panic back in the bunch. Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Alberto Bettiol are chasing.
Tour of Flanders: 46km to go
Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), a 500-1 outsider to win today, takes the lead alongside Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers). The pair are inching towards the next cobbled climb, the brutal Koppenberg that pitches up to 22%.
Tour of Flanders: 49km to go — Alaphilippe attacks!
Julian Alaphilippe rolls off the front of the bunch along with Elegant-Quick Step team-mate Dries Devenyns and Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers). It is very doubtful that he will be allowed to ghost off up the road.
Tour of Flanders: 50km to go — Van der Poel makes a move
Sensing a weakness in his great rival Wout van Aert, the Dutch national champion Mathieu van der Poel shifts to the front, but all he accomplishes is sending shockwaves through the peloton.
Tour of Flanders: 51km to go
As the cobbled road pitches up to 20% a number of riders struggle, but the breakaway still leads on the summit of the Paterberg, but it has been whittled down to just 12sec.
Tour of Flanders: 52km to go
The peloton is split into around three groups, riders fighting for position in the run-in to the Paterberg which they will tackle twice today. Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), one of my dark horse selections today, has lost contact with the main bunch containing all of the main protagonists today.
Tour of Flanders: 56km to go
The breakaway is starting to splinter as it heads towards the summit of the Oude Kwaremont. Mathieu van der Poel is riding on the front of the peloton down the right-hand ride of the road, his big rival Wout van Aert is on the opposite side. Julian Alaphilippe is still hanging in there, as is Tiesj Benoot and Mads Pedersen.
Tour of Flanders: 57km to go
Game over for Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) who crashed heavily as the breakaway’s lead drops to below a minute. Alpecin-Fenix are now setting the pace on the front of the peloton.
Tour of Flanders: 57km to go
I’ve barely seen him all day, but Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), the favourite to win today’s race, has positioned himself up near the front of this speeding bunch. Absoloutely perfect timing that as they head towards the Oude Kwaremont for the second time today.
Tour of Flanders: 60km to go
Sep Vanmarcke is working his way through the cars back towards the peloton which is all back as one now, trailing the breaks by around 1min 30sec.
Tour of Flanders: 63km to go
Sep Vanmarcke is chasing pack on, but the race is very much on now and he may struggle to close this gap. Adrien Petit (Total Direct Énergie) put in a brief attack off the front of the bunch, but it is short-lived.
Tour of Flanders: 65km to go — Vanmarcke crashes!
Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First) has crashed and it appears that he knocked in his rear derailleur and so needed to take a bike change. The Belgian who does not enjoy the best of luck at the Tour of Flanders, appeared a little annoyed and was seen kicking a car as he waited for a new bike.
Tour of Flanders: 66km to go
Zdenek Stybar (Elegant-Quick Step) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers) bridge over to Max Walscheid (NTT), but the trio have a small group of around five or six riders in pursuit. The peloton is not too far behind.
Tour of Flanders: 70km to go
Zdenek Stybar (Elegant-Quick Step) goes over the Kanarieberg ahead of Leonardo Basso (Ineos Grenadiers) and a few bike lengths ahead of the peloton, but can the Czech rider tempt anybody to chase? Is this an important move from Elegant-Quick Step?
Tour of Flanders: 71km to go
Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who was runner-up to Peter Sagan at Paris-Roubaix in 2018, appears to have picked a few cuts to his knee following a crash a few minutes ago. Jumbo-Visma, Elegant-Quick Step and Sunweb all have decent number on the front of the peloton and they are starting to ride hard.
Tour of Flanders: 75km to go
The six-man breakaway has seen its lead slashed to just 2min 40sec. Yet another NTT rider has gone off again. Max Walscheid is off in pursuit of the race leaders where he has a team-mate Samuele Battistella. I’m not entirely sure what NTT’s tactics are here, but presumably they are attempting to get a couple of rider up the road for a possible leat attack from Michael Valgren?
Tour of Flanders: 79km to go
Jens Debusschere (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) who had made it over to the small chasing group featuring Jasper De Buyst loses his front wheel on a left-hand bend. A combination of dust, mud moisture from the earlier rain and cobbles make each twist and turn down these narrow roads treacherous.
Tour of Flanders: Stuyven crashes
Jasper Stuyven is the latest to crash, but the co-leader at Trek-Segafredo wastes little time in getting back up.
Tour of Flanders: 84km to go
Another NTT rider attacks off the front, this time around it is Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo) and Jasper De Buyst (Lotto-Soudal) bridge over to the South African.
Giro d’Italia, stage 15: Brambilla abandons!
Vincenzo Nibali has lost a key team-mate after Gianluca Brambilla has abondoned the Giro d’Italia.
Giro d’Italia, stage 15: 94km to go
Giovanni Carboni has given up the chase and the Italian is back int he peloton. The 11-man breakaway’s advantage is at 5min 20sec a sit edges up the second categorised climb of the day, the category two Forcella di Monte Rest.
Tour of Flanders: 92km to go
Edvald Boasson Hagen is caught as the peloton safely navigates another cobbled stretch. Next up is the Leberg climb which goes into double digits and is another cobbled one.
Tour of Flanders: 94km to go
And Elegant-Quick Step take over on the front, putting big numbers up there. By the way, the Belgian team has at least four possible winners here today — Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Florian Sénéchal and Zdenek Stybar — as so will be hoping to play the numbers game.
Tour of Flanders: 95km to go
Following a flurry of attacks, Tim Wellens postions himself on the front of the peloton which is starting to stretch out further thanks to the fierce pace being set by the Belgian.
Tour of Flanders: 98km to go
Yves Lampaert (Elegant-Quick Step), Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix) and Silvan Dillier (Ag2r-La Mondiale) have taken over on the front of the peloton, and the pace has gone up. Interestingly, Julian Alaphilippe is around sixth or seventh wheel, bouncing along another cobbled stretch.
Tour of Flanders: 100km to go
Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Fenix), the Belgian national road champion, moves to the front as a few riders start to look as if they are thinking about attacking. Tim Wellens, who has recovered from that crash, is looking twitchy.
Tour of Flanders: 102km to go
Owain Doull (Ineos Grenadiers) takes over on the front of the peloton, but as it nears the summit of the Eikenberg a Trek-Segafredo rider swings past the Welshman. A few drops of rain are starting to fall.
Tour of Flanders: 103km to go
As the peloton reaches the Eikenberg, Trek-Segafredo press on slightly causing a minor split at the front. Sunweb, who have possible winners today in Soren Kragh Andersen and Tiesj Benoot, have big numbers near the front of the bunch.
Tour of Flanders: 105km to go
The peloton is delayed briefly as train crossing comes down. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT) gains a few seconds, as does the breakaway whose advantage grows out to 7min 25sec.
Giro d’Italia, stage 15: 110km to go
Back in Italy, Sergio Samitier has caught the breakaway, Giovanni Carboni trails by 3min.
Tour of Flanders: 106km to go
Jumbo-Visma are shepherding Wout van Aert back up through the bunch. The Dutch team will not want their main man today to waste any further energy by getting caught out in any crashes or pinch points.
Tour of Flanders: 108km to go
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has managed to get back on, but that effort will have caused him to burn a few matches. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT) has attacked off the front of the peloton as it edges towards the next climb of the day, the Eikenberg.
Tour of Flanders: Van Aert crashes!
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), one of the big favourites to win today’s race has crashed. The Belgian appeared to lose concentration and he veered off road. Thankfully he had a soft landing, but it may have shaken him up a little. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) was also caught up in the crash, as was Maurits Lammertink (Circus-Wanty Gobert) and Feng Chun-kai (Bahrain-McLaren).
Tour of Flanders: 115km to go
Not too far from the next climb of the day, the 1km long Kortekeer which is not cobbled but is extremely narrow, which is followed in quick succession by the Eikenberg and the Wolvenberg.
Giro d’Italia, stage 15: 123km to go
Back in Italy, the 10-man breakaway has increased its lead on the peloton, though the two chasing pairs are struggling. Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Sergio Samitier (Movistar) have lost contact with each other, while . Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) and Nathan Haas (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) appear to have given up and have drifted back into the main bunch.
Tour of Flanders: 121km to go
Trek-Segafredo are riding mob-handed on the front of the bunch, while back in the pack a narrowing of the road has caused a few riders to get caught up behind a pinch-point. Positioning and an understanding of the roads, and the numerous switch from surface to surface, can prove costly in a race like this. In the one-day classics each and every ounce of energy is important and every delay or crash sees a rider waste vital energy in chasing back on.
The breakaway’s lead is down to 7min.
Tour of Flanders: 126km to go
Following his earlier crash, Gregor Mühlberger managed to regain contact with the breakaway and it is now on the eerily quiet Oude Kwaremont, the famous cobbled climb that is ordinarily packed with enthusiastic, and occasionally beer-fuelled, Belgian cycling fanatics.
Back in the peloton, riders will be starting to jockey for position in the run-in to this narrow and gnarly ascent, the first of three today.
Giro d’Italia, stage 15: 130km to go
As it stands, there’s a 10-man breakaway — Manuele Boaro (Astana), Luca Chirico (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal), Daniel Navarro (Israel Start-up Nation), Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren), Andrea Vendrame (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Davide Villella (Movistar) and Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabu-KTM) — leading the way. Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) and Nathan Haas (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) trail by 1min 35sec; Giovanni Carboni (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane) and Sergio Samitier (Movistar) are another 20sec down the road. The peloton is 6min 35sec off the back. With two Lotto-Soudal riders in the leading group, one has to think that today could be the day that Thomas De Gendt takes his first victory since that unforgettable win at last year’s Tour de France.
Tour of Flanders: 130km to go
A number of riders, including Jack Bauer (Mitchelton-Scott) and Hugo Hofstetter (Israel Start-up Nation), have had punctures. Both are using disc brakes today and their wheel changes took an eternity. Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-Quick Step) is the next to have an issue with his bike, but the Danish national champion took a new bike from his team car.
Tour of Flanders: 140km to go
Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) had a bit of an embarrassing fall a few minutes ago after misjudging a mussette swing that caught one of his hoods.
The break has gone over the Katteberg, the first of 17 climbs in today’s race. Peloton is at 7min 15sec.
Tour of Flanders: 143km to go
Trek-Segafredo, who in Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven have two riders that could win today, have been doing quite a bit of work on the front of the peloton, Jumbo-Visma have a man up there while Elegant-Quick Step, renamed for today’s race, has Tim Declercq on the front, just ahead of world champion Julian Alaphilippe who is making his Tour of Flanders debut here today.
Tour of Flanders: 145km to go
Christian Knees (Ineos Grenadiers) has had a series of mechanical issues already today, each time he drops back to the team car will cause the German to use vital reserves of energy. As you can see from the image, the roads in Belgium can be treacherous for cyclists.
While the main focus and point of discussion today will be the cobbles, the hard concrete roads — and the dangerous narrow gaps between the huge slabs — can cause all sorts of issues for the riders. The gulleys, too, provide the riders with another test. Bike handling and concentration levels in a race like the Tour of Flanders as key to success, or failure.
Tour of Flanders: As it stands . . .
Right, let’s go. It’s a little bit chilly out in Flanders this morning, but fortunately for the riders it is dry. There’s a light breeze, but nothing too serious for the peloton to concern themselves with. A six-man breakaway went off up the road a while ago comprising Samuele Battistella (NTT), Fabio Van den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Gijs Van Hoecke (CCC), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Dimitri Peyskens (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) and Danny van Poppel (Circus-Wanty Gobert) and they currently lead by 7min 38sec.
The first two cobbled stretches of road, the Lippenhovestraat and Paddestraat have been safely navigated by the breakaway. Not too long ago Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal), who managed to get involved towards the pointy end of Gent-Wevelgem last weekend, hit the deck on a tight left-hander.
Hello everybody and welcome to our live blog from the 104th edition of the Tour of Flanders, the fourth and final monument of the cycling season following the cancellation of Paris-Roubaix which was due to take place next Sunday’s in the rescheduled new-look season.
At 243.3 kilometres, today’s edition of the race is slightly shorter than usual, and is already under way having set off from Antwerp at around 9.15am (BST). Before we get stuck into the race, here’s a bit of background information for those new to the sport . . .
Set up in 1913 by journalist Karel Van Wijnendaele, the Tour of Flanders – or De Ronde van Vlaanderen as the locals say – 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.
The race originally departed from Ghent, the spiritual home of Belgian cycling, though over the years its route has changed. As mentioned, this year’s race starts in Antwerp and concludes in Oudenaarde. Despite the various changes to the route over the years, one crucial characteristic of the Ronde remains: the hellingen, or hills which are often cobbled.
This year’s edition features 17 recognised climbs, including three ascents of Oude Kwaremont — the penultimate climb of the day — and twice up the final climb of the race, the Paterberg which tops out at an eye-watering 18.2 per cent in gradient: one-in-five in old money.
Though short in distance — the Paterberg is just 360 metres long — these brutal climbs are where, ordinarily, the decisive moves are made and if not, are where the field is whittled down further leaving the final selection of riders who will contest the race. In addition to the numerous hellingen, there are also five sections of kasseien, or cobblestones.
As with all WorldTour races, each of the 19 teams that make up the top-flight of professional cycling receive an invite and in the case of the Ronde all teams are contracted to race.
In addition to the WorldTour teams, race organisers Flanders Classics handed wildcard spots to six Pro-Continental teams — Alpecin-Fenix, Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles, B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM, Circus-Wanty Gobert, Total Direct Énergie and Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise.
In addition to the Tour of Flanders, the Giro d’Italia continues today with a tough summit finish in the final day of racing ahead of the second and final rest day of the second grand tour of the season.
With four categorsied climbs, the 185km run from Base Aerea Rivolto to Piancavallo my suit a breakaway while those challenging for the general classification will he hoping to either make gains or consolidate their positions. While most of the focus today will be on Flanders, I will also be keeping an eye on what’s going on in Italy and will do my best to keep you up to speed with what’s happening at the Giro.
Today’s liveblog will get under way in earnest at 11am (BST).