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60th Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC

Belgium, February 26, 2005

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Commentary by Jeff Jones

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:00 CET
Estimated finish time: 16:30 CET

14:01 CET   
All lined up
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Welcome from the Cyclingnews hydrogen-powered blimp (non-smoking) where we are bringing you live coverage of the 60th Omloop Het Volk, the first race of the Belgian season. As Paolo Bettini said this morning, "Today the real races start" as we are heading into a two month period where the northern classics of Europe will be the focus.

Omloop Het Volk, which was cancelled last year due to heavy snowfall, is one of the most prestigious races to win for the Belgians. It's 200 km between Gent and Lokeren, passing over 11 climbs and finishing with a series of tough, flat cobbled sections. They're not in the same league as the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, but you can guarantee that the peloton will find them to be a challenge today.

The much talked about weather situation has lived up to expectations so far. It was 1-2 degrees celsius at the start with very, very light snowflakes falling, and there will probably be more where that came from later in the day. All the riders were fully rugged up with longs or full leg warmers on and thick gloves. Only the foolhardy, or someone planning on riding just the first 30 km, would have rolled up in shorts today.

The atmosphere was nervous at the start, but the riders were also clearly looking forward to the challenge today. Everyone knows how cold and hard it will be, so there will be no surprises.

14:11 CET    100km/101km to go
Kristof Trouvé (MrBookmaker)
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The race started at 11:30 from Gent's Citadelpark, with the official start given in Merelbeke at 11:41. Two riders didn't start: Mikhaylo Khalilov of the Swiss Team LPR and Stefano Cavallari of the British Barloworld-Valsir team.

After 15 km, Jakob Piil (CSC), Benoît Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) and Kristof Trouvé (MrBookmaker.com-Sportstech) attacked and immediately got a gap. The three rode 42.5 km in the first hour and gradually built their lead up to 4'39 at Brakel (km 72), before falling to 4 minutes going over the Muur van Geraardsbergen (km 83). The peloton was being led by Quick.Step at that point, with George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery) well placed near the front. The gap is still around 4 minutes at the 100 km mark.

14:14 CET   
Trouvé is somewhat of a specialist at the early breakaway, and commented before the race, "I think that today, everyone will ride a bit faster at the start. It's nervous because of the cold, because everyone wants to get warm. I'll see if I have the power to attack."

14:18 CET    101km/100km to go
The race has now passed through Brakel for the second time, just before the Kleiberg (climb 7). Five riders have attacked the bunch, which is in pursuit of three leaders: Piil, Vaugrenard and Trouvé.

14:25 CET   
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto)
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Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen could play a role today, if he gets to the finish in the leading group. He has been suffering from a little bit of sickness, but is getting over it and didn't want to miss the start today. On Friday, McEwen was quoted on Q-Music as saying, "It's the time of the year, as many other riders I have been sick. I'm still coughing a bit but I should be ok for the race though. Tom Steels is sick too. I understand he's cautious. He has to be very careful as his health has suffered for a few years now, with mononucleosis. It's especially dangerous for riders with school going kids, they bring the bugs home and infect the whole family.

"I've been in Australia from October to January. I trained really well there, in splendid weather. So these winter conditions aren't really something I enjoy. With the team I did only half of the parcours on the official reconnaissance on Wednesday. On Tuesday I had trained 180km on the parcours though. This race is something special; even as Australian, but I have been living here for a while now. It's a nice race. I'm going to train a couple of hours today, wait until everything has thawed a bit. Then I'll get ready for the race, shave my legs afterward, etc. The I'll be going to the hotel, get a massage, rest and have a few good meals; I'll be ready."

14:28 CET    105km/96km to go
After the Kleiberg, the gap to the three leaders has fallen to under 3'00, which is not really big enough to hold off the peloton. Quick.Step is controlling the chase. The five riders who tried to bridge the gap have been caught.

14:30 CET    105km/96km to go
Are you talking to me?
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George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) was in a positive mood at the start this morning. "I feel good and we have a really strong team so hopefully one of us will win."

When asked whether he would prefer to win Het Volk or the Tour of Flanders, he replied, "Both would be nice. Flanders is a dream, definitely."

The leaders have 2'31.

14:33 CET    107km/94km to go
Crashes have claimed Tristan Hoffman (CSC), who is off to hospital with a suspected broken left leg. Also Mark Walters (Navigators) came off in the middle of a corner, but seems alright.

McEwen is in the front row as the peloton exits a narrow farm road as one block. No-one is really chasing at the moment, but the gap is down to 2'26. Quick.Step now moves back to the lead, with Servais Knaven smiling as he does his work.

The leaders have hit the Eikenberg, a cobbled climb but not a steep one. The roads are dry enough so that there's no danger.

14:35 CET    108km/93km to go
Jakob Piil finds the smooth section of the Eikenberg on the left and gets a tiny gap. But the other two are right with him. They're nearly at the top of the climb, and have 2'36 on the peloton.

14:36 CET   
The peloton hits the Eikenberg with a couple of Chocolade Jacques riders in front.T The pace is a good bit higher. Frederik Willems is the man leading. He has 20m as his teammate Eeckhout allows him to get a gap.

14:37 CET    109km/92km to go
Willems comes back to the peloton. At the back, the Shimano, RAGT and Agritubel riders are in difficulty. This is not really their type of race.

The gap is down to about 2'00 at the top.

14:39 CET   
We spoke to Francaise des Jeux' Mark Renshaw at the start today, and the Aussie was looking distinctly chilled. "It's cold, I tell ya! I've been everywhere - I've been down in Portugal racing. It was beautiful down there - we had 20 or 22 degrees. I had Haribo last week, then a bit of a training camp. I got here yesterday and today is my first race in the cold (laughs)."

How do you keep warm? "I'm just dressed as best as I can. I've got two pairs of boot warmers on. So it's going to be fresh."

"Hopefully we'll go well. We've got Philippe Gilbert; he was stomping in Haut Var on Saturday so it's going to be good. We'll try to get him up. I'm racing tomorrow as well. It suits me a bit more. I'm just going to sit in and see how it goes today. You won't be seeing anything big from me!"

14:41 CET    110km/91km to go
The gap to Piil, Trouvé and Vaugrenard is now down to 1'50 as they can see a largish looking gray cloud ahead of them. Meanwhile back in the peloton, Stijn Devolder (Discovery) is forcing the pace...hard. They're on the Holleweg, a 2.5 km section of cobbles. Boonen and Ekimov are right up there too.

"CSC will be particularly dangerous, as will the men from Davitamon-Lotto and Quick.Step," commented Devolder at the start. "I'm one of the protected men. A few guys in the team have a chance for the win. We have Max van Heeswijk and George Hincapie in the sprint."

14:43 CET    112km/89km to go
Devolder keeps driving all the way along the Holleweg, bringing the gap down to 1'24. Vierhouten, De Vocht (DVL), Boonen and Tankink (QuickStep) are right behind him as he continues to line out the peloton. He finally eases up. A bit.

14:45 CET    113km/88km to go
After a puncture, Hincapie is also well placed near the front as Devolder calls time out and eats some food. The gap is 1'08. Casper, Eeckhout, De Jongh and Voeckler are all near the front. As are Lotz, Boonen, Klier, McEwen and O'Grady.

14:46 CET   
Renshaw's FDJ teammate Philippe Gilbert said that he was the team leader today. "Bernhard Eisel was sick at the beginning of the week and couldn't make it."

Is Gilbert a chance for the victory? "I don't know. It's not my favourite parcours but I can maybe end in the top 10."

14:47 CET    115km/86km to go
The three leaders are on the Haaghoek, a seriously nasty up/down stretch of cobbles. Piil leads the whole way, with Trouvé on his wheel.

14:48 CET   
Some profiles of the riders in the break:

Jacob Piil, the 31-year old and riding for the Danish CSC team. In 1999 he won the First Union Invitational, US Pro Championship, and Postgirot Tour of Sweden.
2001 Piil won GP L'Ouverture, the Peace Race (Overall and 2 stages). In 2002 winner of Paris-Tours and a stage in the Peace Race and the tour of Denmark.
In 2003 he won a stage in the Tour de France, stage nr 10 finishing in Marseille. He also took victory in the Wachovia Invitational and the CSC Classic in Denmark.

Benoît Vaugrenard, riding for FDJeux.com is in his third year as a pro. He showed promise in his first year, when he finished 5th in the French Time-trial Championships and became second in the prologue of the Tour de L'Avenir. Last year was a quiet year for him.

Kristof Trouvé, Mr.Bookmaker.com also showed promise as a youngster and turned pro in 1998. He has won a couple of kermises in Mechelen and Mere and finished 2nd in the GP Rudy Dhaenens.

14:49 CET    116km/85km to go
Kevin Hulsmans (Quick.Step) attacks the peloton on the Haaghoek, as the gap is down to 50 seconds. He is caught.

14:51 CET    117km/84km to go
The leaders are losing time quickly. They're now on the Leberg, 600m at 4 percent. But the gap is just 40 seconds and falling. There are more people on this climb, suffering in the cold as well!

14:52 CET    118km/83km to go
Devolder attacks on the Leberg, with Tankink and Kroon on his wheel. Boonen is trying to close the gap with three others, but can't. Gilbert, De Jongh and De Vocht are there. Gilbert of course doesn't take a turn, meaning Boonen has to keep working. However, he has Tankink in front, who will not work with Devolder.

14:55 CET    120km/81km to go
Devolder and Kroon work together as Tankink sits on. They bear down on the three leaders. Boonen's quartet is nowhere to be seen. The three leaders are caught on the wide road down through Elst, where there is plenty of snow on the sides of the road.

Ludo Dierckxsens (Landbouwkrediet) is in pursuit of the leaders. Boonen has gone back to the peloton and his team is chasing.

14:57 CET    121km/80km to go
Trouvé is the first dropped on the Berendries, followed by Piil and Vaugrenard. That's the end of their race. They've been away since km 15. Now three leaders: Devolder, Tankink and Kroon. The peloton is at 27 seconds, led by Davitamon-Lotto.

Dierckxsens is caught on the Berendries as Vierhouten and Klier drive the bunch. Voeckler is up there too!

14:58 CET   
Voeckler, Klier, Boonen and Van Petegem have a little gap at the top of the Berendries, but the peloton is coming up behind them. Snow and people lie thick on the sides of the road.

15:00 CET    123km/78km to go
Voeckler looks back and sees Boonen, Klier, Piil, Van Petegem, then Hincapie, Nuyens, O'Grady, McEwen, Van Heeswijk and a Navigators rider close the gap. The rest of the peloton is coming back to them slowly.

Still Devolder's trio leading.

15:01 CET    124km/77km to go
Klier and O'Grady do turns as Ekimov keeps an eye on things. The gap to the three leaders is 22 seconds. Tankink is still sitting on Devolder and Kroon.

Devolder is wearing shorts! Verdomme.

15:02 CET    125km/76km to go
The leaders ride through fields of snow, even though the roads are quite dry. Behind them, the peloton is picking up the pace. Vaitkus is last wheel.

Cofidis is doing some of the work now, with Boonen still up there and Discovery trying to keep things under control. McEwen takes the lead, just before a descent.

15:05 CET    127km/74km to go
It has been confirmed, Tristan Hoffman (CSC) has an open fracture of his left leg. Bad luck for the CSC rider, as he'll be out for a while.

The bunch is lined out now, 25 seconds behind Devolder, Kroon and Tankink. Devolder is on a great ride today - he looks very strong. De Vocht is working in front of the bunch, as is McEwen.

15:07 CET    128km/73km to go
Trouvé is now going out the back of the peloton, very quickly. He has done his work for the day.

The leaders are at Rozebeke on the wide cobbled road. Glenn d'Hollander (Jacques) attacks the bunch.

15:09 CET    130km/71km to go
Vasseur counters hard over the top in pursuit of d'Hollander, but doesn't get a gap. The Molenberg awaits... The peloton descends again, with lots more snowy fields. [It was bloody cold here the other day when I rode down here].

Vasseur gives it up and nearly takes out Ekimov. Now Gilbert counters, and immediately gets company from Wauters and O'Grady. And the rest of the peloton.

15:10 CET   
Glenn d'Hollander is still dangling between the leaders and the peloton. It'll be very impressive if he survives the Molenberg. The peloton is really nervous as it takes the last descent towards the Molenberg. D'Hollander is caught. Davitamon-Lotto leads.

15:12 CET   
Davitamon have a good position at the front as they drive it flat out. Kuyckx is leading. No other team has really got their men in position, but here come the Quick.Step men. Lots of blue jerseys appear. It's real panic is they near the right hander, and Devolder's group will be caught.

Willems punctures.

15:14 CET    132km/69km to go
Devolder leads at the foot of the Molenberg as the peloton threads its way up behind him, led by Peter van Petegem at 10 seconds. De Peet is riding very well, closing the gap to the leaders. At the back, it's almost a standstill in the bunch.

Devolder is first over the top with PVP making the cut. Kroon and Tankink are still there, and it looks like Eki in pursuit, then Gilbert and a Jacques rider. Where is Boonen?

15:15 CET   
The leaders: Devolder, Van Petegem, Kroon, Tankink, and Ekimov. They have 10 seconds to a group with Philippe Gilbert (FDJ).

15:17 CET    134km/67km to go
The chase group has Gilbert, Gardeyn and Hincapie - that's three Discovery riders in the top eight at a critical point of the race. The three are catching the five leaders. Eight leaders now.

15:18 CET    136km/65km to go
This is an important group, as there are no more climbs: Stijn Devolder, Hincapie and Ekimov (Discovery), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Van Petegem (Lotto), Gardeyn (MrBookmaker) and Gilbert (FDJ). The peloton is at 28 seconds, led by noone in particular. Knaven is working for Quick.Step, but Rabobank and Discovery are slowing things down. This could be the race.

15:19 CET    137km/64km to go
All the teams in front of the peloton have riders in the break. Except for Ludo Dierckxsens, who looks ready to attack. Knaven and Vasseur try to get something happening. 43 seconds. Not good! They're in Roborst now.

15:21 CET    138km/63km to go
The leaders hit the Paddestraat, a painful 2.3 km of cobbles. At least it's still dry. Devolder leads, as is his wont. He's the only man in shorts. Argh.

A Jacques rider - Eeckhout, leads on the cobbles behind. He has Van Heeswijk on his wheel. Then Knaven and Hulsmans and Boonen.

15:22 CET   
Hulsmans (Quick.Step) takes over the tempo making with Knaven and Boonen on his wheel. They realise that even with Tankink in front, they have little hope.

15:23 CET    139km/62km to go
The Quick.Step chase is having exactly zero effect, as the gap is up to 45 seconds. Even Boonen working is not doing much. Especially as McEwen and Van Heeswijk are in the way.

In the break, Kroon is last wheel.

15:24 CET    140km/61km to go
Hulsmans does another big turn but with Van Heeswijk, Den Bakker and a Lotto rider next in line, it's nothing doing. It'll take a miracle to get the leaders back from here.

15:27 CET    141km/60km to go
D'Hollander attacks again, prompting a reaction from Den Bakker. Boonen and Lotz are up there, but the real race is 47 seconds up the road.

Stijn Devolder and Van Petegem take turns in front of the break. De Peet looks good too. Can he win a fourth Omloop Het Volk?

Jans Koerts slips off his saddle and nearly requires an operation. Owww!!! Ralf Grabsch (Wiesenhof) punctures and he has a long wait for a wheel.

D'Hollander keeps hammering but the peloton is at 51 seconds now.

15:28 CET    143km/58km to go
Devolder is really hammering in the break, causing problems for Tankink and Gilbert. But the eight are still together. There are some good riders in this break, as the peloton behind starts to break up with Nuyens driving a group of five off the front.

15:30 CET    144km/57km to go
Kevin Van Impe (Jacques) is the next to go solo, but there is another reaction from the peloton. The gap is a steady 43 seconds. A bit more attacking and it could come down a bit. T-Mobile, CSC and Jacques are doing a bit of work now, but all the time there are Lotto and Rabobank riders there. Knaven tries to convince Den Bakker to chase his teammate down. Den Bakker is not convinced.

15:31 CET   
Quick.Step's Hulsmans comes back to the front with Knaven. The chase is too disorganised to be really effective. They're on narrow roads, interspersed with cobbles.

15:33 CET    146km/55km to go
The leaders hit the ninth last cobbled section at Lange Munte (1.7 km). Tankink is now last wheel, not contributing. He might be able to salvage something for Quick.Step. The three Discovery riders are working very well: Devolder, Hincapie and Ekimov. And of course there is Van Petegem, Kroon, Gardeyn and Gilbert. 52 seconds.

15:35 CET    148km/53km to go
Quick.Step now has four men in front of the peloton: Hulsmans, Lotz, Knaven and Boonen. They will need a lot of help though if their chase is to have an effect. CSC and T-Mobile should be helping if they are interested in going for the win.

The eight man breakaway is working very well, looking a bit like a Discovery TTT. 

15:37 CET    149km/52km to go
Vasseur punctures, and looks around for a wheel, still riding as hard as he can. He gets one from the team car, but he has to ride on the rim for a while. A real hard man, is Vasseur.

15:38 CET    150km/51km to go
Vasseur's change took all of 10 seconds, and he sets off in the 53x12 with his team car giving him a "bidon". He'll have to work hard to get the bunch. He gets another "bidon".

The gap is down to 45 seconds between the peloton and the leaders. So Quick.Step is making an impression.

15:40 CET    151km/50km to go
Some T-Mobile jerseys have moved up the front to help the five Quick.Steps. This could be interesting - it's now 43 seconds as they go under the 50 km to go banner. Nuyens and Hulsmans leading.

15:41 CET   
The riders in the break: Stijn Devolder, George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery), Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Karsten Kroon (Rabobank), Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto), Gorik Gardeyn (MrBookmaker), Philippe Gilbert (FDJ).

15:43 CET    154km/47km to go
The break is still working hard, but now they're matched by the workers in the peloton. Quick.Step has five men in front, T-Mobile has two. It's 38 seconds. Tankink is still sitting on the break, eating a bit of food. There are no more climbs, but plenty of cobbles.

15:45 CET    155km/46km to go
Nuyens does a massive turn in the peloton and the gap is half a minute! Hulsmans takes over, grimacing with lactate induced pain. The peloton is about 80-90 riders.

25 seconds...

15:46 CET    156km/45km to go
We know have six Quick.Steps and one T-Mobile, lining out the peloton 22 seconds behind the break. Nuyens is on the front again. They could save this for Boonen. O'Grady and Van Heeswijk are well placed behind the blue/white train.

15:47 CET   
The eight leaders are still riding well together, still with Tankink on the back. They're in Lemberge. Nope, they've just gone past it.

15:50 CET    159km/42km to go
It's beginning to rain a little, which should make life enjoyable for the riders. The gap is still 21 seconds as the leaders pass through Melle en route to Laarne and more cobbles.

15:51 CET    160km/41km to go
Tankink looks back from his spot at the rear of the break. The bunch is coming, but it's not quite close enough yet. The rain is a bit harder as the leaders pass the Delirium Tremens beer factory (great name for a beer!).

15:52 CET    161km/40km to go
They exit the Brusselsesteenweg and ride over some light cobbles over the bridge over the Schelde. The gap is still 21 seconds. 20 now. 19. The chase is not quite as hard, as they want to time it right.

15:54 CET    162km/39km to go
This is a very dangerous part of the race, with traffic humps around wet corners. Argh! Quick.Step seems to have the leaders pegged, but there's still a bit of work to do to bring them back. Nuyens is the real locomotive in the chase, but he is getting help from Aldag (T-Mobile).

15:55 CET    163km/38km to go
It's now 14 seconds to the eight leaders. This long, flat finish has made it hard for the break. Also the fact that there is virtually no wind today. It looks to be over for the break as the steam has gone out of the Discovery boys' legs. It's still raining lightly.

15:57 CET    164km/37km to go
The peloton is almost on the break as it reaches Heusden. Just 10 seconds separates the blue/white Quick.Step train from the blue/white Discovery led break. Eki looks back - he knows they're doomed. The break sits up now. Will anyone counter?

15:58 CET    164km/37km to go
Well, what looked like a very dangerous move has ended with an attack by Philippe Gilbert. Bram Tankink (Quick.Step) closes the gap to the FDJ rider. The rest of the break is caught with 37 km left.

15:59 CET    165km/36km to go
Tankink, who has done a good job in saving Quick.Step's race from the front, is now glued to Gilbert's wheel as the counter attacks start. Now it's Leon van Bon (Lotto) who bridges the gap up to the two leaders.

16:01 CET    167km/34km to go
Discovery now goes on the defensive and it's none other than Ekimov, Hammond and Hincapie leading the chase in the peloton behind the three leaders. They want Van Heeswijk in a winning position. He could beat Boonen today.

The leaders have 12 seconds as they pass the Kasteel van Laarne. More cobbles. Very slippery ones (I hate these ones). Gilbert is dropped a bit.

16:02 CET    168km/33km to go
It's a Roger Hammond led chase over the cobbles in Laarne. He has Hincapie, Eki, Devolder and Van Heeswijk behind. And Boonen. And the rest of the peloton.

The leaders regroup and have 13 seconds as they exit the cobbles.

16:05 CET    170km/31km to go
It's now down to 9 seconds as the Discovery Channel boys wind it up on the flat roads. Tankink appears to be sitting on the other two, and that's not going to help their chances. Five Discovery Channel jerseys lead, with Hammond in front again.

16:06 CET    171km/30km to go
The break is swallowed up now, even as Tankink does a turn. The attacks will begin again unless Discovery continues to make the tempo. This is a dangerous section - lots of turns, all wet, some cobbles, bit of mud, but no snow.

16:07 CET   
Stijn Devolder's bare legs are pumping up and down as he surveys the peloton strung out behind him. With two teams interested in a bunch sprint (Quick.Step and Discovery), let's see what happens.

Hincapie attacks!!

16:08 CET    172km/29km to go
Hincapie gets a good 5m but Van Bon is there to mark him. He leads over the Krimineelstraat, a mere 350m.

16:10 CET    173km/28km to go
Hincapie eases up and Van Heeswijk accelerates. But that doesn't go far as they enter another sector. Steenbeekstraat (600m). Boonen is riding well, in third wheel. Rabo's Roy Sentjens is second.

Van Heeswijk takes the s-bend off the cobbles very gingerly. Now Sentjens attacks!

16:11 CET    174km/27km to go
Sentjens gets a bit of a gap as the Discovery and Quick.Step teams confer. They might let him go for a bit.

16:12 CET    175km/26km to go
Sentjens looks good as he drives away from the peloton, which has diminished in size after all these cobbles. Eki has the Disco train going again now, and that will be bad for Sentjens.

16:13 CET    175km/26km to go
It's over for Sentjens, just as he starts the 500m Berringstraat. Peloton in one long line.

16:14 CET    176km/25km to go
Sentjens exits the cobbles at the head of the peloton. Kevin Van Impe is last wheel, suffering to hang on.

Devolder attacks! Vierhouten and O'Grady and Boonen chase him down. Now Van Heeswijk, Kroon and Boonen counter. Interesting. No dice.

16:15 CET    177km/24km to go
O'Grady counters, with Den Bakker on his wheel. McEwen is coming back to them on the wheel of Hincapie. Gilbert is there again.

16:16 CET    178km/23km to go
Seven men clear: Den Bakker, O'Grady, Hincapie, Van Heeswijk, McEwen, Kirsipuu, Gilbert. Boonen is coming across by himself.

16:18 CET    179km/22km to go
Boonen drives at maximum, and makes it across. Huge effort, O'Grady didn't want that, but he had no choice. Eight leaders now with 22 km to go.

16:18 CET   
Boonen's arrival has spelled the end of the break, and the peloton comes back in bits. Hincapie leads over the next cobbles, the 700m Koningstraat.

16:20 CET    180km/21km to go
Hincapie continues to drive over the wet, slippery cobbles. He loves this weather. Van Heeswijk is there in fourth wheel behind O'Grady and Gilbert. The peloton is there, more or less. Probably less.

16:21 CET    181km/20km to go
Van Heeswijk takes over, looking great as he rides across a very muddy section of road. Den Bakker takes over, keeping the pressure on, then attacks. O'Grady is right on him and Boonen, who must be tired by now. But the Quick.Step man does a turn.

16:22 CET   
20 km to go and the peloton numbers 60 or so. Den Bakker leads again, then Hulsmans attacks half heartedly. Quick.Step might get its train going again to simmer things down. Boonen is doing too much.

16:23 CET    182km/19km to go
Quick.Step's Marc Lotz appears, while Steven De Jongh looks attentive. Ludo Dierckxsens attacks! He gets a gap as no-one reacts immediately. Lotto is chasing now.

16:24 CET    183km/18km to go
Kuyckx and Van Bon led the bunch behind Ludo Dierckxsens, who is on the 500m Keistraat now. Impressive riding through the corners.

16:26 CET    184km/17km to go
Ludo is caught now as he nearly hits a moto on the left. O'Grady counters - nice move, as the peloton is in bits. Van Heeswijk and Nuyens are in front of the peloton, but O'Grady keeps his head down and hammers. Now Hincapie, Boonen, De Jongh chasing him down.

Johan Coenen (MrBookamker) and Ludo Dierckxsens counter!

16:26 CET    185km/16km to go
Nuyens bridges up to the two leaders, taking the pressure off his team. They cross the bridge over the E17.

16:28 CET    185km/16km to go
The leaders are now on the 1300m Vogelzangstraat, a nasty sector of cobbles that is often decisive. Ludo has problems following. Rabobank's Den Bakker is leading the chase. Nuyens is solo now!

16:29 CET    186km/15km to go
Ludo and Coenen will be caught as Nuyens forges on alone. He has a good 10 seconds.

16:29 CET   
Nuyens continues to hammer over the cobbles. He is the sole leader now with Hincapie leading the peloton.

16:31 CET    187km/14km to go
Van Bon accelerates, but Boonen marks him. The pace slows. O'Grady moves up the side of the bunch again. Now it's Phonak's Uros Murn attacking. He doesn't get too far. Nuyens is still out in front.

Vierhouten takes over the chasing with Hincapie behind.

16:33 CET    189km/12km to go
Nuyens is looking quite good now, despite having worked so hard for his team earlier. He has 12 seconds and is right on the nose of the saddle.

Sentjens, De Jongh, Van Heeswijk and O'Grady try a counter, but it goes nowhere. Now Devolder goes, but De Jongh and Boonen get him back. And Wesemann - haven't seen much of him today.

16:33 CET    189km/12km to go
Boonen doesn't have to work with Nuyens up the road. But the others don't seem to realise it and just leave Devolder to do everything. Nuyens has 13 seconds.

16:35 CET    190km/11km to go
O'Grady does a turn with Van Bon and Hulsmans behind him. Kroon and Gilbert are in fourth and fifth.

Vasseur attacks!! Devolder goes after him, then Boonen and Den Bakker. All together. McEwen is lurking further down the bunch, in case it comes together for a sprint.

15 seconds to Nuyens with 11 km to go.

16:36 CET    191km/10km to go
Den Bakker is now working in front, but Boonen is right behind him. The race has fallen back into Quick.Step's favour again. Two Lottos are the front with Devolder.

16:37 CET    192km/9km to go
The gap is up to 18 seconds as McEwen is joined by Van Petegem at the rear of the peloton. There is some discussion. McEwen looks a bit miserable, as you do in this weather. But Mattan gives him a clap on the back and encourages him.

In front, their teammates are working hard to try and get Nuyens back. But the irrepressible Quick.Step man has 20 seconds!

16:38 CET    193km/8km to go
Now it's Hayman moving up for Rabobank, trying to set up De Jongh for a bunch sprint. 23 seconds with 8 km to go. Incredible riding by Nuyens.

16:39 CET    194km/7km to go
The peloton looks fairly organised as De Peet, Mattan, Van Bon, Den Bakker, Kroon, Hayman lead the chase. 24 seconds. There are some good sprinters back here: Boonen, McEwen, De Jongh, O'Grady, Van Heeswijk.

25 seconds with 7 km to go. Nuyens still looks great.

16:40 CET    195km/6km to go
Vierhouten buries himself on the front, then Hayman, Van Bon, Mattan and Van Petegem himself. Trying to get back Nick Nuyens, who is 28 seconds to the better with 6 km to go. More wet cobbles... They're nearing Lokeren now.

16:42 CET    196km/5km to go
Jimmy Casper has also moved up to the front of the peloton, which could be going for second place. Nuyens almost smiles as he realises that they're not getting him. 29 seconds with 6 km left. He's driving, taking all the corners with ease.

16:42 CET   
Vasseur and Kroon are leading the bunch, but Hulsmans is right there to mark them. Kroon attacks and gets a gap. 25 seconds.

16:44 CET    197km/4km to go
Nuyens has 4 km to go and has a nice 27 second lead over the peloton, which has caught Kroon. Hayman powers but he has Hulsmans on his wheel, the Quick.Step man not doing a turn. Then Hincapie, but he also finds Hulsmans and Tankink there. 32 seconds.

16:44 CET    198km/3km to go
Nick Nuyens is gritting his teeth in pain now as he gets to 3 km to go, but he has an incredible 32 second gap over the impotent peloton. Just stay on the bike!

16:46 CET    199km/2km to go
Mattan and Kroon take over the pace making but it's having zero effect. Van Bon, Hincapie are still up there, as is Casper. They're racing for second. Nuyens sees he has 31 seconds with 2 km to go. He's got this race in the bag.

16:46 CET   
The peloton looks miserable now as it realises that Nuyens is not coming back.

Thomas Voeckler attacks! Nope. Nice try though.

16:47 CET    200km/1km to go
Sentjens takes over the train for Rabobank, with De Jongh on his wheel and then Kirsipuu and Boonen. Up the road, Nuyens rides over the bridge into Lokeren. 1 km left. It's raining, appropriately.

16:48 CET   
Devolder attacks with 1 km to go to try for second place.

16:49 CET    201km/0km to go
Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step) keeps driving all the way up the finishing straight, disbelief on his face as he wins the Omloop Het Volk. What a fantastic ride. He is happy, and he should be!

Boonen completes the Quick.Step triumph by taking second in the bunch sprint, easily beating De Jongh (Rabobank). Eeckhout is fourth, but as he comes past Boonen he knocks him off his bike accidentally, trying to avoid a moto. But Boonen will be OK.

What a race of changing fortunes, but Nuyens really earned that one. Join us at the same bat-time tomorrow for live coverage of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, which is likely to be raced in even colder conditions than today.


1 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick.Step                     5.06.00
2 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step                         0.14
3 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Rabobank
4 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Chocolade Jacques - T Interim
5 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago
6 Uros Murn (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems
7 Roy Sentjens (Ned) Rabobank
8 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) Discovery Channel
9 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Rabobank
10 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Colnago

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