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61st Omloop Het Volk - 1.HC

Belgium, February 25, 2006

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Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwe

Live report

Live coverage starts: 14:00 CET
Estimated finish: 17:00 CET

Moments before
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
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13:53 CET   
Welcome to a cold but sunny Gent for the 61st Omloop Het Volk, the much anticipated opening race of the Belgian season. The locals were out in force this morning, milling around the team bus and sign on area waiting for a glimpse of their heroes. It was nice weather for it too: temperatures a bit above zero celsius, a bitingly cold northeast wind...but blue skies and sunshine. That's better than last year, and definitely better than the snow of 2004!

On offer today are 202 km of racing through Flanders, starting in Gent outside the S.M.A.K. and finishing in Lokeren on Tweebruggenstraat, next to the Kawasaki dealer. The riders will have to negotiate 10 climbs, starting with the Kattenberg after 25 km, then the Oude Kwaremont (km 41), Hotondberg (km 44), Pottelberg (km 62), Muur (km 81), Valkenberg (km 100), Eikenberg (km 112), Leberg (km 121), Berendries (km 125) and Molenberg (km 138).

After the final climb, there are a series of cobbled sections to be negotiated in the final 30 km. The Vogelzangstraat (km 184) is the most feared, and often provides the springboard for a winning attack. But with 18 km of headwind to go, it's a hard task to hold off the peloton from there without rain to slow the bunch down.

As this race is so early in the season, it can be difficult to pick a winner. Obviously, everyone is looking at Tom Boonen, who was smiling and resplendent in his world champion's kit as he signed on this morning. "Fun, really fun this is," he said, noting all the attention he got before the start. "I needed a lot of time to get dressed; I've got that many clothes on!"

Nick Nuyens, last year's winner, was keeping a low profile as he started at the very back of the peloton. "Most important is that the team wins. We're in a luxury situation with this team, as we have a few guys who can win."

Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto) commented in his typical style on the pre-race war between Quickstep and Davitamon: "Everybody expects that those are the teams that are going to fight each other. Well, I think they're right," said the man who has won three Omloops.

"Boonen, Van Petegem, those are the names you hear. I'll ride my own race; for myself or for the team. If I looked at the competition all the time; it wouldn't work."

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
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14:15 CET    102km/100km to go
The story so far: Steven De Jongh (Quick.Step) didn't start today - he was replaced by Bram Tankink. Also Jaan Kirsipuu (CA) and Allan Johansen (CSC) didn't start.

After a few attacks in the first 10 km, it took until km 14 before the break of the day started. Ludovic Auger (Franšaise Des Jeux), Gregory Habeaux (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step), Geert Omloop (Unibet.Com), Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Michele Maccanti (LPR), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile), and Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r) escaped, and were chased by Walter Beneteau (Bouygues), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel), and Bram Tankink (Quick.Step).

The four joined the leaders after 21 km, and hit the Kattenberg with 1'10 over the peloton. Laszlo Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) tried to close the gap with Benoţt Joachim (Discovery). On the Oude Kwaremont, the leaders had 1'50 over the two chasers, and 3'10 over the peloton. Habeaux was dropped from the lead group on the Kwaremont, leaving 11 in front, and after 45 km, Bodrogi and Joachim went back to the peloton.

The gap grew to 6'12 after 48 km, but has been steadily falling since then. On the Muur, Boonen looked very strong, crossing in second or third place, some 2'38 behind the leaders. He punctured after 100 km, but is getting back to the peloton. The latest time check is 1'45.

14:18 CET   
The 11 leaders approach the Eikenberg with 1'56 over the main bunch. This is the seventh climb of the day, just three more to come.

Boonen is chasing back on with the help of Kevin Hulsmans.

14:20 CET   
Glenn D'Hollander is riding through his hometown today: "It always gives a special feeling when you can ride close to the people you know. The main problem is that Berlare is close to the finish line. So, I need to ride the final if I want to give a good impression to my relatives. Our team is doing very well in the early races. Nico Eeckhout is the team leader of Chocolade Jacques."

14:26 CET    105km/97km to go
The gap hovers at around 2 minutes, as Mondory has problems following the lead group on the Valkenberg. Next stop: Eikenberg.

14:29 CET    120km/82km to go
Quick.Step is in a good position in the race, with two riders in the break. Davitamon has no-one, but it's Chocolade Jacques doing the chasing at the moment.

They're now on the Haaghoek cobbles, with 1'56 over the bunch. Mondory is at 1'10.

14:31 CET    121km/81km to go
The leaders exit the Haaghoek, stage left, en route to the Leberg, the third last climb.

14:32 CET    122km/80km to go
The Leberg isn't such a hard climb - it's 600m long with a maximum of 13%, but an average of only 4%. They're at the top now, with Maccanti sitting last wheel. The two Quick.Steps are back there too.

Marc Wauters
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
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14:35 CET   
Marc Wauters is getting ready for his last season as a pro. "This will be my 16th season," he told Cyclingnews at the start. "I fell in the Ruta del Sol. But, the wounds have been healing well, they wont bother me in the race. There is only one race where I am the team leader and that is Paris-Roubaix. Today the leaders of Rabobank are Posthuma and also Hayman."

We also spoke to Rabobank's Graeme Brown. "It's my first time in Belgium," he said. How are you feeling? "Cold."

Brown is happy with his form of late, placing third behind Boonen and Petacchi in a few bunch sprints in Spain. "Yeah really good. They're a class above the rest, but hopefully one day I'll be fighting with them.

"Today is survival for me. I've never raced in Belgium. So they said 'we're not sure exactly what you can do. We know you've got good form but we can't put all our eggs in your basket.' For me, it's more or less see what I can do.

"If I'm there at the finish then obviously [a bunch sprint] is what we'll be targeting. But we're not putting any eggs in my basket until at the finish, and only if I am there and if it is a bunch sprint."

How about Matt Hayman? "He's going really good. He's good for me. I follow him at all the races."


14:36 CET    124km/78km to go
Mondory is caught by the work of Jacques, Milram, Discovery and Davitamon. The gap is still 2'10 to the leaders, but there's still 78 km to go.

14:38 CET    126km/76km to go
The leaders are on the penultimate climb, the Berendries. 10 left, with one of the Quick.Steps working in front with Albasini.

14:40 CET   
Albasini forces the pace as the peloton hits the foot of the Berendries, with Quick.Step in front and Tom Boonen very well placed.

14:40 CET   
Filip Meirhaeghe (Landbouwkrediet) is on the front of the bunch, leading Boonen. He's out of the saddle, but Boonen is comfy in the saddle.

14:41 CET   
The tempo is not full on, with Ludovic Capelle sitting second wheel now. Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile) attacks and gets a few seconds.

14:43 CET    128km/74km to go
Ivanov grinds to the top of the Berendries but is caught by a counter attack. There's a small split at the head of the peloton. It's 1'46 at the top.

For all you cyclo-tourists out there, the time for the Berendries was about 2'15-2'20. That's brisk for a 900m climb, but it's not Tour of Flanders speed. Hence, the bunch is still together.

14:44 CET   
Son of Claude, Mathieu Criquielion (Landbouwkrediet) is off the front now, chasing the 10 leaders at 1'29.

Baden Cooke (Unibet.com)
Photo ©: Jeff Jones
(Click for larger image)

14:45 CET   
Baden Cooke (Unibet) wasn't sure what to expect today: Obviously it's a very important race for my team," he said. "I've been sick this week but in the last two days I'm feeling much better. Maybe I've done not quite enough training but I feel quite good so I'm hoping for a little bit of luck today."

14:47 CET    131km/71km to go
The bunch strings out now as it heads to the Molenberg. This is a critical climb, but we could well see a compact peloton over the top. Criquielion is still away.

14:49 CET   
It's hard work up front as Coutouly does a turn. They hit a short section of cobbles in Rozebeke. The leaders: Ludovic Auger (Franšaise Des Jeux), Bram Tankink, Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step), Geert Omloop (Unibet.Com), Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Michele Maccanti (LPR), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues), Michael Albasini (Liquigas), Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel).

Criq is at 1'30, the peloton at 1'40.

14:51 CET   
Andreas Klier had an impressive season last year when he was always
riding up front in the Northern races. "I'm feeling very well," he said. "We, the
T-Mobile-team, are going to wait and see what happens. Hopefully we can be there when things happen."

14:52 CET    133km/69km to go
It's the very similar jerseys of Davitamon and Jacques working at the front of the peloton.

Crash behind: Ryder Hesjedal, in the Phonak colours. It doesn't look serious.

14:54 CET    134km/68km to go
Thierry Marichal (Jacques) pushes the pace on the main road, as the break speeds towards the Molenberg.

The bunch swarms along the road, avoiding the parked cars on the side. This is a very nervous part of the race. D'Hollander takes over.

14:54 CET   
Joost Posthuma is one of the race leaders in the Rabobank team: "Well,
we will see if that is a deserved role for me. With the wind in front,
I'll wait as long as I can. Eventually, everything is decided at the
last climbs and cobblestone sections."

14:56 CET    136km/66km to go
The break takes the right hander onto the Molenberg, with Marichal leading. It's only 300m, but very steep and nasty cobbles. Maccanti struggles at the back, as does Auger.

Van Impe and Marichal get a gap, then Albasini chases.

14:57 CET   
Criquielion is caught as the peloton sprints for the Molenberg. Boonen is near the front, as always. It's Leon Van Bon taking the turn first, smashing up the climb with Boonen in tow. They have a gap.

14:59 CET   
Van Bon gets to the top of the Molenberg and realises that he has Boonen for company. The rest of the bunch is another 10 seconds back. Van Bon looks back. Decisions, decisions...

14:59 CET   
Boonen obliges with a turn, but he's not working hard.

15:01 CET    139km/63km to go
Seven leaders now: Ludovic Auger (Franšaise Des Jeux), Kevin Van Impe (Quick.Step), Geert Omloop (Unibet.Com), Thierry Marichal (Cofidis), Michele Maccanti (LPR), Walter Beneteau (Bouygues), Michael Albasini (Liquigas). They have a gap on Bram Tankink (Quick.Step), Stephan Schreck (T-Mobile), andCedric Coutouly (Agritubel). Then at 1'10 is the Boonen, Van Bon duo, which will be caught by the bunch, it looks like.

15:02 CET   
Van Bon and Boonen sit up and see Leif Hoste come up, along with Steegmans and the front part of the peloton. Maybe 15 men there, with the next group not far behind.

15:03 CET    140km/62km to go
Albasini pushes the pace in the lead break again, getting some help from the team car. The Swiss rider is strong today.

15:04 CET   
Glenn d'Hollander (Jacques) is next to attack the peloton, trying to close the 1'20 gap to the leaders. The headwind makes it very difficult.

15:06 CET    142km/60km to go
D'Hollander is buffeted by the wind as he rides ahead of a group of 20 or so riders, where Boonen and McEwen sit. The Jacques rider is caught.

The leaders are now on the Paddenstraat. Marichal is back on the front with Van Impe in tow.

15:06 CET   
Maccanti surprisingly gets a gap on the break on the cobbles, as they switch from side to side, trying to find the dirt.

15:07 CET    143km/59km to go
The first three chasers: Tankink, Schreck and Coutouly, are caught by the bunch. Davitamon-Lotto is pushing the pace hard now, Steels, Mattan and Van Bon in front.

15:13 CET    144km/58km to go
Auger now takes a turn on the front of the break, with Van Impe coming through behind. Beneteau nearly takes himself out in a muddy ditch.

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) takes over on the front of the peloton.

Albasini punctures on the cobbles. Rather annoying.

15:15 CET    147km/55km to go
The peloton strings out again as the Paddestraat finishes. The gap is still 1'00 to the seven leaders. Another attack from d'Hollander...

15:15 CET   
The Jacques riders powers away into the headwind as a peloton of 40-50 chases him. It's 55 seconds to the seven leaders.

15:18 CET    150km/52km to go
D'Hollander is caught again as De Vocht (Davitamon) leads the chase.

Most of the riders are on their standard bikes today, with 32 hole spoked wheels (tubulars) for the cobbles. Not many teams are using carbon rims, CSC being an exception. Hmm, Matti Breschel (CSC) isn't. He's at the back of the peloton.

47 seconds to the leaders as they turn left towards Wetteren, now with the wind direct against them. Nico Mattan works hard on the front of the bunch.

15:19 CET   
Mattan mashes a big gear as he cuts the gap down to 42 seconds. Stijn Devolder (Discovery) has moved towards the front. He's a danger man.

15:20 CET   
A correction: Cedric Coutouly (Agritubel) is still in the front group.

15:22 CET    151km/51km to go
The pace set by Davitamon is slowly destroying the peloton, as riders fight for position out of the wind. McEwen and Devolder are up near the front, as is Boonen.

22 seconds to the leaders...20...

15:23 CET    152km/50km to go
30-35 riders are left in the front peloton, most of them hugging the left side of the bike path. This is not easy as the gap to the leaders comes down to 11 seconds. They're goooooone.

15:24 CET    153km/49km to go
It's all together with 50 km to go, Davitamon still leading the charge. The bunch is a little bit big, but Davitamon and Quick.Step will both want a bunch sprint for McEwen/Boonen, methinks.

15:25 CET   
It's a real fight for shelter as Davitamon tries to reduce the peloton over a high heat.

15:27 CET    155km/47km to go
Five or six Davitamons leading as they pass through the Oosterzele region, still on the main road. Soon they'll turn off and zig-zag a bit towards Lokeren.

Eeckhout and Hayman are trying to chase the peloton in a group of 10 or so. They're 17 seconds back and losing. Eeckhout is the only one riding with bare arms. Must be warm.

15:30 CET    157km/45km to go
Klier is also in the chasing group - not good for the T-Mobile captain. They're losing time to the main bunch, and it's 25 seconds now.

Some of the punch has gone out of the Davitamon tempo making, with just two men left. Pozzato is up there with Tom Boonen in his draft. The pace eases slightly.

15:32 CET    158km/44km to go
The Hayman/Michaelsen/Klier group regains the peloton, which now numbers about 50.

15:33 CET    159km/43km to go
They cross over the E40. No real opportunities to attack at the moment: into a headwind on a main road.

15:35 CET    160km/42km to go
Now the road starts to turn and twist, and immediately the attacks start. Staf Scheirlinckx, Pippo Pozzato, Maccanti(!) and a few others get a gap. But it's not much of one. They are joined by 10 riders.

15:36 CET   
Bert de Waele, who was in the Hayman/Eeckhout chasing group, has now reversed the situation and is attacking. He has Maccanti and Scheirlinckx on his wheel.

15:38 CET    162km/40km to go
It looks like 13 riders off the front, with the peloton at 10 seconds. Posthuma is up there for Rabobank, as well as a couple of Bouygues riders. De Vocht (Davitamon), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Maccanti (LPR), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mikhailov (Discovery) are all up there.

15:39 CET   
Correction: Posthuma is not there. Pozzato (Quick.Step), Hayman, De Maar (Rabobank), Barbe (Jacques), De Vocht (Davitamon), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Maccanti (LPR), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mikhailov (Discovery), Renier (Bouygues) are.

15:41 CET    164km/38km to go
The gap has grown to 37 seconds very quickly. The composition of the break: Pozzato (Quick.Step), Hayman, De Maar (Rabobank), Barbe (Jacques), De Vocht (Davitamon), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Maccanti (LPR), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mikhailov (Discovery), Flickinger, Renier (Bouygues), Scanlon (Ag2r), Serpellini (Unibet).

15:42 CET    165km/37km to go
T-Mobile is working on the front of the peloton now, with Klier working. The gap is 40 seconds. Quick.Step and Davitamon aren't really interested in chasing, as they have riders up there. 43 seconds!

15:44 CET    166km/36km to go
They cross the Schelde with T-Mobile driving the peloton, but only managing to contain the break, not bring it back. 45 seconds.

15:45 CET    167km/35km to go
One of the Bouygues riders gets a gap in front, but he sits up and waits. Scanlon pulls through for a turn, then De Maar and De Waele. The big form of Hayman is next. Both he and De Waele were in a chasing group before - how quickly things can turn in a race.

15:47 CET    168km/34km to go
T-Mobile is in a bit of a bind. It has no-one in the break, but if it brings it back together, then it has no sprinter. The plan looks to be to get Wesemann away somehow, as he is sitting last wheel in the train. All the rest: Burghardt, Ivanov, Klier, are working pretty hard. 40 seconds with 34 km to go. The cobbles will start again soon.

15:49 CET    169km/33km to go
We're in Laarne now, and a break of 13 riders is trying to steal Het Volk from under the favourites' noses. It could work, unless Quick.Step or Davitamon lend a hand to chase.

15:50 CET    170km/32km to go
Kudos to Maccanti, who has been in a break since km 14. He gets a Leffe for that.

15:52 CET    171km/31km to go
The leaders wind their way through the back roads of Laarne, with more muddy ditches to fall into if they don't take care. But it's quite dry today, and there's no real danger there. The gap goes up to 49, then comes down to 42 seconds.

15:54 CET    172km/30km to go
The first of the cobbled sections in the finale has started: the Krimineelstraat. De Vocht leads the way, the the break hangs together over the 400m of cobbles. Steegmans and Boonen lead the way in the peloton. Steegmans powers along, gapping Boonen.

15:54 CET   
Nice riding by Steegmans. But now Boonen comes through and does a turn. Be very afraid.

15:56 CET    173km/29km to go
Steegmans and Boonen tackle the Steenbeekstraat, with Boonen looking extremely good. They have 10 seconds on the peloton, and are 35 behind the leaders.

15:57 CET    174km/28km to go
Four or five riders are chasing Steegmans and Boonen, who are in full pursuit of the leading break. Now the Kleine Molenstraat, 250m, it's done. The chasers are just 25 seconds behind the leaders. Boonen is giving it gas, but Steegmans looks great too.

15:58 CET    175km/27km to go
There is general panic in the peloton. You don't let the world champion ride away with 30 km to go. The chasers can see a phalanx of motorbikes in front of them, and know that the leading break is near. They hit the Berringstraat.

16:01 CET    176km/26km to go
The leading break: Boonen, Pozzato (Quick.Step), De Vocht, Steegmans (Davitamon), Hayman, De Maar (Rabobank), Barbe (Jacques), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Maccanti (LPR), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Mikhailov (Discovery), Flickinger, Renier (Bouygues), Scanlon (Ag2r), Serpellini (Unibet).

Oh wait. Boonen attacks again, with Steegmans on his wheel. And Maccanti, Pozzato, Barbe, and the rest. Maccanti does a turn now.

Davitamon, Quick.Step and Rabobank each have two men in the front group.

More riders are chasing: Wesemann, Hammond, Gilbert, Posthuma...

16:02 CET    177km/25km to go
Hmm, a big bunch sprint looks unlikely.

Posthuma (Rabobank), Van Bon (Davitamon), Hammond (Discovery), Wesemann (T-Mobile), Gilbert (FDJ) are the chasers. But there are still 15 leaders, who are sort of working together.

16:04 CET    178km/24km to go
Pozzato does a big turn, then Steegmans comes past him like a train. Boonen is there, of course. They're trying to keep the pace up as the chase group closes the gap to the back of the break.

De Waele, Pozzato, De Vocht and one other have a gap on the break. Boonen is on his way up there too. No, he waits.

16:05 CET    179km/23km to go
Scanlon is the fourth rider in the front group as they take the Koningstraat. The Boonen group isn't far behind.

16:07 CET    180km/22km to go
The four leaders have 10 seconds on the Boonen group as they exit Koningstraat.

The peloton is well out of it: 1'55. No win for McEwen and Van Petegem today.

16:09 CET    182km/20km to go
It's 13 seconds now, as the chase group hesitates. Renier is trying to get across on his own, followed by Gilbert. Boonen waits - he's a bit outnumbered now. Serpellini, Van Bon, Boonen, Steegmans, Flickinger are next. Then a gap to the rest. Thor Hushovd is up there too.

16:11 CET    183km/19km to go
The leaders hit Heistraat with 27 seconds. It's only 500m, but bad cobbles.

Gilbert and Renier are close to the four leaders.

Hayman has been dropped from the chase group. Maccanti too, as he crashes. Well, sort of. He ends up sitting on the back of a motorbike. Mikhailov is dropped.

16:13 CET    184km/18km to go
The situation: Pozzato (Quick.Step), De Vocht (Davitamon), Scanlon (Ag2r), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet) lead Gilbert by 12 seconds. Then Boonen (Quick.Step), Steegmans, Van Bon (Davitamon), Hushovd (Credit Agricole), De Maar, Posthuma (Rabobank), Barbe (Jacques), Hammond (Discovery), Wesemann (T-Mobile) a few seconds back.

16:15 CET    185km/17km to go
The final cobbled section, the Vogelzangstraat, begins. Gilbert is within 10 seconds and closing. Five seconds. He's fighting through the motorbikes, and now has a clear run. They're tantalisingly out of reach.

16:17 CET    186km/16km to go
Scanlon is dropped and passed by Gilbert, who is in the hunt for the three leaders.

Van Bon, Boonen, Steegmans, Hushovd and Wesemann lead the charge behind, at 15 seconds.

16:18 CET    188km/14km to go
Scanlon fights hard to stay away from the Boonen group, but he's in fifth position in the race. Still three leaders, but Gilbert is coming up to them at last. De Vocht, Pozzato, and De Waele.

Steegmans counters, with Boonen on his wheel. And the rest. They sit up.

16:20 CET    189km/13km to go
Van Bon counters next, and Boonen has to let him go. Van Bon has a gap and catches Scanlon. Koen Barbe goes after them now. 16 seconds to the four leaders.

Maccanti has rejoined the Boonen group after his crash - nice work.

16:21 CET   
Hammond goes after Van Bon, then Maccanti attacks! Boonen counters and brings the rest with him. He's heavily marked.

16:22 CET    190km/12km to go
It's looking like a seven man sprint, as Van Bon, Barbe and Scanlon close the gap to the four leaders: Pozzato (Quick.Step), De Vocht (Davitamon), De Waele (Landbouwkrediet), Gilbert (FDJ). 29 seconds back to the Boonen group.

16:24 CET    191km/11km to go
The chase group is now: Boonen (Quick.Step), Steegmans, Hushovd (Credit Agricole), De Maar, Posthuma (Rabobank), Serpellini (Unibet), Hammond (Discovery), Wesemann (T-Mobile), Maccanti (LPR), Renier, Flickinger, (Bouygues), Scheirlinckx (Cofidis). They're 33 seconds behind the seven leaders, who have just over 10 km to go.

Boonen shouldn't be too concerned, as Pozzato is a very fast sprinter too. Van Bon could be the danger man.

16:25 CET    192km/10km to go
Gilbert attacks again, with Pozzato, De Vocht and De Waele chasing him. It's a hard attack. De Vocht can't close the gap, but De Waele can. The rest do as well, and Van Bon counters. Nice. Pippo has to react.

16:27 CET    194km/8km to go
The attack gets rid of De Vocht and Scanlon. Five leaders now, with Van Bon, Pozzato, De Waele, Gilbert and Barbe. The Boonen group is probably out of it now.

Gilbert counters, and the rest chase.

16:29 CET    195km/7km to go
Philippe Gilbert is on his own now, riding hard to the finish. 7 km left, as the four chasers work out what to do. It's not hard to work it out. It is hard to chase down Gilbert. It's seven seconds.

16:30 CET    196km/6km to go
The cooperation isn't fantastic, as Gilbert keeps increasing his gap. It's nine seconds now. Pozzato comes through for a turn with Van Bon on his wheel. 11 seconds.

16:31 CET    197km/5km to go
The gap gets bigger as Gilbert hammers along towards the finish. 13 seconds. Wilfried Peeters shouts at Pozzato to ride a bit faster. So easy is it.

The Boonen group is now at 1'19.

16:33 CET   
It comes down to 10 seconds as Gilbert suffers. 12 seconds. He's giving it everything and still looks powerful on the bike.

16:34 CET    199km/3km to go
Ah, now it's up to 18 seconds. Gilbert will not be caught now unless he does something very silly or punctures.

Gilbert pushes it even more, and it's 20 seconds to the beaten chasers. Pozzato, Barbe, Van Bon and De Waele are fighting for second place.

16:35 CET    200km/2km to go
Gilbert puts his head down as he fights the wind with 3 km to go. The chase behind is still a little disorganised, and it continues to lose ground to the Walloon. 28 seconds.

As Nuyens did last year, Philippe Gilbert will win Het Volk solo. Finally, he gets some tailwind.

16:37 CET    201km/1km to go
Gilbert cranks it up with the wind behind, and sets his sights on the road ahead. He can sense victory now. Ooops - nearly runs into a team car. He rides over the small bridge into Lokeren.

De Waele attacks the chasers, who don't let him go.

16:38 CET    202km/0km to go
Gilbert has destroyed everyone today. He goes under the 1 km to go banner, over the second bridge, and has a clear, wide road in front of him as he enters Lokeren.

Van Bon keeps an eye on the chasers, with Pozzato following.

And now, Gilbert gets a big cheer from the crowds at the finish as he rides over the final 500m to win the 61st Omloop Het Volk. Awesome ride, and well deserved victory.

16:41 CET   
Bert De Waele finishes second with a nicely timed late attack. Van Bon takes third ahead of Barbe and Pozzato. No success for Quick.Step today.

16:47 CET   
And so ends the 61st Omloop Het Volk, with a non-Flemish rider winning. The last time that happened was in 2001 with Michele Bartoli, and before that in 1999 with Frank Vandenbroucke. Philippe Gilbert was definitely the best today though. He closed the gap to the three leaders on his own, then attacked repeatedly until he got away solo. The gap at the end was nearly 40 seconds!

We'll be back tomorrow of course with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and you can also follow the Tour of California on live.cyclingnews.com. Tot straks!

Results

Provisional
1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux     5.08.32
2 Bert De Waele (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago      0.38
3 Leon van Bon (Ned) Davitamon-Lotto               0.48
4 Koen Barbe (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
5 Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Quick.Step
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
7 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank
8 Franck Renier (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Wim De Vocht (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
10 Michele Maccanti (Ita) LPR