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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

72nd La Flèche Wallonne - 1.HC

Belgium, April 23, 2008

Complete live report

Live commentary by Bjorn Haake and Hedwig Kröner

12:53 CEST   
Hello and welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage. Today, we are heading into the Ardennes and the riders wanting to take the Flèche Wallonne will not only have to conquer 199.5 kilometres, but also struggle up the Mur de Huy. It's short and steep – up to 25 percent! Even a big group at the bottom will mean riders coming in one by one at the top.

13:18 CEST   
The defending champion is Davide Rebellin. He actually won twice here. In 2004 he did the incredible triple of Amstel, Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Then he won at the Mur de Huy again in 2007. With his fourth place in Amstel the Italian is showing he will also be a force to reckon with today. But with Fränk Schleck, Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego, the podium places of Amstel may have a final word, too.

13:20 CEST    80km/119.5km to go
There were several breakaway attempts, but currently the field is all together. We have covered about 80 kilometres so far. Still 120 to go...

13:27 CEST   
Jelle Vanendert (Française des Jeux) said before the start that "My legs feel good." But he was honest enough that he wasn't sure if he could win today. "I don't know," was his reply. He was the best-placed Belgian last year, finishing 13th.

13:31 CEST   
The first attack today came after 12 kilometres. It was Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road), Alexander Serov (Tinkoff Credit Systems) and Steven Kleynen (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner). But it did not last very long, only a few kilometres, and the gap was not much more than 10 seconds.

The next event was a crash, at kilometre 37. This led to the abandon of three riders. Marco Marzano (Lampre), Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and Christophe Laurent (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30).

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

13:34 CEST   
Cadel Evans is back in the action. The Australian talked to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes a few days ago.

13:38 CEST   
The average speed in the first hour was 47.7 km/h! No wonder a break couldn't get off the front.

13:41 CEST    97.5km/102km to go
The peloton just made it up the the Mur for the second time and the peloton broke up on the climb. Currently, there is a big group maybe a good dozen riders on the front. They have almost two minutes on the rest.

13:45 CEST   
The group's rhythm is breaking up a bit, as two riders are arguing about taking turns. Jason Donald (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30) and Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) have been dropped from that front group.

Barloworld and Lampre is leading the peloton. Caisse is taking turns, too.

13:47 CEST    101.5km/98km to go
Donald and Bouet are still in-between the front and the peloton. The leaders have increased their lead over the peloton to 2'35. The dangling duo is only 25 seconds ahead of the bunch.

13:51 CEST   
It is another nice day here in Belgium.

The break consists of the following riders: Andrea Moletta and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Alexandr Kolobnev, Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Volodymyr Bileka and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road) and Huub Duyn (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30)

13:56 CEST   
CSC has three riders in the break, with Alexandr Kolobnev, Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen. That will give them a lot of options and the break indeed is being attacked right now. A FdJ, CSC and Gerolsteiner are off the front.

13:56 CEST   
Gregor Brown talked with Andy Schleck of Team CSC at the start. He commented on the Amstel Gold Race, "It was a hard day, we worked a lot. We had a nice result and Fränk did not miss a lot to win; he was the strongest. We all gave 100 percent, how it should be.

"I did good training before I came and I think that on Sunday I was there until... I worked a lot the whole day. I think for Sunday [at Liège-Bastogne-Liège] it will be good."

We talked last month, at the Tirreno-Adriatico, and he was aiming at the Ardennes Classics. "I expected to be it to be a bit better. I crashed in País Vasco, and then I had problems with my hands, my Achilles. I had to take a little break after that."

Schleck made the escape group of 18, as he predicted. "Today, you never know. If there is group going, we have a good team. Everyone in the team has a chance. I don't think the Huy will decide the race." You will have to go with an escape? "Yeah."

13:58 CEST    107.5km/92km to go
The CSC rider in the front group is Kolobnev. Mourey and Moletta are the other two.

The group behind has split up into two.

14:01 CEST    111.5km/88km to go
The three leaders have not much of a lead and in fact now the second group is coming up. The lead has increased to 2'52.

14:03 CEST    112.5km/87km to go
And it is all back together at the front. Everybody is pulling through nicely and the pace stays high. No need to attack already.

Gilbert is in the position he wanted to be in. He said beforehand that "the Mur is too hard for me." He didn't think he had a chance if all the favourites get to the bottom together.

14:07 CEST   
Andy Schleck is taking over from Gilbert at the front. But all the pulls are fairly short right now. The group keeps the pace nice and smooth.

The two Gerolsteiners are at the back of the group. One of them is Markus Fothen. His younger brother, Thomas , is currently racing in the Tour de Georgia.

14:09 CEST   
Caisse is pulling the peloton and the gap is slightly being reduced, to 2'35. Barloworld is also up there and Cofidis has Demaret to do the work as well.

14:09 CEST   
The Amstel Gold "was good for me, it was the first time I finished that race," noted Italy's Marco Pinotti (High Road) to Gregor Brown at the race start in Charleroi. "It was very nervous, but I felt good and I was able to finish the final. Of course, I could not be with the top, but it was good training. We had some good teamwork. It was good for me, in light of my goal in the Giro d'Italia."

'Pino' is in the escape of the day, though he will back team-captain Kim Kirchen if needed. "Today, it is Kim Kirchen. He is in good form and has good morale after his two wins in País Vasco. I think for today and Sunday [at Liège-Bastogne-Liège] he will be better. He will have more days after País Vasco; he will have fresh legs."

14:10 CEST    118.5km/81km to go
Gilbert is on the front again, not content to just sit in. The road is slightly downhill and the break has a tremendous speed.

14:11 CEST   
An update form the women's race: They are about 30 kilometres from the finish, with three more climbs to go. The peloton is all together.

14:12 CEST   
"I am calm. It is a race of 200 kilometres, and I feel I can express myself better on the longer races, like Liège-Bastogne-Liège," said Amstel Gold winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) to Gregor Brown at the start in Charleroi.

"I race always to win, but I will also want to save something for Sunday [in Liège-Bastogne-Liège]. I will give it full concentration today and then I will have three days of training and recover, and then we will see in Liège."

14:15 CEST    120.5km/79km to go
Moletta is looking good. He had a horrific crash last year in Milano-Sanremo, but has made a speedy recovery. The docs told him his season was over, but he came back late last year and also raced in Milano-Sanremo this year.

The gap is further reduced to 2'07. It probably doesn't help that once in a while somebody doesn't pull through and leaves a gap in the middle.

In the mean time, Ronny Scholz went back to the team car to collect some Gerolsteiner water for his team-mates.

14:18 CEST    124.5km/75km to go
We are close to Evelette and another dozen kilometres away from the next of the côte. The pace over the small Belgian country roads is quick. With a bit of the dirt on the road from the farming that us done around here, the riders have to be careful in the corners.

The gap has dropped below the two-minute mark.

We see Leonardo Bertagnolli at he back. The Liquigas rider crashed earlier and his shorts are ripped open on the left, revealing a bloody thigh.

14:20 CEST   
A Lotto soigneur is on the side of the road, handing out bottles. A Caisse rider storms by and indicates he wants that bottle. A quick hesitation by the soigneur, as the jersey doesn't match, but then he hands it off. Fairplay at its finest!

Current race situation

  • Andrea Moletta and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Alexandr Kolobnev, Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Volodymyr Bileka and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road) and Huub Duyn (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30)
  • Peloton 1.37

14:22 CEST   
The break is still together, with Andrea Moletta and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Alexandr Kolobnev, Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Volodymyr Bileka and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road) and Huub Duyn (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30)

They take up a lot of space, and one of the organiser's cars is trying to squeeze by on the left. They make it, but just about!

14:22 CEST   
"I am going better," confirmed Spain's Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) to Gregor Brown. "I was sick after the Tour of Flanders and in País Vasco I had to stop on the third day due to a fever. I got back on the bike on Monday, after five days of not riding. Afterwards, I trained for 10 solid days, good, but... The problem for me was the trip from Flanders and then the first day in País Vasco, which was cold. I arrived late at the hotel late, and the day after my body was not feeling well."

It is the fourth time to race the Flèche Wallonne for Barredo; last year, he went with the move on the penultimate climb of Côte de Ahin.

"Today, it will be difficult," he continued. "I will see and build for Sunday at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I just came off 10 days of training, so I will use very little force today, ride to the arrival in Huy. I think that it will be difficult for me to try anything today."

Quick Step will likely work for Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step). "I hope I go better today," said Italian Champion Visconti. "The distance was a factor for me at the Amstel Gold because I have done little racing recently. I hope today will be better."

"Today, it is less nervous, but the last 70 kilometres are always nervous here. I will wait for the last kilometres and see how it unfolds."

14:25 CEST    129.5km/70km to go
Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott) shows a gigantic tattoo on his right leg. He wears the unusual number 40. Usually, numbers end in one through eight. Maybe he was a last minute addition.

A couple of Euskaltel riders are struggling at the back of the peloton, which is really strung out now. The gap is only 90 seconds now.

14:27 CEST   
It is Pinotti at the front again. He has been very active in this break, but he is the only High Road rider in the break. Teams like Lotto, CSC and FdJ have two or three riders and will try to dictate the tactics.

14:28 CEST    131.5km/68km to go
But now we are approaching the Côte de Peu d'Eau. No tactics, as it's uphill. May the strongest be ahead. The Gerolsteiner duo is the one setting the pace at the lower slopes.

14:30 CEST    132.5km/67km to go
The break is strung out, as they are still about a good km form the top. Pinotti again, who drives hard.

14:31 CEST   
In the peloton it is still Barloworld and Caisse who drive the pace, as the Lampre rider pulls off. Fothen and Mourey set the pace in the break. The gap has not decreased further, it is at 1'36.

14:33 CEST    135.5km/64km to go
Jurgen Van Den Broeck sits on the back of a break to take a breather.

John-Lee Augustyn (Barloworld) and Oscar Pereiro Sio (Caisse d'Epargne) are riding temp on the front of the peloton.

The front made it over the top as a single entity.

14:33 CEST   
"I am doing well," stated David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle - H30) to Gregor Brown in Charleroi this morning. "I am enjoying the time here, enjoying the weather". I was happy with Amstel Gold. I am here to get the kilometres in and it is going well. The A-team is not here, we are just building for the Giro d'Italia."

After battling the Mur de Huy, the Millar will head to Spain with the team for training. "I am looking forward to the race. I think it will arrive in the big group. I have only done this race once, I really don't do these races normally but this year it was stuck in as a build up to the Giro. From here, the team goes to Gerona for team time trial training."

14:35 CEST   
The peloton's pace has picked up again as they enjoy one of the wider roads in the area. There are trees to the left and the right. The break has already passed that point and the flat fields to the left and the right offer no protection against the winds.

14:35 CEST   
"We have a good team here, with Rebellin," German Champion Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) said to Gregor Brown at the start. "We have three guys who can win this race; I will have my space," he continued, including himself and Stefan Schumacher.

"I will train for Sunday here in Belgium for Liège-Bastogne-Liège. We will try the new climb. I enjoy these Ardennes Classics."

14:37 CEST    138.5km/61km to go
There is a small gap again in the front group, as one rider didn't pull through correctly. But the echelon is restored, as they take a sweeping left, passing a farm with its old house sitting right at the bend.

14:39 CEST    139.5km/60km to go
We are now at the Côte de Haut-Bois. An average of 5.4%, but the max is 13%. Mourey and Sørensen are at the front. The CSC rider turns around and checks. Van Den Broeck is coming up, so the Dane lets the Belgian get into the pace line on the climb.

Current race situation

  • Andrea Moletta and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Alexandr Kolobnev, Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Volodymyr Bileka and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road) and Huub Duyn (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30)
  • Peloton 1.07

14:42 CEST    140.5km/59km to go
The gap is now shrinking again, as the peloton picks up the pace. The leaders have barely over a minute.

It is starting to rain! This could be a nasty finish.

14:43 CEST   
Crash in the peloton! David Lopez of Caisse and Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Euskaltel - Euskadi) are down.

14:45 CEST    141.5km/58km to go
Probably the roads that are now moist have caused trouble.

In the front, Sørensen couldn't keep up or had team orders to drop back. He is now replaced by Johann Tschopp.

14:46 CEST   
Cunego is close to the front of the peloton and removing his sun glasses. He won't need them anymore, as there is definitely no sun anywhere near the riders. But the Italian is struggling, trying to figure out where to put it. He opts for the back of the jersey.

14:48 CEST    145.5km/54km to go
Oh boy, it is really coming down now! Soak time. The street is completely wet and the riders will have to be careful with the centre lines in the middle of the road.

The gap has dropped to 51 seconds. Van Den Broeck is one of the few who still has arm warmers on. Good for him!

14:49 CEST   
The water is spraying off the wheels. Not a nice time to ride behind someone. Atrocious conditions here in the Ardennes, as we head to the next climb.

The women will likely also get wet, but we currently don't have any info on their race.

14:52 CEST    148.5km/51km to go
Addy Engels doesn't look too happy with the weather. Who could blame him. But it is always the FdJ and Lotto jerseys on the front, who don't seem to mind. Or maybe they just want to get it over and done with.

Cofidis is leading the peloton through the same nasty rain that the break is conquering, a good 30 seconds ahead of the big bunch.

14:53 CEST   
That's it for Huub Duyn, as the break is approaching the Côte de Thon.

14:54 CEST   
Surprise! Gilbert, who has put his shades on the front of his helmet, is also struggling. Two CSC riders and a Lotto are off the front.

14:55 CEST   
It looks as if Andy Schleck crossed the top first, ahead of the Lotto rider and Nicki Sørensen.

14:58 CEST   
The Lotto rider is indeed Van Den Broeck. The riders are fighting through the horrible rain.

The women had it much better. Their race is over and it ended in dry conditions. The top three were close together as they fought up the Mur. Marianne Vos outdid Marta Bastianelli and Judith Arndt.

14:59 CEST    151.5km/48km to go
The leading's trio attack has stretched the gap again, to 50 seconds over the peloton.

15:01 CEST   
Behind the leaders the break is falling apart as each of them is trying to catch the front end. Pinotti goes, followed by Martens of Rabobank.

15:01 CEST    155.5km/44km to go
Three riders are getting their act together and move up to the leaders.

Immediate attack by Efimkin!

15:02 CEST   
Schleck catches him and looks at him like saying "Dude, let's work together!"

15:03 CEST   

Current race situation

  • Andy Schleck and Nicki Sørensen (Team CSC), Paul Martens (Rabobank), Marco Pinotti (Team High Road), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Chasers at 0.15 (Andrea Moletta and Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), Vicente Garcia Acosta (Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Fernandez De La Puebla Ramos (Saunier Duval - Scott), Alexandr Kolobnev (CSC), Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Francis Mourey (Française des Jeux), Rémi Pauriol (Crédit Agricole), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Volodymyr Bileka and and Huub Duyn (Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30))
  • Peloton at 0.51

15:04 CEST   
Stefan Schumacher is in the main bunch, looking dirty.

And another big crash!

15:05 CEST   
Looks like Jonathan Patrick Mc Carty hit the deck pretty hard, as well as a High Road rider.

15:05 CEST    157.5km/42km to go
The front riders are struggling up the Côte de Bonneville, with 42km remaining.

15:06 CEST   
There are puddles on both sides of the road. It is still raining very hard. Schleck is leading the pace of the six man on the front.

15:06 CEST   
The rest of the group that once was together is still on the uphill, indicating a good gap. The leaders are already over the top.

15:08 CEST    158.5km/41km to go
Gilbert has had enough. He puts on a vest and zips it up. Looks like he prefers to stay well protected.

The break is sitting up, while Sørensen gets angry at a motorbike that passed very closely, at high speed. That's dangerous, with the slippery roads.

15:10 CEST   
The groups merge again. CSC has decided that it's better to keep it together and try to keep the peloton at bay.

The riders take a left in Bonneville. Efimkin is off the front again, but the rest catches up. The peloton is still a half minute back.

15:11 CEST    160.5km/39km to go
And who goes again? Yes, Efimkin! He is followed by Pinotti, but the others aren't exactly sleeping.

These attacks will interrupt the rhythm. The gap is too small (20 secs) and the finish too far (39km) as this would make sense right now.

15:12 CEST   
But Efimkin goes again, this time taking Sørensen with him. Van Den Broeck is chasing behind.

15:14 CEST   
The peloton is very close now, but Efimkin and Sørensen managed to jump off just in time. Going through a small village, they use the winding road to get out of sight.

15:15 CEST   
Efimkin is now gapping Sørensen, while Van Den Broeck is still chasing, about 10 seconds behind the leading duo.

15:17 CEST    164.5km/35km to go
The Lotto rider has a hard time closing the gap, as the front runners look very strong. They pass a small forested area and Efimkin is still leading.

Entering Andenne, they have to negotiate the corners carefully, with the wet ped crossings adding additional dangers.

15:19 CEST   
Engels has caught Van Den Broeck. Maybe the two of them can catch the leaders. The gap is down to nine seconds. Sørensen has taken over, as he leads Efimkin through a roundabout, passing it on the right, counter clock wise.

15:20 CEST    196.5km/3km to go
Côte de Bohissau! Nicki Sørensen leads Efimkin now, as the chasers are getting very close. They can see them just ahead, as the road makes a left.

15:21 CEST   
Et voila, the junction is made on the lower slopes of the climb. The peloton is 26 seconds back.

15:23 CEST   
Efimkin looks incredibly strong.

The peloton is still led by Cofidis and Caisse. We can't make out the Barloworld riders anymore.

A lot of the riders at the backend are getting shelled, as the peloton makes it up the climb.

15:24 CEST    168.5km/31km to go
The peloton enters a forest and an immediate attack by Maxime Monfort!

15:24 CEST   
Aussie champ Matthew Lloyd leaves the bunch as well!

15:25 CEST   
Monfort passes the 30km to go sign. He is desperately close to the front.

15:26 CEST   
And Monfort makes it up to the break. The road is uphill and we see Lloyd with his Aussie champ jersey coming up behind as well.

15:28 CEST    170.5km/29km to go
Lloyd rides for the Silence-Lotto team.

Andry Grivko (Team Milram) attacks out of the peloton. He also wants to make the break. He is only 16 seconds behind, but of course, not far ahead of the peloton.

Righi of Lampre also tries to bridge.

15:29 CEST   
Grivko has made it, while Righi is still caught in the middle. It is still raining , but looks like a little less now.

15:30 CEST   
We see Frank Schleck (Team CSC) at the back of the peloton, biding his time. He would want to improve on his runner up spot from Sunday.

15:32 CEST   
The gap has increased again and the peloton is at 30 seconds. Will the move stay away? We have Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicki Sørensen (CSC), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Silence - Lotto), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Maxime Montfort (Cofidis), Matt Lloyd (Lotto) and Andriy Grivko (Milram) on the front.

15:33 CEST   
The group has swelled, with Righi making it as well as a Landbouwkrediet rider.

15:35 CEST    175.5km/24km to go
Grivko has attacked the front group! He powers along, getting a little help from the motorbikes, which can't get out of the way quick enough! It looks treacherous the way the Ukrainian goes through the turns.

15:36 CEST   
Lampre is now trying to get the peloton organised. Grivko's move could pay off if they don't pay attention. The gap is up again, 43 seconds now.

15:36 CEST   
Current race situation

  • Andriy Grivko (Milram)
  • Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale), Nicki Sørensen (CSC), Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank), Daniele Righi (Lampre), Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Matt Lloyd (Silence - Lotto), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet) at 0.10
  • Peloton at 0.43

15:38 CEST    178.5km/21km to go
Grivko looks extremely strong right now, as he powers over a flat stretch of road. It looks very slippery, with new pavement. He has a bit of wind protection from the forest.

15:39 CEST    179.5km/20km to go
Grivko makes it carefully around a left hand turn. Not slipping now is the parole of the minute. He passes the 20km to go sign.

15:40 CEST    181.5km/18km to go
The chasers behind also have to be careful with the wet road. Quite a few turns now. Grivko has 27 seconds and 45 over the peloton.

15:42 CEST   
A lone spectator on a yellow plastic rain jacket waves, as the Ukrainian makes it past her at tremendous speed, barely noticing the fan. His jersey is swaying from the wins. Sun glasses on and the bars grabbed at the bottom he pedals along.

15:44 CEST    183.5km/16km to go
A fan is out on the road, waiting for the riders to come by. He must have gotten pretty wet himself and better can appreciate what the riders went through. It looks as if it's clearing up a bit, as the chasers are trying to get a pace line back together.

Grivko powers a huge gear.

15:45 CEST    184.5km/15km to go
It is always the same teams at the front of the peloton, with Cofidis and Caisse d'Epargne. Evans is also sitting in there, as is Popovych.

15:47 CEST    186.5km/13km to go
Grivko is hitting the Côte de Ahin. The next to last cote.

15:49 CEST   
The chasers have been gobbles up by what's left of the peloton. But riders are dropping like flies. Monfort is the next to say good-bye and leave the bunch in the wrong direction.

Grivko is still ahead and still looking good, pedaling up with a good cadence.

15:50 CEST   
Gustav Larsson-Erik (Team CSC) attacks out of the peloton. His jersey may have once looked white, but it is more like grey now.

15:51 CEST    187.5km/12km to go
A spectator waves a FdJ flag and doesn't even glance at Larsson. A few brave fans are out with umbrellas.

An Euskaltel rider and probably and Agritubel are trying to join the Swede, but it is tough.

15:52 CEST    188.5km/11km to go
Wegmann has caught up with Larsson. There is no more info in Grivko and it looks like he was caught before the top.

Larsson leads Wegmann over the top.

15:54 CEST    190.5km/9km to go
Visconti and Brandt are sitting in the bunch, while one rider cannot be stopped today: Alexander Efimkin attacked the peloton again and in no time has caught the leaders. They have a good 100m.

15:55 CEST   
Lampre is pulling at the front, with Paolo Tiralongo.

15:56 CEST    191.5km/8km to go
The three at the front work well together, as they negotiate a left hand turn. They are in Ronheville now. The gap is 13 seconds - not enough for the Mur.

15:57 CEST    192.5km/7km to go
Efimkin takes over from Wegmann. The latter also looks a tad dirty. His white German Champ outfit doesn't come in handy in conditions like this. The back of his shirts is completely black.

15:58 CEST   
Larsson gets aero on the high-speed descent. It looks crazy! Hopefully he can control his machine.

15:59 CEST    193.5km/6km to go
Uh, A right turn on the road and the break has to brake. Then on to the sharp left, almost U-turn.

And there it happened! Larsson crashed, while trying to brake for the super sharp left.

16:00 CEST   
Wegmann was leading and Efimkin now has to chase, as he was slowed down by Larsson's mishap.

Wegmann holds his left thigh. Does he have cramps already?

16:01 CEST    195.5km/4km to go
Efimkin has the bars on the top, while the German grabs them on the bottom.

16:01 CEST   
The gap is six seconds - not much and Efimkin can make that up on the climb.

16:02 CEST    196.5km/3km to go
The peloton is 24 seconds back, Efimkin still five, as the two are doing a pursuit race.

16:03 CEST    197.5km/2km to go
Both are now grabbing the bars at the brake levers, pushing huge gears and trying to get as much as possible of an advantage before the hill.

16:03 CEST   
Efimkin can't reduce the gap for now. The peloton is still back almost half a minute.

16:04 CEST    198.5km/1km to go
Wegmann passes the flamme rouge!

16:04 CEST   
Efimkin gets closer on the lower slopes. The peloton chases furiously.

16:05 CEST   
Wegmann turns around and sees Efimkin. Around the bend and the peloton is right there, too.

16:05 CEST   
Rebellin sits good on the front part of the remaining peloton.

16:05 CEST   
Wegmann out of the saddle. Efimkin has been caught.

16:06 CEST   
Now Wegmann is gone, too. The peloton gets to the really steep part. Evans looks good! The Aussie is leading the bunch.

16:06 CEST   
And Kirchen takes over, but looks like he is suffering.

16:07 CEST   
Evans is trying to mount a comeback.

16:07 CEST   
Kirchen struggling, but Evans can't get closer.

16:08 CEST   
And Kirchen makes it! Evans led maybe too early and Kirchen timed his attack perfectly! Great victory for the Luxemburger! And Evans can be happy with his second place.

16:08 CEST   
The top 5 are:

1 Kim Kirchen (High Road) 2 Cadel Evans (Lotto) 3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre 4 Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 5 Thomas Dekker (Rabobank)

16:17 CEST   
Cunego had another great race, finishing third, while Davide Rebellin also showed that he is a strong man. His sixth place today may not be a victory, but showed that he is up there.

Thanks for joining us on this wet day in Belgium and check out our full results, report and photos later today. See you on Sunday for Liège-Bastogne-Liège.


1 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team High Road
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto
3 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
5 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank
6 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner
7 Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas
8 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) Barloworld
10 John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale