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17:20 - Thanks for joining us for today's action - and for the whole world championships programme in Limburg. What a ride today by Gilbert, who's come good when it mattered. Full road race results
0km - John Degenkolb took fourth and home favourite Lars Boom fifth.
0km - Philippe Gilbert is the new world champion! Edvald Boasson Hagen takes silver, four seconds down, and Alejandro Valverde the bronze.
0.2km - Gilbert starts to celebrate with 200m to go...
1km - Gilbert is under the banner and will win this one. What a performance!
1.5km - Gilbert is onto the flat section now atop the Cauberg. The rest are playing for second.
2km - Gilbert has a big gap now. Kolobnev leads the chase, with Valverde and Boasson Hagen...
2.2km - Boasson Hagen leads the chase, but Gilbert has a lead. Kolobnev is chasing down too. And Valverde.
2.5km - Nibali leads as Gilbert makes his move!
3km - We're onto the Cauberg for the final time!
3.2km - Nocentini and Marcato are being tailed off for Italy...
3.5km - Voeckler and Nibali still poised - and Degenkolb is a big danger man. No sign of Sagan, but he's there - but without team-mates.
4km - Now Gerrans is coming though on the right. Spain have a five-man train. They're onto the descent to the foot of the Cauberg.
5km - Stannard is protecting Tiernan-Locke on the left of the road. It's Italy and Belgium on the front.
5.5km - Simon Clarke is working so hard for Australia - and still Gerrans takes a back seat, just as he did in Milan-San Remo...
6km - It's all going to come down to the Cauberg as Contador drives the leading pack towards the top of the Bemelerberg.
6.5km - Contador now sets the pace on the front of the pack, which has 48 riders in it. Belgium are there in his wheel and ahead of the Spanish Armada.
7km - It's six hours in the saddle now as riders are blown off the back.
8km - Rodriguez has been so quiet all day - will he spring a surprise? Degenkolb looks to have fought back in here too. Sammy Sanchez is on the front on the Bemelerberg.
10km - We're nearing the Bemelerberg now. Not mentioned before, but Voeckler, Gatto, Sanchez and Moser are all here too.
12km - Clarke leads five Belgians round a tight bend towards the Bemelerberg. Big finale coming up.
14km - Simon Clarke of Australia moves to the front, with Belgium's Bjorn Leukemans on his wheel. Two Norwegians are here too - Boasson Hagen and Nordhaug. Boonen is here. Gerrans too. Both Martin and Roche are there for Ireland. Gilbert, Valverde, Gesink, Boom, Albasini, Uran, Freire, Contador, Davis, Paolini, Costa, de Kort, Sagan, Nibali, Rodriguez, van Avermaet and Tiernan-Locke... it's a strong group. About 40 riders still.
16km - ONE LAP TO GO!
16km - Dani Moreno crosses the line in pole position for Spain, with Greg Van Avermaet in his wheel, followed by Stefan Denifl and Thomas Voeckler. They have three seconds over the rest of the leading pack.
17km - Nibali continues to knock it on as Gilbert slows. It's all as one, but the peloton is very stretched out. We're down to about 45 riders in total now.
18km - Talansky is swept up, and then Stannard is caught. Nibail raises the tempo, with Gilbert, Valverde and Tiernan-Lock in hot pursuit.
18km - Valverde and Tiernan-Locke are both on the front of the pack as Stannard drops Talansky and rides off alone!
19km - Onto the Cauberg they go - and the gap is just a matter of seconds.
20km - Stannard and Talansky pass the Bemelerberg roundabout, pass under the kite and are about to hit the long downhill drag towards the base of the Cauberg.
21km - The two leaders have 14 seconds as they power into this strong side/headwind.
22km - Talansky and Stannard now have 12 seconds over the pack as they approach the circuit's lone windmill atop the Bemelerberg.
23km - Belgium's Gianni Meersman lead the peloton onto the Bemelerberg for the penulatimate time. Then an attack comes from Andrew Talansky of the USA. Ian Stannard of Britain chases it down. The duo have 4 seconds over the pack.
25km - Impressive stuff from Great Britain: they may have lost Cavendish, Wiggins, Froome and Dowsett, but the remaining five riders are all on the front. Stannard, Swift, Cummings and Rowe all work hard for their man Tiernan-Locke.
28km - It's the calm before the storm: following the coming back together of the race, things have quietened down a little. We're due a fascinating finale in Limburg.
32km - TWO LAPS TO GO: And there's a select peloton featuring most of the big guns: Van Avermaet, Haussler, Boonen, Freire, Degenkolb, Gesink, Sagan, Mollema, Tiernan-Locke, Rodriguez, Swift, Henao, Boasson Hagen, Nibali, Nocentini, Moser, Gerrans, Meersman, Contador, Gatto, Albasini, Voeckler, Gilbert, Boom, Chavanel, Costa, Uran, Valverde, Martin, Roche, Talansky, Nordhaug... are all there in this leading peloton.
33km - The whole race has blown apart on this ascent of the peloton. Voeckler, Contador and Tiernan-Locke are on the front, with Gesink thre too. But the break is absorbed by a select peloton just ahead of the finish zone.
34km - Contador puts in a big attack! Voeckler covers it, but the peloton is closing in.
35km - We're onto the Cauberg, and finally Coppel calls it a day. He's been burying it for Voeckler for the past hour or so and it will be a surprise if he finishes this race now. The gap is very small now as the attacks come in thick and fast.
36km - The gap is only 18 seconds now as the leaders power down the long drag towards the foot of the Cauberg.
37km - Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian winner of the Giro, is also chasing back following that crash. Sweden's Gustav Larsson too. The break has just 35 seconds now on the peloton.
39km - Coppel and Flecha leading the break on the Bemelerberg.
40km - There are numerous riders chasing back on in a large group following that crash on the last ascent of the Cauberg - including Laurens ten Dam and Niki Terpstra of the Netherlands, Slovenia's Janez Brajkovic and Dan Martin of Ireland.
42km - Alberto Contador is sitting on the back of the leading group, sandbagging with gusto.
45km - The leaders are: Coppel, Voeckler, Flecha, Tiernan-Locke, Meersman, Fuglsang, Marcato, Gesink, Albasini, Ulissi, Contador, Nocentini, Cummings, Leukemans, Anacona, De Kort and Howes. Four riders trail them by 25 seconds: Isaichev, Schar, Smukilis and Cataldo. Then we have the peloton at 48 seconds.
46km - Gerrans is sitting in the wheel of Sagan, who in turn is next to Valverde and Freire. The leading group is down to just 17 riders now.
48km - The gap back to the peloton with three kaps to go is 50 seconds.
49km - CRASH: Touch of wheels towards the back of the peloton sees a few riders go down and numerous riders held up, including Arthur Vichot of France. 20-odd riders caught out - it will be race over for them.
49km - Now Alejandro Valverde moves onto the front of the peloton, with Gilbert and Dan Martin (Ireland) and Steve Clarke (Australia) all there. There's still a very long way to go. Many of the leaders are being swept up: Bouet is the latest one as Germany lead the chase through Frohlinger and Gesche.
50km - Lastras goes big on the Cauberg before peeling off, his work for the day done. France's Maxime Bouet takes up the slack on the front, before Flecha moves into pole position with Voeckler on his wheel. Voeckler looks very calm. Britain's Tiernan-Locke is right there for Britain.
52km - The gap is 42 seconds over the top of the Bemelerberg. We missed it earlier, but time trial silber medallist Taylor Phinney has retired.
55km - Germany, Australia and Belgium combine on the front in a bid to reel in the leaders. Belgium have two men in the break, but neither Meersman nor Leukemans are their favoured riders. We're onto the Bemelerberg and the gap is 38 seconds.
58km - The leading group is down to 24 riders with Duggan, Ferrari, Buts and Firsanov all back with the peloton.
60km - Germany are now riding on the front - they have been very quiet so far today. John Degenkolb is their man - provided he can stick with the big guns on the final climb of the Cauberg.
64km - Uran leads the peloton over the line about 50 seconds down on the leading group. Both Sagan and Gilbert went back, leaving the Colombian a few bike lengths out in front. Four more laps to go.
65km - Uran, Gilbert and Sagan are leading the chase as the leading group approaches the finish zone. Some of the leaders are dropping back, including Duggan and Buts.
66km - Flecha and Contador up the tempo on the climb and the leading group is stretching out on the Cauberg. Back with the peloton, the likes of Gerrans and Uran are on the front. Yes, both Australia and Colombia go hard. Uran, Gilbert and Sagan are there. It's now or never, they think.
67km - So, four Italians in this leading group, three Spaniards, three Frenchmen, two Americans, two Brits, two Belgians, two Swiss and two Dutch. Some big names are hear - but none of the men we all had down to win today's race. We're approaching the Cauberg at the end of the sixth lap.
69km - The gap is up to 1:08 for the leading group and this could be very dangerous. Belgium and Australia need to combine to reel it in or it will be too late.
70km - Leading group in full: Contador, Flecha and Lastras (Spain), Cataldo, Marcato, Ulissi and Nocentini (Italy), Duggan and Howes (USA), Anacona (Colombia), Mezgec (Slovenia), Isaichev (Russia), Buts and Ferrari (Ukraine), Smukulis (Latvia), Cummings and Tiernan Locke (Britain), Meersman and Leukemans (Belgium), Matthews (Australia), Voeckler, Coppel and Bouet (France), Albasini and Schar (SwitzerlandI), Beppu (Japan), Fuglsang (Denmark), Gesink and de Kort (Netherlands).
72km - There's a small crash on the Bemelerberg in the peloton, which holds up some riders towards the back of the pack. One of them is Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic. The leaders have over a minute now. Full najmes coming up. Australia and Belgium are not happy with the race situation.
75km - Wiggins and Froome retire from the race, joining Cavendish and Dowsett on the sidelines for Great Britain.
78km - This is a massive leading group of around 30 riders, with Voeckler seemingly bossing things, barking orders to his two French team-mates and allowing the Spaniards to take the lead. Fascinating stuff. A full list of names coming right up.
80km - It's all come together on the front: the leading group has been caught by the chasing group and the Contador splinter group. They cross the line at the end of the fifth lap. Five more laps to go - and the gap is 28 seconds back to the peloton.
81km - Both Wiggins and Froome are off the back - that's their race over. It's now all in for Tienan-Locke for Britain.
82km - ATTACK: Gesink, Contador, Tiernan-Locke, Voeckler, Albasini and De Kort ping off the front!
83km - ATTACK: Smukulis of Latvia edges clear of the leaders at the start of the Cauberg. Meanwhile, the chasing group has almost been caught by the peloton.
84km - Dries Devenyns of Belgium cannot keep up with the pace and is off the back of the peloton. Laurens ten Dam is on the front for the Netherlands, suggesting he's not the main home hope. Who is? Boom? Terpstra? Gesink?!
85km - It's a lowland alliance as the Dutch and Belgians combine on the front of the peloton as the first drops of rain start to fall. Britain's Chris Froome is still right on the back of the pack, clearly struggling.
88km - The arm warmers are beginning to come off for many of the riders, including neo-pro Alex Howes in the leading group. Britain's Steve Cummings has folded his down to his wrists in the chasing group. The lead is down to just 1:27 for the first group, which is being trailed by the chasing group by 49 seconds at the top of the Bemelerberg.
90km - Luca Paolini is being dragged along by the Italian team car while he chats to national coach Paolo Bettini. He went back to change his sun glasses but is now talking tactics. It will be interesting to see what kind of plan Bettini has hatched. Meanwhile, the leading group is on the Bemelerberg on the sixth lap.
92km - The Dutch are moving forward alongside the Belgians now on the front of the peloton. Alex Dowsett of Britain has retired from the race. Earlier, we reported that Yukiya Arashiro had retired: not true, it's his Japanese team-mate Takashi Hatanaka.
94km - The Belgians are now back on the front. The gap is 1:45 for the leading 11-man group. In the chasing group, both Meersman and Matthews are taking on the back - neither of them are working particularly hard, probably because they're rooting for their men Boonen, Gilbert and Gerrans.
96km - Contador and Valverde are now near the front and chatting along conspiratorially, hands over mouths and laughing. Six more laps to go, and the race is gradually coming back together.
97km - Alberto Contador has a dig on the top of the Cauberg - excellent tactics by Spain, who already have men in both leading groups. As a result, Belgium lose position on the front of the peloton, which is now being led by two French riders and a Dutchman.
98km - Italy's Vincenzo Nibali is right on the front of the peloton on the Cauberg. He's kept a low profile today but will be one to watch later on.
100km - Back on the Cauberg and it's Winner Anacona who's a few bike lengths ahead of his fellow escapees.
102km - The leaders have 2:22 over the peloton and 1:35 over the chasing group. Meanwhile, Chris Froome is fighting back onto the back of the pack after an apparent mechanical.
104km - Meersman has not moved off the back in this chasing group, which is on the Bemelerberg. Both Boonen and Gilbert are near the front of the peloton, with Thomas Voeckler of France in their wheels.
105km - Cavendish is still riding along on his own. He's currently on the Cauberg after all that pace setting early on for Team GB. He crosses the finish line with an emotional look on his face - and then pulls up on the side of the road, his race over.
108km - Meersman is not contributing to the chase in the second group. He's aware that his Belgian team-mates are keen for this race to come back together. The Dutch, after a busy start, have been very quiet since the race started the laps of the Cauberg circuit.
112km - The chasing group of nine riders rolls through the finish 1:49 down on the leading 11-man break. The peloton passes over, led by Belgium, at 2:17. So that's 28 seconds for the chasing group.
113km - The peloton are onto the Cauberg now just as the leading 11 riders cross the finish area. Time checks coming up...
114km - The chasing group are now on the Cauberg, with Schar and Flecha on the front. Cummings won a stage in the Vuelta and could be an outside bet today.
115km - Belgium are clearly not happy with the situation: they obviously believe that Meersman is the wrong man to have in a break, hence the chase. Back with the leaders, Duggan is on the front on the Cauberg.
117km - The chasing group trails the leading group by 2:35 with the peloton another minute back.
118km - That's it, Mark Cavendish has had enough. The Manxman is off the back of the peloton and struggling up the Bemelerberg solo, milking the cheers from the crowds. The dynamic of the race has changed dramatically, with Belgian now doing all the pace setting on the front.
120km - So, that nine-man chasing group in full: Steve Cummings (Britain), Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain), Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy), Gianni Meersman (Belgium), Michael Matthews (Australia), Maxime Bouet (France), Michael Schar (SwitzerlandI), Femi Beppu (Japan) and Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark).
121km - Yukiya Arashiro has abandoned the race after that crash a bit earlier with Carlos Quintana. Bad luck for the Japanese rider. Martin Velits of Slovakia has also quit.
122km - Belgium have taken up the chase on the front of the pack - although they do have that man Meersman in the break.
123km - This nine-man chasing group has about 20 seconds on the eloton now. Nocentini, Meersman, Schar and Fulgsang are also here, alonside Cummings, Flecha, Beppu, Matthews and Bouet.
125km - Maxime Bouet of France bridged the gap to Flecha and Cummings first. Femi Beppu of Japan is there and Michael Matthews of Australia.
127km - CRASH: Towards the back of the peloton, Kuyika Arashiro and Carlos Quintana tangle in a heap but are back on their way.
127km - Juan Antonio Flecha and Steve Cummings up the pace on the front of the peloton - this is an interesting move. Seven or so riders are trying to bridge the gap. Flecha was the man who made the initial attack there.
128km - Gatis Smukilis of Latvia leads the leaders over the finish area ahead of the third or ten laps.
132km - The leaders are back onto the Cauberg for the third time. This is the end of the second lap. The gap is still the same, with no signs of it coming down yet.
135km - Remember that musette Lastras took on a few moments ago? Well, the Spaniard almost gets it caught up in his spokes while rubbing his legs with the empty sack. Crisis avoided.
136km - There's a side headwind on the Bemelerberg for the peloton, which has a Belgian on the front, the whole British team, and then the rest of the Belgian outfit.
138km - Some of the leading 11 riders take on musettes on the Bemelerberg climb, including Spain's Pablo Lastas. It's important to keep eating on such a long race. The gap is 4:15.
139km - Cavendish deserves a medal for his work today: the reigning champion is still on the front, despite knowing that he has no chance of winning today. A totally selfless display by Cav.
140km - Isaichev is almost back with the leaders. Back with the pack, Wiggins stops on the side of the road for a call of nature. Sean Kelly says he just took a moment outside the commentary box and he reports that the wind is increasing. There could well be a tailwind for the Cauberg, which will change the dynamic a little.
142km - The gap is 4:33 as the pack crosses the finish area. Nine mroe laps to go as riders re-stock on liquids and some solids.
143km - Cavendish grimaces as he leads the peloton onto the Cauberg at the end of the first lap. Froome is a few riders back.
144km - Vladimir Isaichev of Russia needs a front wheel change and it takes quite some time. He'll have a fight to get back on with the leaders.
146km - Cavendish is once again on the front of the chasing pack, pulling a series of funny faces. The latest is a full Thomas Voeckler-style tongue wag. The peloton is onto the long descent down to the foot of the Cauberg. The gap is around 4:30.
147km - The leaders are onto the Cauberg for the second time at the end of the first lap. It's Ukraine's Buts setting the tempo.
148km - Defending champion Mark Cavendish is still on the front of the peloton - and he almost has his head knocked off by a sign being held by a fan behind the barriers. He manages to duck but it still hits him on the helmet. A near miss there for Cav.
152km - PUNCTURE: Philippe Gilbert needs a rear wheel. No panic for the Belgian favourite, who has a team-mate waiting to ride him back to the bunch.
153km - The leaders are on the Bemelerberg Hill (900 metres with a maximum gradient of 7%). Back with the bunch, it's still Belgium and Team GB doing the pace setting.
155km - A reminder of the leading group: Pablo Lastras (Spain), Dario Cataldo (Italy), Timothy Duggan and Alex Howes (both USA), Jerome Coppel (France), Winner Anacona (Colombia), Luka Mezgec (Slovenia), Vladimir Isaichev (Russia), Vitaliy Buts and Fabricio Ferrari (both Ukraine), and Gatis Smukulis (Latvia).
158km - The peloton cross the finish area 5:10 down on the leading 11-man group. 10 laps to go now for everyone.
160km - The peloton is onto the Cauberg for the first time, with Belgium's Kevin de Weert leading and Britain's Bradley Wiggins in his wheel. Time check coming right up.
162km - The leaders cross the finish line for the first time: we now have 10 laps of a 16.1km circuit.
164km - Dario Cataldo, who won the brutal stage to Cuitu Negru in the Vuelta, leads the break up the Cauberg. The Italian is joining Sky next year.
166km - The leading 11-man group has hit the Cauberg for the first time ahead of the 10 laps. The crowds are pretty huge here on the Alpe d'Huez of Holland.
168km - Russia have six riders including the attacking pair Alexzandr Kolobnev and Eduard Vorganov. They also have Vladimir Isaichev in the break. Poland also have six riders, but no big threats. Japan duo Yukiya Arashiro and Femi Beppu are amongst their nation's six-man team. Ukraine have Andriy Grivko and Yaroslav Popovycvh in their seven-man team.
170km - Interestingly, the Dutch have now vanished from the front. Perhaps that was just to remind the peloton who's boss. Those splinter groups are trying to rejoin now. Back to our run-though the teams, Canada have four men, including Ryder Hesjedal and the in-form David Veilleux. Slovenia have seven, but no big names: Janez Brajkovic is off form and Boruz Bozic has had a troubled season without any wins.
172km - Now the Dutch have moved to the front as the pace increases considerably. The rear of the peloton is really struggling now, with clusters of riders being spat out the back. The orange army have really thrown down the hammer and we have multiple splits in the field now.
173km - There's no Fabian Cancellara in the six-man Swiss outfit. Their main man is probably Michael Albasini, although Oliver Zaugg won Lombardia last year and is a strong rider. Colombia have seven riders today, including Sky pair Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao. They have Winner Anacona in the break, while both Carlos Quintana and Carlos Betancur are solid prospects for the finish.
174km - Belgium are not contributing to the pace-setting alongside Team GB. They won't want the break to go out too much before the circuit race begins - and the gap is now approaching six minutes. In the break, Timothy Duggan is yet again eating.
175km - Germany have brought just seven riders to Limburg, deciding to leave behind pure sprinters Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel. Their man today is John Degenkolb, who won five stages in the Vuelta. He's okay over the climbs, but it would be a surprise to see him feature in the finish. Fabian Wegmann is good over the hills so he's an outsider should a break go during the laps.
176km - Slovakia have a six-man team, including two sets of brothers: the Velitses (twins Martin and Peter) and the Sagans (Peter and the lesser-known Juraj). Sagan junior (that's Peter) is one of the big favourites today - although he's been very quiet since taking three stage wins on his debut Tour de France.
177km - Portugal have just four riders in their team, but Rui Costa is certainly one to watch. The 25-year-old was third in Quebec recently, and won last year in Montreal. Norway have just three riders, but Sky pair Edvald Boasson Hagen and Lars Petter Nordhaug are real contenders. Boasson Hagen loves uphill finishes, while Nordhaug won in Montreal.
178km - The sun is out as the peloton plod through a wooded area in the Dutch province of Limburg. The leading group is still 5:40 up the road.
179km - Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, France and USA all have a full quota of nine riders in their teams. The States have no obvious candidates, but they have two men in the break, plus the experienced Chris Horner in their ranks. Young time trial specialists Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney are there, plus the promising Andrew Talansky.
180km - Australia have won a medal in the world championships for the past three years and they have Simon Gerrans, who is tipped by many for glory today. He's proven over such a long distance, having won Milan-San Remo earlier in the season, and he's in great form after his win in Quebec a fortnight ago. Heinrich Haussler is the team's option for a sprint, but it's really all about Gerrans.
181km - The Belgians have hot favourite Philippe Gilbert, although there's a growing sense that Tom Boonen may be their man. That said, Boonen has never ridden the Amstel Gold - the spring classic that takes in the Cauberg - and the accumulation of climbs may be too much for him. Greg van Avermaet is in form and should be watched closely. Gianni Meersman is also solid.
182km - Italy have a very inexperienced team for the most part. They will hope Vincenzo Nibali can keep up with the favourites on the climbs of the Cauberg, although the former Vuelta winner does lack the sprinting instinct of his main rivals. Moreno Moser is a dark horse, while Rinaldo Nocentini should be strong. Should it come to a sprint, Oscar Gatto is there man.
183km - The gap is over five minutes now as Team GB ride on the front of the pack with the entire French team tucked in behind. We've already looked at some of the big nations in this race - such as France, Britain, Spain and Holland - but let's take a look at some of the other teams who could make a ripple.
190km - Eurosport spoke to France's Thomas Voeckler this morning: "It's very difficult mentally doing the 10 laps. It will be tough on the Cauberg and the speeds will be high."
195km - Pint-sized Timothy Duggan is having a snack in the leading group. The American is wearing a Liquigas left arm warmer.
200km - The whole Dutch team is near the front of the pack. They sent numerous riders off the front early on, but they have no riders in the leading group. The have a handful of riders who could win today, including the likes of Lars Boom, Laurens Ten Dam and Niki Terpstra. For the time being, it's Mark Cavendish of Britain who leads the pack. The 27-year-old reigning champion knows his chances are very slim today, but he's honouring the rainbow jersey by putting in a big shift today. Chapeau.
205km - The leaders are onto another small climb as they pass through a small town. The gap is 4:38. Apologies - we had the kilometre count down 100 clicks for the past few entries, it has been updated now!
206km - Team GB, Colombia and the Dutch are all near the front of the peloton as the pace increases.
210km - NEWSFLASH: Slovenia's Matej Mohoric has just convincingly won the junior road race in a bunch sprint. He was about 10 bike lengths off the front of the pack after a wonderful surge of pace in Valkenburg. It caps a wonderful week for Mohoric, who won silver in the time trial last week too.
212km - The gap is up to four minutes for the leading 11-man group. Two Ukrainians and two Americans in this group. None of the riders here should be a threat to the big guns, though.
215km - NOTE: The kilometre count is a mere estimation and judged on the average speed because the host broadcaster is not providing any time checks. It will be easier to assess once we're onto the 10 laps of the 16.1km circuit but until then, we're just playing it by ear.
215km - The gap of the 11-man lead group is now two and a half minutes. They are: Lastras (Spain), Cataldo (Italy), Duggan and Howes (both USA), Coppel (France), Anacona (Colombia), Mezgec (Slovenia), Isaichev (Russia), Buts and Ferrari (both Ukraine), and Smukulis (Latvia).
216km - The leading group now has a minute over the bunch, which has slowed considerably while half the field have a pee stop. Colombia and Belgium are near the front, including the race favourite Philippe Gilbert, who is munching on something.
218km - Defending champion Mark Cavendish is right on the front doing domestique duties for Team GB. He would have got a lot of practice in this role during the past season at Sky. Cav is one of three former world champions in today's field, the other two are Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire. All of a sudden, half the peloton stop for a call of nature...
220km - Thomas Voeckler is near the front of the peloton surrounded by French team-mates. The attacking veteran is one of the dark horses for today's race. The route suits him perfectly and he's been training extra hard to be in contention today. Team GB are on the front of the pack too now.
221km - The two leaders have been joined by around 10 riders on the front, with a Dutch-French duo in pursuit. The pace slows again. It looks like there are two Americans in the leading group.
222km - Juan Antonio Flecha drops back to the Spanish team car to pick up water. The race is really breaking up, with a dozen riders off the front and others leaping clear to join them. Meanwhile, the Latvian-Ukrainian alliance continues up the road.
224km - On a short and sharp climb, the second Latvian-Ukrainian combo is swept up by the peloton. That will please confused commentators around the world. A small nine-man group has formed just ahead of the pack, with the two leaders - Vitaliy Buts and Gatis Smukulis - about 40 seconds up the road.
225km - Bizarrely, Latvia's second rider in this race, Aleksejs Saramotins, has joined Polidova in pursuit of the leaders. So we have two pairs of riders off the front, each pair containing a Latvian and a Ukrainian. Buts and Smukilis are 1:08 ahead of the peloton and 35 seconds ahead of Polivoda and Saramotins.
228km - The Ukraine team clearly had a big breakfast: Oleksandr Polivoda breaks clear of the pack in pursuit of his team-mate Buts and Latvia's Smukulis.
230km - Vitaliy Buts of Ukraine and Gatis Smukulis of Latvia are out ahead now. The duo have sparked a response by two dozen riders. The leaders pass a windmill with around 10 seconds on the pack.
232km - Last year's roar race in Copenhagen saw Mark Cavendish beat Matt Goss and Andre Greipel for the gold medal. While Cav is racing (merely in respect of the rainbow jersey, he says) both Greipel and Goss are not involved in this hilly race.
233km - It's attack after attack here in the Netherlands, with the packl really stretched out. Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins is still pedalling along comfortably on the back of the pack with his trademark sideburns on display.
235km - Stanislav Kozubek of the Czech Republic has pinged off the front, but he's reeled in just as the peloton reaches another roundabout with copious street furniture. There's lots of bunny hopping over kerbs and the like - but no one goes down, fortunately.
240km - The race is back as one after Roy and Lindeman were pegged back just around the same time as Freire hit the deck. Alejandro Valverde is near the back of the pack too. Runner-up in the Tour, he apparently fainted the other day in training - but it was apparently nothing serious.
243km - That's not the kind of start Freire envisioned today. The Spanish veteran could well be one to watch today - he loves the uphill sprints - and his experience could serve him well. Winner in 1999, 2001 and 2004, Freire is currently seeing his team car following that crash. The 36-year-old is getting an earful from the race organisers for drafting, which is a bit harsh, given what's just happened.
244km - CRASH: Oscar Freire, the triple world champion, crashes on the side of the road - luckily into the grass verge towards the back of the peloton. Ireland's Dan Martin was involved there, but he didn't go down. Freire has a torn jersey around his shoulder and some small cuts on his left knee.
245km - The peloton settles before a Spanish rider zips off the front in pursuit of the two leaders, Roy and Lindeman. Another Dutchman, Koen de Kort, is chasing down the Spaniard. Spain have a ridiculously strong team out there: the likes of Contador, Valverde, Freire, Moreno, Rodriguez, Sanchez are all there... and Lastras, Flecha and Castroviejo. Any one of those guys could win on their day.
250km - Four or five riders have joined Russia's Isaichev off the front fo the peloton, while Roy and Lindeman continue up the road. The peloton is very much stretched out, with Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins near the back. His Sky team-mate Christian Knees is signalling the German team car. The current pace is a fast 46 km/h.
255km - The Dutch rider who instigated that attack is Bertjan Lindeman and he was joined by France's Jeremy Roy. They're onto the first climb of the day, and it's a punchy cobbled number. Numerous riders are trying to ping off the front of the peloton - what an active start this is. Russia's Vladimir Isaichev opens up a small gap off the front in pursuit of the two leaders.
260km - There are 207 riders in this race - which should last more than six hours. The pack is currently rolling along besides a canal, just as a Dutch rider puts in a huge attack, followed by a Frenchman. The peloton allows the two riders to move ahead on this narrow stretch of road.
265km - It's a fairly active start, with numerous attacks on the front of the peloton - notably from the home Dutch team and the Americans. But it calms pretty quickly, with Team GB on the front now. Defending champion Mark Cavendish has discounted himself and says he will ride in support of Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, who recently won the Tour of Britain.
267km - They're off! The 2012 World Championships Men's Road Race is under way, starting with a 100km loop through the Dutch countryside...
09:50 - So, who are the favourites for the win today? Well, the hilly course favours the uphill sprinters, so everyone's talking about the likes of Philippe Gilbert, Alejandro Valverde, Peter Sagan and Simon Gerrans. Thomas Voeckler, Vincenzo Nibali, Joaquim Rodriguez, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Tom Boonen all stand a good chance too. Blog: Men's Road Race Preview
09:45 - The riders are readying themselves at the start in Maastricht. It's cloudy and pretty cold, with a temperature of just 10 degrees Celsius at the moment. No rain is scheduled - and we may even see a bit of sun.
09:40 - Today's route features a 100km loop around Limburg, featuring seven minor climbs, followed by 10 laps of a 16.5km circuit that includes the winding Bemelerberg hill and the famous make-or-break Cauberg, with its maximum gradient of 16%. The finish comes after a flat 1.7km run-in over the summit.
09:35 - Yesterday, Dutchwoman Marianne Vos ended a five-year drought with an emphatic victory in the women's world championships road race in front of an ecstatic home crowd in Valkenburg. Vos, the Olympic road race champion, put in a decisive attack on the final ascent of the legendary Cauberg climb to win her first world title since taking the gold medal as an amateur back in 2006. Report: Vos wins world road race on home soil
09:30 - Welcome to live coverage of the big one - the race we've all been waiting for... the 2012 World Championships elite men's road race: a 267km undulating circuit race through the province of Limburg in the Netherlands.