Question What about a fantasy cycling season

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Following Van Aert are his teammates Jansen and Teunissen, Stybar and Asgreen , O. Naesen and Vandenbergh, Van Baarle, Terpstra, Langeveld, S. Kragh, a surprising Viviani aaaaaand .... Van der Poel. The Dutchman was the only one from the original second group to make up enough positions to be on the good side of the split.
 
Oh the drama! Just before ending the section, a weird manoeuvre by Teunissen makes him crash, taking down Van der Poel and Vandenbergh with him. No one seems to be really hurt, but after the cobbles they end up being in a pursuiting group 15 seconds behind the others.
 
Chasing the ten men strong Van Aert group are now 20 riders. Trek missed the split completely and is working hard with Stuyven, Pedersen, Theuns and prodigy Simmons. Alpecin once again is in the defence and Vermeersch is doing everything he can for Van der Poel. Also still there are GVA, Vanmarcke, Politt, Sénéchal, Garcia, Durbridge, Roelandts, Teunissen, Hermans, Oss, Ganna, De Buyst, D. van Poppel and Stobro.

Merlier and Keukeleire were there too, but punctured unfortunately. Guys like Kristoff, Dillier, Rowe and Démare seem played out at this point. Vandenbergh meanwhile kept having mechanical issues following the crash and lost contact as well.
 
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Still cant see how Sagan is not in the group of favourites, what is the story?
He lost contact with the first part of the peloton when the bunch was split up by a crash approaching the Trouée d'Arenberg. Apparently, due to mechanical issues, he also missed out on the only successful chasing group led by MVDP & co and isn't having the best of days this race.

But don't worry, he'll win another green jersey in the TDF.
 
After the cobblestones to Sars-et-Rosières, with another 68 kms to go, most of the MVDP-GVA-group bridges the gap with the ten in front of them.

Right away, some make use of the temporarily ceasefire to go in the attack in search of the leaders: O. Naesen, Langeveld, S. Kragh, Asgreen, Garcia and world champion Pedersen. They catch up with those who had to let go of the leading group, which means the Naesen brothers are now pulling together. Wiszniowski drops back to aid GVA.
 
Situation with 65 kms to go:

Frison, Aranburu, Bodnar, Van Hooydonck, Kirsch, Thwaites, B. van Poppel & Backaert
<45">
O. Naesen, L. Naesen, Langeveld, S. Kragh, Asgreen, Pedersen, Van Asbroeck, Affini and Jacobs
<20">
Van Aert, Jansen, Teunissen, Stybar, Sénéchal, Van Baarle, Ganna, Stuyven, Theuns, Van der Poel, Vermeersch, Van Avermaet, Wiszniowski, Vanmarcke, Politt, Durbridge, Roelandts, Hermans, Oss, Terpstra, Viviani, De Buyst, D. van Poppel and Stobro
<40">
Group Kristoff-Vandenbergh
 
Crash by Terpstra, Ganna and Durbridge on the second Orchies section! Just when Vanmarcke put the pressure on with a serious counterattack, the three men misjudge a curve and smack down. It's fireworks in pursuit of the group with Naesen. 58 kilometres to go.
 
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Only Van Aert, Van Avermaet, Van der Poel, Stybar, Politt, Van Baarle, Oss and the surprising CX-riders Vermeersch and Hermans could avoid the crash and hang onto Vanmarcke. They are closing in on the group Naesen. Viviani, Sénéchal, Jansen, Stuyven, Roelandts and De Buyst are the ones to just miss out on the move and are losing ground.
 
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Auchy to Bersée, a 2,7 km long section with 52 kms to go, is the next dose of cobbles. The leaders, still eight guys, reach it with 20" on Naesen and co. They still hold a small margin over the chasers, but a merge is just moments away.
 
Thwaites seems the strongest among the early leaders. Backaert hangs on, the others are either done or waiting for what's coming from behind. That's certainly the case for Van Hooydonck, who still looks quite solid, but has Van Avermaet behind. He and his companions just joined the Naesen group, so we're going into the final with a selection of around 25 guys.
 
Coming up next is Mons-en-Pévèle, another legendary series of cobblestones. Thwaites and Backaert will reach them as the front of the race, but 15 seconds behind them is a hungry group of race favourites.

Situation with 47 km to go:

Backaert and Thwaites
<15">
O. Naesen, L. Naesen, Stybar, Asgreen, Van Avermaet, Van Hooydonck, Vanmarcke, Langeveld, Van der Poel, Vermeersch, Pedersen, Kirsch, Oss, Bodnar, Hermans, Van Poppel, S. Kragh, Politt, Van Baarle, Frison, Aranburu, Van Asbroeck, Affini and Jacobs
<40">
Terpstra, Viviani, Sénéchal, Jansen, Stuyven, Roelandts and De Buyst
<45">
Teunissen, Ballerini, Ganna, Rowe, Theuns, Boasson Hagen, Stokbro, Kristoff, Bystrom, Wallays, Vanspeybrouck, D. van Poppel, Démare, Sinkeldam, Edmondson, Durbridge, Vandenbergh, Ballerini, Merlier, Haussler, De Backer, Cullaigh and Siskevicius
 
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And they don't wait long to let all Hell break loose! After the last pull of Lawrence Naesen, it's big brother Oliver that puts the hammer down and makes an awful lot of teeth grit. Stybar, Van Aert and Van der Poel follow fast though.
 
Vanmarcke is able to get back and GVA, with the help of a really strong Van Hooydonck, manages to bridge too. Politt, Van Baarle, Langeveld, Garcia and the three Danes Asgreen, Pedersen and Kragh stay quite close as well.
 
Backaert and Thwaites are still riding strong but can't avoid being catched by the high speed train of race favourites. Van Hooydonck is now having difficulties hanging on, but what a brave ride by the young Belgian so far.
 
Pure horror for Van der Poel when he punctures just moments before the Mons-en-Pévèle is done! It seems he always has to overcome bad luck in his monument debuts. Thwaites, who was hanging on to the first group together with his early break companion Backaert, instantly pulls the breaks to give his wheel to his team leader, but they lose a bit of time in the struggle. Nerve-wracking situation for Alpecin-Fenix here.
 
So after Mons-en-Pévèle and the shortly following Avelin passage, our race leaders consist of the Belgians Backaert, Naesen, Van Aert, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke, the Danes Asgreen, Kragh and Pedersen, the Dutchmen Langeveld and Van Baarle, the Czech Stybar, the German Politt and the Spaniard Garcia. Deceuninck-Quickstep and Education First both have a pair in front.
 
Van der Poel fell back to the first pursuiting group and is not giving up. But the strongest riders are in the front of the race, with Van Hooydonck, Kirsch backing them up and most others lucky to be still there after a long day in the break. The Dutch rising star is getting some help from Oss and Bodnar, but needs to wait for the group with teammate Vermeersch and compatriot Terpstra who still has some fighting spirit left.
 
With less than 40 kms to go, the 13 in front have an advantage of 40 seconds on the group Van der Poel-Terpstra. Vermeersch is giving his all taking turns, but they aren't coming closer. They also aren't losing that much ground, because the cohesion in front isn't perfect. Thirteen seems a tiny bit too much. Besides Naesen, Van Avermaet and Garcia, the other solitary riders aren't fully committed. Some frustration surfaces.
 

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