We're coming to you LIVE! on OLN, 2pm west coast time, with the Tour of Flanders. It's raining and grey in Brugge, but despite being 9 hours ahead it's still plenty light enough for today's action.
I've got my sandwich, a bottle of Leffe, my miles are done, Phil and Paul are reunited, and thanks to daylight savings the boy just went down for his nap. Could I be having a better day? Ah, nope.
The riders have rolled out, let's catch up.
2:11 -- They're over the Paterberg, and we've already got one casualty, Discovery's Roger Hammond who might miss the rest of his beloved classics. Sun's out though...
2:12 -- all QSI on the front, although Bettini clearly things someone else belongs on the front. Average cadence on the Paterberg looks about 50 or so. There's a small group up the road 2.41', but the TV feed doesn't care enough to even show us a glimpse. Koppenberg in 5 miles...
2:17 -- Paul's interviewing Hincapie, although he's really just broadcasting his analysis at him. Hincapie's patient. Now I know why they hired Gary Imlach.
2:18 -- leaders hit the Koppenberg. It's dry, so nobody's walking yet. Boonen hits the front as the pack starts up, and starts to get a gap, if only for survival. He swerves around a wobbly drunken tourist in a FDJeux kit.. no wait, that's someone from the early break. Most of the pack has started walking. What a sight!
2:23 -- what's amazing to see is that these guys clearly have very little experience walking with their bikes. They look incredibly awkward. It's borderline humiliation for this proud, strong lot. Kind of unnecessary, really.
2:28 -- 67km to go, Klier on the front, Boonen, Van P, Hincapie and Hoste are all together. A Juan Flecha sighting too! Not sure if Ballan's around, or if Boonen has much protection besides the potentially backstabbing Bettini... My preferred outcome is now 1. Hincapie; 2. Flecha; 3. Van P.; 4. Boonen; 236. Bettini.
2:30 -- OLN is pitching Paris-Roubaix as "Clash of the Contenders" -- contenders for what? Paris-Roubaix? The Tour? Nobody knows.
2:32 -- Pozzato and Baguet are there for QSI, a veritable U.N. Multinational effort on Boonen's behalf.
2:34 -- Phil says something nice about the crowd's behavior. Belgian police confirm that nobody has smashed a beer bottle over any riders yet. The Eikenberg is a pimple compared to the Koppenberg. Zabel and Hushovd are stalking the leaders.
2:37 -- Zabel and Hushovd make it on! Petacchi is long gone, having kept his appointment with oblivion today.
2:43 -- The front group hits the only flat surface in the race. Lampre are there, presumably Ballan, so nothing's been sorted out at all yet. Pippo is in charge, definitely paying back his leader for San Remo.
2:49 -- Baguet has paid his dues, looks cooked. QSI are doing a Postal, controlling the front with body after body. Does this work in the Ronde the way it does in the Alpes, or are Hincapie and Hoste getting a free ride?
2:53 -- Just to remind us what OLN is really about, there's an ultimate fighting championships ad featuring guys with fangs. Also, Bill Dance wants me to take my family to Tennessee to go bass fishing. Tennessee is very pretty, at least until I have to look at Bill Dance.
2:55 -- Phil interviews Boonen, though he's yet to ask anyone a question. We're at 38km, and running out of climbs. Looks like the Muur is where it will happen. Boonen is having a nice chat with Bettini, looking impossibly relaxed.
3:04 -- American update, a weekly feature. Nobody will say why Leipheimer droppedout of Coppi e Bartali, it's like a state secret. Up the Valkenberg, a mere 8% climb.
3:06 -- Hoste jumps! Boonen glides on with ease. No reaction just yet, including by Hincapie. Cancellara tries to bridge. Dangerous situation with only 32km to go.
3:13 -- Hoste and Boonen are alone on the Tenbosse, 45" ahead. Klier jumps, Hincapie responds, it's not over yet.
3:16 -- it's pretty much over. The gap is close to a minute, and Hoste has as much chance in a two-up sprint as I do. Given Hincapie's inactivity though, Hoste's move looks like a smart one.
3:21 -- 20km to go, the Muur approaches, and the peloton girds for the third-place battle. To say nothing of the world wrestlemania XXII championships, also coming soon.
3:27 -- They're on the Muur, both Hoste and Boonen look cool. Hoste's not trying anything foolish just yet. You never know, Boonen could drop a chain in the sprint.
3:30 -- Is that Drew passed out on the chapel lawn? Must be... Hincapie hits the gas, but they've only shaken off Roberto Petito.
3:37 -- The pack inches over the Bosberg, 1'44" back. Phil throws in a gratuitous Merckx comparison regarding Boonen's style. This is good news, in that we're done talking about Boonen as the next Museeuw.
3:42 -- 5km to go. Phil likes Hoste's chances. He's been in TV for a while and knows better than to state the obvious. Paul dumps cold water on him.
3:50 -- 2km now (ignore my time stamps), the jockeying begins...
3:54 -- Fun sprint, more talking than riding before the inevitable. Boonen wins the Ronde, wearing the rainbow jersey, bathed in sunshine, congratulated by the King. He's having an even better day than me.
3:56 -- And it's a Discovery sandwich on the podium! Great tactics by Hincapie.
Well, that's all for today. Sage will be up any minute now, and it's on to Gent-Wevelgem. See you any minute now.