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“I am happy to be on the podium again. One week ago in my crash I had thoughts that my spring season might be over, and I did not know at first how I would feel here. Kristoff had a great TT, and I have to be satisfied with second."

Photo: Trek Factory Racing






02.04.2015 @ 18:57 Posted by Andy Pedersen

It all came down to a 14.2-kilometer individual time trial to decide the final general classification at the Three Days of De Panne. A few hours earlier in stage 3a - a relatively short but quick 111-kilometer jaunt – Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) had padded his lead in the overall with another six seconds by winning his third successive stage.


Kristoff now led Stijn Devolder by 22 seconds, and only 10 seconds separated second place from fifth. Devolder knew he had to give a monstrous effort in the time trial to stay on the podium, and an unbelievable one to knock off Kristoff. By the midway time check, Kristoff and Devolder were neck and neck and it was evident Kristoff would hold his leader’s jersey barring any incident.


But Devolder needed to keep the accelerator pressed with third place a mere second behind, and fourth place at four seconds – the fight was still on for the final two podium steps. Danny van Poppel set an early benchmark until teammate Jesse Sergent came through minutes later. When Devolder zoomed over the line the clock flashed an incredible time of 18:08 (46.985 km/h) and he had easily clinched second overall.  It was the fifth best time of the day.


“I am happy to be on the podium again,” said Devolder to the “One week ago in my crash I had thoughts that my spring season might be over, and I did not know at first how I would feel here. Kristoff had a great TT, and I have to be satisfied with second. But the credit is all to my teammates, they did so much for me every race to protect me, and for them I was able to finish second today. This gives me confidence again; I am ready and looking forward to Sunday.”


Kristoff finished 59 seconds later to top Devolder’s time by one second, enough testimony after three stage wins and a third place today to prove he was more than worthy of the overall crown. More importantly, [Sergent] was able to set crucial time references for Devolder – even in an individual effort the teamwork still shines through.


Well before the final riders rolled off the start ramp to duel for the final podium, Jesse Sergent set a blistering fast time; he raised the bar high and it would take over an hour before someone topped it. Sergent was the 17th rider to start the technical race against the clock and he crossed the line in 18:17 (46.6 km/h) to finish in sixth place for the stage.  More importantly, he was able to set crucial time references for Devolder – even in an individual effort the teamwork still shines through.


“I followed Jesse and asked him to start fast to have good time references,” explained Demol. “Stijn lost some time in the technical part at the end, he lost 9 seconds on Jesse, that was not enough to take the overall, but perhaps he could be third in the TT.  It has always been like that for Stijn, he is not the best on the TT bike in the turns, but in the straights he was powerful and had a good style on the bike; it’s a long time since I have seen Stijn riding this well.”


In the end, World Champion Bradley Wiggins crushed everyone to take the time trial victory with a winning time of 17:49 (47.82 km/h) and it launched him from 26th place onto the third and final podium step.


In the morning Trek Factory Racing had lined up for the final hurdle ahead of the decisive time trial. They were down to five men with the non-start of Jasper Stuyven as he begins to prepare for the Tour of Flanders Sunday, but the four workhorses that remained were fully dedicated to the task at hand in the final road race of the Three Days of De Panne. Danny van Poppel once again threw aside any ambition of mixing it up in a sprint finish to join Hayden Roulston, Gregory Rast, and Jesse Sergent in controlling the fast race.


The team accomplished its job in bringing Stijn Devolder to the finish safely and held the breakaway in check, perhaps at times too well, explained director Dirk Demol about stage 3a:


“This morning our tactic was the same as yesterday. I just told the four guys to please take care of Stijn and bring him safe to the finish so he stays the same in the GC. And maybe they were a little too energized; I had to pull up next to them in the peloton a few times to tell them to slow down a little bit because there was a breakaway and we wanted them to take the bonus seconds at the finish.  But anyways, you cannot stop a peloton that’s chasing, and Kristoff again took the six seconds.


“Twenty-two seconds was a lot and in the end Kristoff was outstanding and it did not matter – it was the best time trial he ever did I heard. Stijn also did a very good TT, and he showed that he is in top form for Sunday.


“He will absolutely be the leader Sunday, followed closely by Jasper [Stuyven] and I also think Roulston and Rast will do a good Tour of Flanders. I can say that we have more confidence than a few days ago.”



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