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With a long, powerful sprint, Kristoff easily held off Viviani and Archbold to win the second stage of the Driedaagse van de Panne in a bunch sprint; the Norwegian also extended his overall lead

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/B.Bade








01.04.2015 @ 18:05 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) continued his domination of the Driedaagse van de Panne when he took a hugely convincing sprint win in stage 2 of the three-day race. The Norwegian launched a long sprint from the second position and easily held off Elia Viviani (Sky) and Shane Archbold (Bora-Argon 18) to make it two in a row and extend his overall lead over Stijn Devolder (Trek) to 16 seconds.


Yesterday Alexander Kristoff proved that his climbing legs are ready for the Tour of Flanders when he went on the attack to win stage 1 of the Driedaagse van De Panne. Today he showed that he is also ready to sprint in the Belgian monument when he took what almost looked like an easy sprint win in second stage of the race.


On a day that was marked by strong headwind, Kristoff used his very strong Katusha team to keep a 12-rider break under control and he was never in any kind of trouble when the peloton split in the crosswinds. After the Kemmelberg, a 50-rider main group had formed but the Norwegian was perfectly surrounded by several teammates.


The windy conditions were expected to create some drama but it never turned out to be a selective race and instead more riders rejoined from behind to form a peloton of more than 100 riders. They brought back the final escapees with 3km to go and then all was set for a big bunch sprint in Koksijde.


Sky, Lampre-Merida and Katusha dominated the finale and it was the Italian team that was working on the front with Nelson Oliveira inside the final 5km. When the break was caught, Katusha took over with Alexandr Porsev, Luca Paolini, Jacopo Guarnieri and Kristoff but they lost the battle to Sky when they entered the final turns.


Bernhard Eisel, Bradley Wiggins, Andrew Fenn and Elia Viviani strung the peloton out while Paolini, Guarnieri and Kristoff worked hard to keep their position. With less than 2km to go, Wiggins took over and he took a massive turn to lead the peloton under the flamme rouge.


When the 2012 Tour winner swung off, things got confusing as FDJ tried to launch their lead-out for Arnaud Demare. Matthieu Ladagnous hit the front but he had lost his sprinter in the chaos and instead he had Guarnieri, Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Kristoff on his wheel.


Guarnieri did his lead-out before Modolo and Kristoff started their sprints at the same time. While the Italian drifted backwards, the Norwegian powered clear and even though he did his best to pass him, Viviani never got any closer before rolling across the line in second. Shane Archbold confirmed his sprinting progress by taking third.


With the win, Kristoff extended his overall lead and as Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) got dropped in the crosswinds, his nearest rival is now Stijn Devolder who is 16 seconds behind. He takes that lead into a busy Thursday where he will first tackle a flat sprint stage in the morning before the race will be decided in the 14.4km afternoon time trial.


Gent-Wevelgem terrain

After the exciting and windy opening stage, more wind was forecasted for stage 2 which broght the riders over 217.2km from yesterday’s finish in Zottegem back to the coast and a finish Koksijde. After a flat first half, the riders tackled the well-known Mesenberg, Monteberg, Kemmelberg, Rodeberg and Vidaigneberg at the mid-point before they turned into a crosswind to head to the coast. The race ended with the riders doing 3 laps of a flat 12.9km finishing circuit in Koksijde.


With Boy Van Poppel (Trek) being the only non-starter, the riders took the start under a rainy sky and they headed straight into a fierce headwind as they went back towards the coast where they had started the race 24 hours earlier. One could expect that it would have a discouraging effect on the riders but they actually got the race off to an animated start with many attacks.


A big break gets clear

After the opening aggression, the elastic snapped and it was a surprisingly big group that was allowed to get clear. Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Nick Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka), Martin Mortensen (Cult), Amaury Capiot (Topsport Vlaanderen), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Argon 18), Tim De Troyer (Wanty), Mattia Pozzo (Southeast), Mirko Tedeschi (Southeast), Gerry Druyts (Vastgoedservice), Michael Vingerling (3M) and Jonathan Dufrasne (Wallonie) were the 12 riders that built an advantage and after the first hour during which the riders had covered 38km, the peloton was 4km further back.


Katusha took control of the peloton which was 8 minutes behind after 50km of racing. The Russian team worked well to keep the gap stable for a while but as they approached Roeselare, however, they hit a crosswind section and the peloton split into several groups. As a consequence, the escapees quickly lost 2 minutes of their advantage before the bunch again regrouped.


Puncture for Debusschere

With 127km to go, the gap was down to 6 minutes but as the peloton again slowed down, it went back up to 6 minutes by the time, the escapees reached the feeding zone. Here the riders again hit a crosswind section which split the peloton to pieces but it soon came back together again.


Capiot lead De Troyer and Druyts over the Mesenberg while De Troyer was first at the top of the Monteberg. Meanwhile, the fight for position had really intensified in the peloton and in this hectic moment, Debusschere had a very untimely puncture.


Trek accelerate

While Trek hit the front with on the Monteberg and riders started to get dropped, Mortensen attacked when the escapees hit the Kemmelberg. He got a small gap while Engoulvent, Dufrasne, Tedeschi and Vingerling were slightly distanced but the group came back together on the descent.


Mickael Delage (FDJ) led the peloton onto the cobbled climb before his teammate Ladagnous upped the pace. Danny van Poppel took over for Trek and when they crested the summit, they had brought the gap down to 6.20.


The peloton splits

On the descent, the peloton split in several groups as lots of riders were now working on the front to stay in a good position in the windy conditions. Debusschere had missed out and found himself far back while De Troyer and Pozzo briefly distanced their companions as they went up the Rodeberg.


Trek took over the pace-setting with Hayden Roulston, Gregory Rast, Jasper Stuyven and van Poppel as they tried to prevent the chasers from rejoining the 50-rider main group. Moments later, they did a big attack in the crosswinds and riders like Greipel, Quinziato, Ladagnous, De Bie, Küng and Fenn were now also working on the front to avoid getting caught out.


A nervous peloton

With 80km to go, the peloton again slowed down but Trek made sure to stay on the front to keep Devolder in a good position. At this point, the gap was down to just 3.15 and it continued to come down as Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) and Marco Haller (Katusha) started to work with the Trek riders.


Things again got nervous as Demare, Keukeleire, Delage, Greipel, Durbridge, van Keirsbulck and Ladagnous took some turns on the front in the dangerous conditions. Things again calmed down and so Trek again took over.


The break splits up

The gap was now down to less than 2 minutes and so the attacking started in the front group. Pozzo, Duyts and Tedeschi made the first move but it was Mortensen and Vingerling who got a gap, they were joined by Tedeschi to form a trio that distanced the rest of the break.


At this point, Lotto Soudal tried to make a big attack but their plan didn’t work and so the peloton again slowed down. FDJ took control while the slower pace allowed a big group with Andrea Guardini (Astana) to get back in contention.


The peloton calms down

The gap had been down to 50 seconds but due to the slower pace, it started to grow again. Engoulvent, Pfingsten, Sütterlin, Druyts and Dougall managed to rejoin the leaders while Pozzo, De Troyer, Capiot and Dufrasne were caught by the peloton.


The gap was back up to 1.55 before Trek again hit the front with Roulston, Stuyven and van Poppel keeping the gap stable. With 50km to go, Keisse joined them and this brought the gap down to 50 seconds.


Boom attacks

Vingerling briefly attacked to win the first intermediate sprint ahead of Druyts and Engoulvent before the attacking started in the peloton. Lars Boom (Astana), Guillaume van Keirsbulck (Etixx-QuickStep) and Porsev launched the first move and were joined by James Vanlandschoot (Wanty), Eugert Zhupa (Southeast) and Emiel Vermeulen (3M).


While the latter fell off the pace, a group with Stuyven, Stauff, Blythe, Lodewyck, Haller and Wiggins joined the Boom group but they were brought back by Katusha. Boom tried again with Youcef Reguigui before Laurens De Vreese and Marc Sarreau got clear. When they were back, Julien Vermote, Sven Erik Bystrøm and Christian Knees gave it a go but now FDJ wanted to restore order. William Bonnet brought them back and started to work on the front.


FDJ take control

The attacking had brought the gap down to 20 seconds and so the attacking started in the front group. Mortensen and Vingerling were the first to try before Pfingsten got clear with Vingerling and Tedeschi. Vingerling led Pfingsten and Tedeschi across the line to start the first lap of the finishing circuit and win the second intermediate sprint.


Bonnet and Sarreau were now riding on the front of the peloton and they got some assistance from Haller. As David Boucher also started to work, they kept the gap stable at around 30 seconds.


De Bie attacks

The front octet came back together before Dougall was distanced. With 29km to go, Mortensen and Tedeschi attacked again but after being joined by Tedeschi, it came back together.


With 26km to go, Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal) attacked and with Bonnet glued to his wheel, he bridged the gap to the front group. Behind, a chase group with Van Keirsbulck, Knees, Haller, Lars Bak, Dufrasne, Alessandro Malaguti and Bystrøm was formed and they also made it across. Vingerling led Druyts and Engoulvent across the line to win the final intermediate sprint


Mortensen takes off again

Lampre-Merida, MTN and BMC started to chase with Nelson Oliveira, Roberto Ferrari, Andreas Stauff and Klaas Lodewyck while Bak and Malaguti attacked out of the lead group. They were brought back and when Trek started to chase, it all came back together with 20km to go.


Mortensen made an immediate attack and he was joined by Malaguti and Dennis Coenen (Vastgoedservice). While Bonnet and Haller set a steady pace in the peloton with a Roompot rider, they built an advantage of 35 seconds.


MTN-Qhubeka and Sky prepare the sprint

With 11km to go, MTN-Qhubeka hit the front with Matthew Brammeier and Stauff and they started to real the break in. They were swamped with 8km to go as Sky came to the fore, with Eisel and Knees stringing the group out.


With 4km to go, Brammeier and Stauff again took over before Lampre-Merida hit the front. At this point, Mortensen launched a final attack but when he didn’t get clear, he dropped back to the peloton. Moments later, Oliveira had brought Malaguti and Coenen back too and the scene was set for Kristoff’s sprint win.



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