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"I'm glad I could win today, especially after my second place yesterday behind Elia Viviani. Actually, my last victory seems to have been centuries ago. I am happy to change that.”

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele


















31.03.2016 @ 20:51 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after his frustrating defeat on stage 2, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) proved that he is still the fastest rider in the world by taking a dominant sprint win on the morning stage of the final day at the 3 Days of De Panne. Having latched onto Alexander Kristoff’s (Katusha) wheel just before the late turn 300m from the line, he easily came around the Norwegian to take a clear victory before Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) also passed the Norwegian who had to settle for third. With the 2 bonus seconds, Kristoff extended his lead over Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) to 7 seconds.


We have gathered a few reactions.


Marcel Kittel: It feels like my last win was centuries ago

Riding Driedaagse De Panne for the first time in two years, Marcel Kittel landed that win he was looking for, taking full advantage of the last opportunity the sprinters had at this edition and leaving his mark on stage 3a (111.5 km around De Panne). It wasn't an easy day for the riders, as the final circuit included road furniture, tram tracks and a tricky corner which came with just 300 meters to go. That's where a crash occurred, only 12 riders being left unscathed from the incident which saw the peloton come to a halt.


Well-placed at the front thanks to a fantastic effort made by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates – who protected Kittel all day long, before taking him to the first row of the bunch just as the race was becoming more and more nervous – the 27-year-old German turned on his powerful acceleration and comfortably won the stage, ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) and GC leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). It was Kittel's 6th success of the season, and the team's 20th, which now see both the rider and Etixx – Quick-Step top the victory rankings.


At the post-race press conference, Kittel couldn't hide his delight after taking this victory, but he also was full of praise for his teammates: "Yesterday it was very close and missing out on the victory left me with a sorrow taste, so this morning I was very motivated to make up for it. I am very happy to reach my goal and get that stage for which I came here. My legs were good and strong, and the team worked really well. We were up there at the front, controlling the six-man breakaway with Iljo and Davide. But it wasn't about only one rider today, the entire team was impressive and I must thank the guys for that."


"I can be satisfied with what I have achieved so far since joining Etixx – Quick-Step. I got six victories, and what's more important, we can all be happy for the way we work together. Now I'm looking with confidence towards my next objectives of the season, Scheldeprijs and the Giro d'Italia", concluded the German after his 66th pro win.


"After being so close yesterday, this victory is a relief. My last victory was a long time ago... it seems like forever really. I think the team can be satisfied with the way we worked together and the train. It is important for the next races, but also for the confidence


"I thought to do better in Paris-Nice. But it did not work. In the early stages, I had suffered from the cold. It may have played a role, the cold, rain and snow on my big muscles. The race was also very hard. The mountain stages were incredibly difficult. After the flat stages, and without a result for me, I just wanted to finish the race, staying healthy. And after that I have prepared for the 3 Days of De Panne and Scheldeprijs. I'm happy with my start to the season.


"This short stage was not so heavy. There was little wind and my team could keep the whole race under control. Especially Davide Martinelli and Iljo Keisse did a great job to keep me up front. Eventually everything went well and I was again able tto open the throttle. Because of this I managed to get to the front. Those who are not among the first in the last corner are out of the battle. I turned well and could then accelerate and make it.


"It is a dangerous finish here with the right-hand bend at about 350 meters before the finish line and the tram lines in the last kilometers. Perhaps the organizers should insert a few corners before the last straight so that the pace in the group is not as high.


"My next goal is Scheldeprijs Schoten. This afternoon it’s time for Tony Martin. Everyone says I'm a good time trialist but Tony is still more of an expert than m. I'm glad I could win today, especially after my second place yesterday behind Elia Viviani. Actually, my last victory seems to have been centuries ago. I am happy to change that.”


Phil Bauhaus after second place behind Kittel: Finally I could show my real speed

BORA – ARGON 18 sports director Enrico Poitschke already said yesterday that today the team would support Phil Bauhaus. A flat stage like today suits the young German sprinter because he is very fast when coming fresh into a sprint finish. This plan worked out very well for the team. Marcel Kittel took the stage, but Bauhaus  scored a great result with his 2nd place in front of overall leader Alexander Kristoff.


“Today the whole team supported me perfectely! I could save energy the whole day and Shane [Archbold] brought me up to Kristoff’ss wheel just before the final corner. I opened the sprint together with Kittel but could not overtake him. Still I am very satisfied. The last races have all been a little too hard for me with all the steep climbs. Today I could finally show my full sprint speed,” he said.


Alexander Kristoff: Kittel was simply faster

Another third place for Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff gave the Norwegian rider and leader another two-seconds bonus after the third stage of 40th Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde on Thursday. With one final stage to come, in the afternoon, Kristoff still holds hope of defending his title from last year. The 111 km morning stage started and finished in De Panne, with a massive sprint. Marcel Kittel (Etixx - Quick Step) won ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Bora-Argon 18) and Kristoff.


“I was hoping to win this stage, I won it already three times, but not today. At the end I was just not strong enough. I had the best lead-out and the best position after the last corner, in Guarnieri’s wheel. I could start my sprint whenever I wanted. But then Marcel Kittel, with that Bora rider in his wheel, came by my side with a lot of power and I was not able to beat him,” said race leader Alexander Kristoff.


"I had a very good leadout and was perfectly placed on the final straight in the sprint. But Marcel flew over me and I did not have the legs to respond. Also a Bora-Argon rider came around me. So I had to be content with third place in this short road stage I had already won.


Kristoff kept the race lead and will defend it in the 14,2 km time trial around De Panne. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) is only seven seconds behind, with his Astana teammate Lieuwe Westra third at 12 seconds. Last year Alexander Kristoff secured his Overall title by finishing third in the TT.


“I felt slightly stronger last year in this race. Maybe I will lose more now. I will try to do my best and see how far I can go this year. Last year I did the time trial of my life. I’ve never been so fast before or after. We will see if I can manage it again, but I have some small doubts. Twelve seconds between me and Lieuwe Westra is not much. Normally he should be infavour and he won this time trial already before. Normally I lose more than one second per kilometer, so I don’t expect to become the Overall winner this year. At least I have the best start position, so I will have all intermediate times. We will see if that’s enough,” concluded Alexander Kristoff.


"Last year did drove a brilliant individual time trial and I won in the final standings. I was a bit stronger, but now I will certainly do my best to perform well again. Remember that I rode the time trial of my life last year. I was really not a lot of seconds behind Bradley Wiggins, the winner of the time trial. But now it's wait and see. I think Lieuwe Westra has the advantage. He is the better than me. I do not expect that I can defend my title as the final winner. My condition has improved. The first stage was hard but I could win. Also yesterday I was not top but I was still third and now again. "


Erik Baska learns the art of sprinting in De Panne

After his ninth place on yesterday’s second stage, Tinkoff’s young sprinter Erik Baška went one place better to take eighth this morning at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, a short 111.5km split stage with the final individual time trial to follow this afternoon. After an early break of six, the stage was quite steady in comparison to those previous, and despite a hectic final few kilometres it was a relatively straight forward stage for the team.


"It was another strong sprint from Erik to finish eighth, he was in the mix but he lacked a bit of positioning at the end which limited what he could do," explained Sport Director Tristan Hoffman after the finish in De Panne. "There was a break from the start and very little wind today, with quite large roads that weren't too technical so it was much steadier than the last two days. The guys fought well to look after Erik and to bring him into position for the final few kilometres and he did a good job again at finding the wheels to follow."

 The early break of six riders build a relatively strong advantage but with the peloton behind hungry for another sprint their chances of staying clear were again slim, and with six kilometres to race the peloton was all back together. With the sprinters' teams battling for position at the front of the bunch there was still room for a late attack, but at 2km to go this was also neutralised setting up the second sprint in two days.


With the peloton racing through built up town roads there was always the potential for crashes, and there were a few, but the Tinkoff riders came away without too many problems. Michael Kolar was involved in the final crash through one of the late right hand corners but was able to jump back on the bike and finish safely, while ahead Baška was fighting for position in the sprint.


Hoffman was levelled in his analysis of the stage, reminding us of the early stage of Baška’s career. "I'm happy to see that he’s fighting and giving it everything here, and we can’t forget that he’s still a neo-pro and still has a lot to learn. He still has to build his engine and to gain more experience in the bigger races, and he’s learning that here. Races like this are good for young guys like him for finding your way in the peloton and learning to fight against the big guys."


The final individual time trial this afternoon will take the riders around De Panne over a 14.2km course. Maciej Bodnar came into the race looking for a strong finish in the overall classification, but after losing time on the opening stage he has switched his focus to a big ride on this last stage.


"Bodnar is focused on going full gas this afternoon," Hoffman said when looking at the course. "The route is the same as previous years and isn't too technical apart from three U-turns. The roads are nice and there aren't any cobblestones to contend with so we hope that he will have a good race this afternoon. The other guys will all finish the race and then for those that are starting Flanders on Sunday the focus will turn to recovery ahead of that."


Alexey Lutsenko: This time trial is a great opportunity

"I'm improving day by day,” said Alexey Lutsenko, second in the overall standings on the eve of the decisive time trial, “and this is a great opportunity."


"Too bad with the two seconds earned in the sprint by race leader Alexander Kristoff,” said Astana sports director Gorazd Stangelj. “It will be one more incentive for the time trial this afternoon.”


André Greipel: The circuit is a chicane for us

German sprinter André Greipel of Lotto-Soudal was one of the victims of the late crash


“For me the whole final lap in #3ddp is a chicane for us and putting a camera in the last turn to catch the images is disrespectful either,” he tweeted after the stage.


Difficult stage for small ONE team in De Panne

In the opening stages of the race Kristian House and Hayden McCormick settled themselves in the front third of the peloton with Marcin Bialoblocki not far behind. Approaching the halfway point the three remaining ONE Pro Cycling riders grouped together as a unit as the pace continued to increase.


With no climbing or cobbles on todays road stage it always promised to be fast and furious. Approaching the technical finishing circuit decorated with street furniture and tram lines caused the peloton to string out in an accordion effect as everything came back together at the105km mark. Once again the pace picked up and the boys began to position themselves with the plan that Kristian House would protect the young kiwi Hayden McCormick and ‘the Machine’ Marcin Bialoblocki. However this plan did not come into effect as House entered a sharp corner on the outside of the peloton hitting an unmarked barrier cracking his frame.


At this stage one lone rider attacked off the front of the peloton creating a gap of 12 seconds. A manic bunch sprint ensued at 4km to go swallowing up the lone leader and causing another crash, bringing down a large group of riders only 1km from the finish line and delaying Bialoblocki and McCormick in the process. Meanwhile Kristian House had a quick bike change from the team car and fought hard to get to the finish line to join his team mates McCormick and Bialoblocki who arrived safely having narrowly avoided the chaos of the peloton.



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