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"I think it’s all going to come down to the TT tomorrow afternoon so we have to just keep Stijn in the front and out of trouble again in the morning. Then it’s all going to be up to Stijn."

Photo: Trek Factory Racing








01.04.2015 @ 20:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The blustery winds continued for the 217-kilometer second stage of the Three Days of de Panne as Trek Factory Racing’s Classics team rode strongly at the front for most of the day to protect the GC standing of Stijn Devolder.


While a 12-man breakaway animated the stage ahead, the peloton fought a war of positioning behind, battling headwinds interspersed with stressful crosswind-sections that carved riders from the back each time. But with each turn in the road riders scrambled back as a temporary calm returned with the front wind.


The peloton shrank and swelled as the road zigzagged through the Flanders countryside with the breakaway group soldiering ahead. An attentive Trek Factory Racing squad rallied around Devolder all race, staying ahead of the splits, then upped the throttle in the chase with some 80 kilometers remaining.



“We were down to six for the start as it was impossible for Boy [van Poppel] to take the start today with an infection in his eye,” explained director Dirk Demol. ‘The plan was simple: to protect Stijn the maximum today as we are still in the running [for the overall win] with the TT the last day. We can’t say for sure we will win but we can be on the podium, and you never know with Stijn, so I ordered the boys to keep him up front, and be around him all day to give him the maximum protection. And what the boys did today shows they are ready for the big Classics.”


The race culminated on three local circuits of 12.9 kilometers and the escapees were pared to eight men and half-a-minute’s lead crossing the line the first time, a result of Trek Factory Racing’s pace setting.


On the circuits the sprinters’ teams begin to lend a hand in the pursuit and Trek Factory Racing finally had a breather after throwing Hayden Roulston, Jasper Stuyven, Danny van Poppel, and Gregory Rast full on into the chase.


Twenty kilometers out the breakaway finally succumbed to the peloton’s pressure and a sprint finish was imminent.


Over the line, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) made it two for two, winning the stage and padding his lead in the overall. 


Stijn Devolder finished safely in 28th place and moved into second overall (+16 seconds), a result of Jens Debusscheres (Lotto Soudal) pulling out of the race.


Trek Factory Racing was not involved in the fast finale after the energy they expended all day for Devolder; the overall classification is the bigger goal for the team.


Hayden Roulston was a huge workhorse in the five hour and a half hour race, often prevalent at the front shouldering much of the workload; it was apparent he was feeling good, a positive sign ahead of the big upcoming Classics.


“I have been struggling since Tirreno –Adriatico with bronchitis and have been on heavy antibiotics and today was the first day since then that I have finally felt myself,” said Roulston. “The team rode really, really well; we were always there when it split and kept Stijn in good position. I think it’s all going to come down to the TT tomorrow afternoon so we have to just keep Stijn in the front and out of trouble again in the morning. Then it’s all going to be up to Stijn; he’s really strong at the moment and he can do a good TT, so that’s the goal.”


Dirk Demol echoed Roulston:  “The morning stage tomorrow will be tricky as stages like these are always fast. We will do the same as today although it will difficult to beat Kristoff as he took more time with his win, and he is good in the time trials. The main thing tomorrow morning is to bring Stijn with the best condition for the TT in the afternoon.”



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