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"Brad was also riding well today. He just said he lacked a little bit of punch which would have helped him follow the moves."

Photo: A.S.O.






31.03.2015 @ 19:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A small group broke away to contest the opening stage at Driedaagse De Panne despite the chase efforts of Team Sky.


Six riders forged clear and combined to great effect after a difficult stage entered its closing kilometres.


The twin punch of the Haaghoek and Leberg saw the race stretched to breaking point with small groups scattered along the road to Zottegem.


Team Sky pushed on as the race regrouped but six escapees maintained their advantage to the finish, coming home 34 seconds ahead of the pack. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) bagged the opening test, kicking with 250 metres to go and seeing off Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) in a small bunch sprint.


Bradley Wiggins and Christian Knees tried to close the gap to the motivated group but with little help they were resigned to finishing in the peloton along with team-mate Elia Viviani.


Kristoff now takes a two-second lead into the second day, with the members of the peloton sitting 44 seconds back courtesy of bonus seconds.


After a tough edition of Gent-Wevelgem the peloton were greeted with brighter Belgian skies as the race kicked off on Tuesday.


The wind however still remained and the opening 12 kilometres out of De Panne were neutralised due to the high gusts. With the riders being pushed along the first hour was completed at a rapid 56.2km/h.


Team Sky looked to remain up front as much as possible, with positioning work from Bernhard Eisel and Wiggins keeping Viviani well placed as the group began to tick off the day’s 13 climbs.


Attacks began inside the final 50km, with Lotto Soudal team-mates Lars Bak and Debusschere working together to gain a gap of over one minute. The duo were joined by Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing), in addition to Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), Sven-Erik Bystrom and Kristoff (Katusha) to create a group that were never caught.


"It was a little windy out there again today," said Sports Director Gabriel Rasch after the stage. "It was mostly a tailwind but sometimes it would change direction during the first 100km. That split things up a little bit but we were quite well positioned at the front.


"Then once it hit the local lap Bernie did a really good job keeping the guys at the front. Brad was also riding well today. He just said he lacked a little bit of punch which would have helped him follow the moves. Christian was up there pulling, and Elia was really close to being with the front group when it went. He was also ready to sprint if it came back together but it wasn't to be.


"Tomorrow is going to be windy again, but more likely a headwind. We need to be vigilant with the changes of direction and be ready if it splits up. It could be a day for Elia so we'll look to help him as much as we can."



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