Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has won stage two of the 2013 Three Days of De Panne.
The former world road race champion resisted the challenge of Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling) and Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s Francesco Chicchi to seal victory in Koksijde.
Meanwhile, Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling), dominant yesterday in winning stage one, was distanced by the leaders in the closing kilometres of today’s stage and surrendered his leader’s jersey. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) now leads the race overall.
Cavendish initially benefited from the combined might of his OPQS team-mates, led by Tom Boonen, but with sterling efforts from Iljo Keisse and Niki Terpstra, winner last year of Dwars Door Vlaanderen, who distanced all of his major rivals ahead of the sprint.
Such was their strength that the trio, with Chicchi, found themselves clear of the bunch with two kilometres to go. Their ‘breakaway’ was hauled back by Lotto Belisol, riding for Andre Greipel.
Cavendish then found himself with it all to do again, but fought his way through in the closing kilometre for an impressive victory.
“The team was phenomenal for me today,” he said. “Big pulls at the end and it was a hard finish. I’m really happy. The guys had to go long just because of the wind. We wanted to keep it lined out in that last big road, and then we had to use guys to try and get to the corner before the small road at 450 meters to go. Iljo and Niki had to take some big, big pulls. But they were really strong and I am really proud of them.”
An early breakaway featuring Irish road race champion, Matt Brammeier (Champion Systems), gained nearly 8.30 within the opening 90km, but an elite chasing group, nearly 30-strong and including defending champion, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), ate into their advantage.
Chavanel’s group caught Brammeier’s, but their combined efforts earned little time at the front, and at the 150km mark, they were recaptured by the peloton.
Unity was shortlived, however, as Koen Barbé (Crelan-Euphony), clearly with much left to give after a day spent attacking from the front on stage one, launched again, working with Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) and Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) to gain an advantage that peaked at two minutes.
The trio was the first to begin the three-lap finishing circuit, but their lead had attracted the attention of Katusha, Orica-GreenEDGE, and OPQS, who smartly reduced their lead by half.
Three became two with 11km to go as Barbé became the first to cry hold, enough, leaving Bazzana and Gruzdev to drive on alone, but the breakaway had been fatally weakened by the loss of Barbé and succumbed to the peloton just eight kilometres from the finsih.
Sagan was notably disengaged as the sprint trains of his principal rivals assembled, leaving some to wonder if the Slovak will now finish the race, perhaps feeling today’s stage, combined with his victories yesterday and at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday are sufficient preparation for Sunday’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen – a far more important race.
Sagan’s absence from the heart of affairs encouraged his rivals to press home their advantage. OPQS almost overplayed their hand, but Cavendish, as he had done last year, proved he can win by his own efforts, regrouping and winning a long sprint.
VDK-Driedaagse-de-Panne-Koksijde 2013 – stage two – result
1) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-Quick Step – 4.46.57
2) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – ST
3) Francesco Chicchi (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
4) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ
5) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha
6) Baptiste Planckaert (BEL) – Crelan-Euphony
7) Romain Feillu (FRA) – Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
8) Blaz Jarc (SLO) – NetApp-Endura
9) Nikias Arndt (GER) – Team Argos-Shimano10) Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL) – Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
1) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ – 9.47.18
2) Alexander Kristoff (NOR) – Katusha +2”
3) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +5”
4) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +6”
5) Maxime Vantomme (BEL) – Crelan-Euphony
6) Niki Terpstra (NED) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
7) Davide Cimolai (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +11”
8) Johan Le Bon (FRA) – FDJ +14”
9) Oscar Gatto (ITA) – Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
10) André Greipel (GER) – Lotto-Belisol +15”