Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde: Escape Group Decides Opening Stage
A breakaway of six riders was able to stay away in the 189.1km opening stage of Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde on Tuesday, in a stage where the opening 14.5km were neutralized due to expectations of high winds. The Belgian race comes just two days after extreme winds affected Gent - Wevelgem.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the stage as one of the six breakaway riders that crossed 34" ahead of the peloton. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) finished 2nd, and Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) was 3rd.
Debusschere was the only rider who finished with the breakaway out of the original seven-rider group that gained an advantage after more than 100km of racing. Lars Bak (Lotto Soudal) bridged to that group, and eventually Bak and Debusschere only remained ahead. But four other riders including Kristoff, Devolder, Sean De Bie (Lotto Soudal), and Sven Erik Bystrom (Katusha) bridged to those two with a little more than 20km to go.
The gap eventually went out to more than 40 seconds, and the gap remained at 34" with 2.6km left in the stage.
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Fabio Sabatini finished 23rd.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 217.2km Stage 2 in Zottegem.
"I had not so good luck today," Guillame Van Keirsbulck, defending winner of the race, said. "I had a flat tire on the Haaghoek, I was sitting around 10th position. We decided to go on the Haaghoek and the Leberg with a small group, but for me it was a bad moment. Nobody knew I had a flat and I had to wait for the last men of the peloton to get a new wheel. It was too long of a wait. I tried to go to the front again but it was impossible to come back. I did my best to minimize time gaps, but it was just bad timing. It's too bad this has affected my chances to defend myself as the winner of this race, but the race is not yet over. Tomorrow will be another difficult day with the wind, and we will try to do something good as a team."