Etixx – Quick-Step to Driedaagse De Panne
Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin will lead the squad in an event which saw our team taste success on numerous occasions in the past.
Taking place over three days, the Driedaagse De Panne should serve as an excellent opportunity for some riders to tune up their condition ahead of the Tour the Flanders, will for some others will represent the chance of bagging some stage wins or the always important GC victory. The event, which was created in 1977, has four stages, and ever since its inception has turned into a popular race, due to the challenging parcours (hills and cobbles) and the weather conditions (rain, strong winds), which always led to an aggressive way of racing.
Things won't be any different at the 40th edition, where Marcel Kittel – one of the most successful riders of the season, with five victories to his name – lines up at the start hoping to add another win into his account, in a race which will see him link up for the first time this season with Maximiliano Richeze. If Guillaume Van Keirsbulck returns on the familiar roads which helped him take the overall win two years ago, the same can't be said about about Tony Martin, as the three time ITT world champion will discover the race after a strong performance in E3 Harelbeke, last Friday. The team will also be made up of Iljo Keisse, neo-pro Davide Martinelli, Fabio Sabatini and Lukasz Wisniowski, who notched a series of strong results this season on Belgian turf.
Sport director Rik van Slycke talked about the parcours of the race, as well as the goals with which Etixx – Quick-Step starts the three-day event: "We have a competitive team for De Panne. The first stage will be really hard, with 11 hills on the course, including a double ascent of the Muur van Geraardsbergen and another climb right before the finish line. Considering this, and the bad weather which has been forecasted, it's very likely we will have a selective group at the finish. One day later, it's going to be a sprinters' affair, and there's no secret that Marcel will be our man for this, while on Thursday, the race will conclude with two half-stages, and the one in the afternoon, a 14-km long individual time trial, will see Tony start as one of the favourites for the stage victory."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele