Fast start to Driedaagse De Panne
Tony Martin lies in 6th overall following the inaugural day of the event which this year celebrates its 40th edition.
Stage 1 of the Belgian race (De Panne – Zottegem, 198.2 km) began with a minute's silence held by the riders and the organizers in the memory of Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer, who lost their life in the past two days. Then, after a 16-km long neutral zone, the strong wind took its toll on the bunch, which was quickly fragmented into four groups. Etixx – Quick-Step came at the front and led the chase, bringing some of those mini-pelotons back together. Still, despite this hard and impressive work, 16 riders still managed to stay away, as the chasers' life was made difficult by the narrow and twisting roads of Flanders.
On Ten Bosse, the ninth climb of the day, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Luke Rowe (Team Sky) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) attacked and opened a gap of 20 seconds on their breakaway companions, which continued to grow on Muur-Kapelmuur, where the Brit punctured. The other three continued and worked together until the final kilometer, where they began to play cat and mouse, before Kristoff launched his sprint and took the victory, ahead of Lutsenko and Westra. The peloton came home half a minute later, and with it was also Tony Martin, who is Etixx – Quick-Step's best placed rider in the general classification, in 6th position, thanks to the bonus seconds he landed at the first intermediate sprint of the day.
Stage 2 of Driedaagse De Panne (Zottegem – Koksijde, 211.1 kilometers) will take place on Wednesday and will give the sprinters an excellent opportunity to fight for the win, despite the fact that the first half of the day will be once again a rolling one, with five categorized climbs.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele