Team RadioShack’s Dmitriy Muravyev (KAZ) made his presence felt in the opening stage of the 35th running of the Three Days of De Panne, staying with a 4-man breakaway that somehow kept clear of a peloton loaded with expectant sprinter’s teams. Dmitriy crossed the finish line 3rd behind the winner Omega Pharma-Lotto’s André Greipel (GER) and 2nd finisher Vacansoleil‘s Lieuwe Westra (NED). Trailing Dmitriy for 4th was Katusha’s Vladimir Gusev (RUS). With no time to blink, the chasing peloton shot by the finish line in Zottegem, Belgium at something like 70 kmh, on Gusev’s wheel, as they failed by milliseconds to close the gap for a bunch sprint – absolutely no time difference from Greipel to the next 111 cyclists.
The weather was about as good as it gets in this part of Flanders (northeast Belgium) in the spring with temperatures reaching 60° F, blue skies, and no wind for the riders who contest this hilly 194-kilometer first stage. However, given that no rain has fallen for nearly 2 weeks here – unusual for this time of year – the riders found the cobbled sections slippery from the dust. Several crashes ensued, a bad one involving Katusha’s Leif Hoste (BEL) who was taken to the hospital after he was seen bleeding heavily from his face. No word on his condition.
Dmitriy is in as good a position as one could hope for after this first stage, even though with the quirk of time allocation he is officially in 5th, 7-seconds back. But the upcoming day’s layouts could pose a challenge. Tomorrow we have a pretty flat 219-kilometer stage that will probably end in a bunch sprint.
Team Sky, HTC-Highroad, and some of the other teams should sort out their issues and be a bit more organized in tomorrow’s chase to justify entering their big sprinters in the event. Dmitriy will need to hang in at what will likely be a furious pace to the line in order not to lose time. Then, Thursday’s morning stage (3a) is a flat 111 km course that should again be a sprinter’s dream and then the finale in the afternoon (3b) is a 14.7-kilometer individual time trial. That will be ample distance for some of the TT specialist to easily make up and surpass 15, 20, even 30 second deficits on the leaders. With major league TT artists like Wiggins and Grabsch waiting to do their thing, if they stay close in the standings, they’ll be dangerous.
As always, it’s going to be exciting at the finish of this year’s KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde, which is the race’s formal name.
By George Hurst, staff writer