After riding pretty quietly for the first 3 stages, Team RadioShack‘s Sebastien Rosseler (BEL) decided to put the hammer down and ate up the pavement in the afternoon’s individual time trail at the 3 Days of De Panne, beating the field by nearly 14 seconds on the 14.7-kilometer course with a time of 18:31.83. Not only did he win the final stage, he gained enough of a time advantage to win the overall general classification!
Further magnifying Team RadioShack’s celebrative mood, Michael Kwiatkowski (POL) put in his own great ITT coming in 3rd on the day, which gave him 3rd on the podium for the GC. Lieuwe Westra (NED) of Vacansoleil-DCM, did his best to hang on to his leader’s jersey, but came up short, finishing 2nd on the day, and 2nd on the GC. The time trial positions today decided the whole race and ended up being the podium positions for the GC.
The rain stopped, the roads dried somewhat, and the smart riders jumped down the starting ramp to take full advantage of the tailwind at the beginning of the fairly technical course. Rosseler said that he, “started flat out with everything at the start using the tail wind,” because if you didn’t your TT might be over before it began. He said that he wasn’t sure of his leg strength given this morning’s ride but wanted to give it his all. He suffered with everyone else in the end stating that, “the final couple of kilometers were very difficult into the head winds.” When all was said and done, after he sat watching to see if his time would hold up against the other competitors, he looked extremely pleased and said, “this comes as a major surprise to me,” that he’d beaten the field so handily. He said that he’d, “come close in the past [to winning this race], and I’ve finally managed to win it!”
Rosseler was beaming on the winner’s podium donning the winner’s jersey and waving to the hometown crowd who loved every minute of a local favorite taking victory at this major Belgium race. Also putting in a memorable performance finishing 7th on the day, 30 seconds back in the ITT, was RadioShack’s Dmitriy Muravyev (KAZ), whose overall 7th on the GC kept him well in the top and gave Team RadioShack the Team Classification Win. However, on a slightly worrisome note, Robbie Hunter crashed in today’s first stage and is suffering from back and rib pain which at this writing makes him uncertain to take the start of the Tour of Flanders coming up in just 3 days.
All in all a really excellent week of racing for Team Director Dirk Demol and these young Team RadioShack riders against world-class competition. Now it’s on to the big one, the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday!
By George Hurst, staff writer