Driedaagse De Panne: Peter Sagan takes stage one in tightest possible sprint
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Driedaagse De Panne: Peter Sagan takes stage one in tightest possible sprint

by Ben Atkins at 12:29 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results
 
Slovakian champion beats Arnaud Démare by millimetres for second win in three days

peter sagan

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took his second win in three days as he sprinted to victory at the head of a ten-man group, in the opening stage of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, between Middelkerke and Zottegem. The Slovakian champion - who had won Gent-Wevelgem just two days before - just managed to hold off a surge from former under-23 World champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ), after the Frenchman was forced to check his sprint as Sagan moved a little off his line; Sagan’s wheel hit the line just millimetres ahead of Démare’s, with former Norweigian champion Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) third.

The 200km stage saw an early break came from Marco Haller (Katusha), Kiel Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare), Koen Barbé (Crelan-Euphony) and Sam Bennett (An Post-Chainreaction), who escaped in the first kilometres and managed to build a lead of 8’45”. As the peloton began to close the quartet down, however, Haller and Barbé left the other two behind, and were joined by Damien Gaudin (Europcar), Mattia Pozzo (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Tomas Vaitkus (Orica-GreenEdge) and Kess Heytens (Team 3M) inside the final 50km of the stage.

With just under 40km to go Gaudin accelerated and left the rest behind; the others were soon pulled back into the peloton, but the Frenchman managed to stay clear alone for several more kilometres, and was only caught with 16km to go.

With just under ten kilometres to go an attack from Sagan pulled what was to be the winning break clear and, with a number of the race’s big names attentive at the front, he was joined by nine others. With Sagan, Démare and Kristoff were Démare’s FDJ teammate Johan Le Bon - who did most of the work once the group was clear - Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra (both Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Maxime Vantomme (Crelan-Euphony), Jérôme Cousin (Team Europcar) and Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida).

Despite a hard chase from a number of sprinters’ teams, the group managed to stay clear to fight for the stage victory.

Reactions to follow

Four riders get away a bit of rare spring sunshine but split up as the action starts

The stage consisted of 110km straight route from Middelkerke on the coast to Zottegem in the Flemish Ardennes, before completing two laps of a 45km circuit which included the climbs of the Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Tebosse and Eikenmolen, as well as the cobbles of the Haaghoek. The winter temperatures were continuing to dominate the weather in Belgium, but the peloton pulled out of the start under sunny, almost cloudless skies.

Haller, Reijnen, Barbé and Bennett managed to escape almost immediately, with the peloton allowing them to get clear. They were chased for some time by Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), but the Belgian was forced to give up and wait for the peloton.

Bennett had a problem with his bike on the Haaghoek with 77km to go, with the group’s lead down to 3’06”, and the former European track champion was left behind. Shortly afterwards, as Haller accelerated, he and Barbé dropped Reijnen; as Barbé caught up with Haller, however, he remonstrated with the Austrian over his aggressive tactics.

Reijnen was caught as the peloton accelerated across the false flat at the top of the Valkenberg, then Tomas Vaitkus (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked for a second time and managed to bridge to Bennett, who was still clear.

As Barbé and Haller hit the Berendries climb with 60km to go their lead was down to just a minute, with Bennett and Vaitkus in between. Kevin Hulsmans (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) tried an attack shortly afterwards, but he was quickly pulled back; when Kess Heytens (Team 3M) tried, however, he was more successful.

Damien Gaudin (Europcar) and Matt Brammeier (Champion System) attacked on the Eikenmolen, and Gaudin bridged up to Heytens. Mattia Pozzo (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) managed to jump around Brammeier as the Irish champion faded back to the peloton, and also managed to join Heytens and Gaudin; the three of them quickly caught up with Vaitkus - who had dropped Bennett - and made it up to the two leaders to make a lead group of six.

As the breakaway group crossed the finish line for the second time, with 45km to go, Omega Pharma-Quick Step - lined up at the head of the peloton - followed 1’07” later.

With 40km to go Gaudin and Vaitkus began to pull away from the rest of the breakaway, with the Frenchman going clear alone shortly afterwards.

Damien Gaudin holds off the chase alone but the favourites are getting ready

Omega Pharma-Quick Step caught Haller and Barbé with 36km to go, but Gaudin was still a minute clear as he hit the Haaghoek cobbles a few kilometres later. FDJ was helping set the pace at the front, and pulled the peloton up to Vaitkus, Heytens and Pozzo midway through the cobbled section; as Omega Pharma-Quick Step led onto the tarmac, with 32km to go, Gaudin was 41 seconds ahead as he hit the base of the Leberg.

As the peloton hit the climb Terpstra attacked, and pulled a small group clear, but on the exposed false flat that followed it was pulled back. As it came together, however, Terpstra’s teammate Chavanel countered; the former French champion began to make his way across to his compatriot Gaudin as he began to climb the Berendries.

Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) jumped across to Chavanel, but Sagan pulled the peloton up to them; Gatto then jumped past them and soon had Gaudin in sight. Catching the Paris-Nice prologue winner was proving a tough task, however, and the Italian was pulled back with 25km to go; Gaudin was now just 16 seconds clear.

The peloton was clearly allowing Gaudin to suffer out front, but the Frenchman’s lead was ticking inevitably downwards; with 16km to go, when it was down to a few seconds, Kristjan Koren (Cannondale) jumped across to him, and the two of them were quickly caught, just before they hit the Tenbosse.

Boonen took control again as he rolled over the top of the climb, with Sagan lurking close behind him.

Cannondale tactics allow Sagan to make the winning move

The Slovakian champion attacked as soon as he rounded the corner onto the Eikenmolen with 11km to go, and Chavanel was the only rider able to follow. Bardiani-CSF Inox pulled the peloton up to them, only for Alan Marangoni (Cannondale) to jump away. Omega Pharma-Quick Step was there in force again but, as the Belgian team pulled the Cannondale rider, Sagan attacked again.

Chavanel was on the Slovakian again, with teammate Terpstra and Gatto. Le Bon and Démare, Cimolai and Cousin also made it into the group, with Vantomme and Kristoff chasing across the gap.

With five kilometres to go, the new breakaway was ten seconds clear - with Astana, Lotto-Belisol and Vacansoleil-DCM chasing.

The group’s lead was up to 13 seconds with three kilometres to go, and Chavanel tried to escape. The Frenchman was marked by Sagan, and Le Bon took over on the front for Démare, but Argos-Shimano had joined the chase behind and was beginning to close.

Under the flamme rouge the FDJ rider was still leading as the leaders entered Zottegem, but Kristoff was the first to jump. Sagan quickly jumped around the Norwegian rider but, as the Slovakian champion closed in on the line, Démare began to come alongside; Sagan moved a little off his line, forcing the former under-23 World champion to take his hand off the bars to nudge the Slovakian away.

The two riders threw their bikes at the line, with Sagan getting his wheel to the line just millimetres ahead.

Greipel won the bunch sprint for eleventh place, eight seconds later.

Result stage 1
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Po Cycling
2. Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
6. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Crelan-Euphony
8. Jérôme Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ

Standings after stage 1
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Po Cycling
2. Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ @ 4s
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha Team @ 6s
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 10s
5. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
6. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Crelan-Euphony
8. Jérôme Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ

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