KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) – Tuesday marks the start of the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, a three-day stage race held in the Flanders region of Belgium that is used as final preparation race before Sunday’s Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).
The race is based in the municipality of De Panne, located along the North Sea coast of West Flanders, and is sponsored by Belgian bank KBC. It uses many of the cobbled roads also used at events such as E3 Prijs Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders.
Because of its proximity to De Ronde, and its difficulty — English speakers jokingly refer to the event as “Three Days of Da Pain” — many top favorites for Flanders, including Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert, are not contesting the race.
Last year’s edition was marked by cold, wet and windy conditions. Garmin-Cervélo dominated the event, with Tyler Farrar winning the final field sprint, and David Millar winning the closing time trial to take the overall win. Millar later called the win one the most prestigious of his career, “because everyone in the peloton respects just how hard of a race it really is.”
The American team is not sending a squad this year. American Pro Continental team UnitedHealthcare will be racing, as well as American teams HTC-Highroad, BMC Racing and RadioShack.
In 2004 George Hincapie (BMC Racing), then a member of U.S. Postal, earned the distinction of becoming the only American to win the race.
BMC Racing assistant director Fabio Baldato said the race should favor team sprinters Alexander Kristoff, John Murphy, Danilo Wyss and Simon Zahner. BMC’s Manuel Quinziato makes his return following a cold he picked up at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“I was disappointed not to be at races like Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem, but the team has been supportive,” Quinziato said. “I got a nice e-mail from George Hincapie, who told me the year he was second at Paris-Roubaix (2005), he was sick for a week after San Remo. So he told me not to stress too much.”
More rain may be in store for this year’s race. Early weather forecasts had called for rain on Wednesday and Thursday, however that forecast has improved, instead predicting cloudy and cool, but dry, conditions.
Tuesday’s 198km opening stage begins on the coast, in Middelkerke, and ends in Zottegem in the heart of Flanders.
Wednesday’s 210km stage starts in the riverside city of Oudenaarde, home to a museum for the Tour of Flanders, and finishes in Koksijde, the beachside town that hosts an annual World Cup cyclocross event.
Thursday is a double day, featuring a flat 112km morning stage that starts and ends in De Panne; in the afternoon a 15km time trial will likely determine the overall winner.
Team Katusha is sending Leif Hoste, who won the 2006 edition; Filippo Pozzato, winner of a De Panne stage, and the E3 Harelbeke, in 2009; and Vladimir Gusev, who finished on the E3 Harelbeke podium on Saturday.
Quick Step is not sending Boonen, but will send two riders instrumental in Boonen’s Ghent-Wevelgem win Sunday, Gert Steegmans and Sylvain Chavanel.
“The goals for this race are essentially two” Quick Step assistant director Tom Steels said. “Try to win a stage, and fine tune the condition for Ronde Van Vlaanderen next Sunday.”
Check back for daily reports, results, photos and features from the KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.
On the Web: www.veloclub-depanne.be
Tuesday, March 29:
- • Stage 1: Middelkerke-Zottegem, 198km
Wednesday, March 30:
- • Stage: 2, Oudenaarde-Koksijde, 210km
Thursday, March 31:
- • Stage 3a: De Panne-De Panne, 112km
- • Stage 3b: De Panne ITT, 15 km
- Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil)
- Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
- Filippo Pozzato, Leif Hoste (Katusha)
- Brad Wiggins (Sky)
- Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
- Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing)
- Theo Bos, Graeme Brown, Michael Matthews (Rabobank)
- Gert Steegmans, Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)
- Dominique Rollin (FDJ)
- Ted King (Liquigas)
- Danny Pate (HTC-Highroad)
- Scott Zwizanski, Adrian Hegevary, Andrew Pinfold (UnitedHealthcare)
- Steven Cozza (NetApp)
- John Murphy, Chris Barton (BMC Racing)
- Dominique Rollin (FDJ)
- David Veilleux (Europcar)
- David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) – Winner in 2010
- Fabian Cancellara, Stuart O’Grady (Leopard-Trek)
- Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
- Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto)
- Juan Antonio Flecha, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)
- Thor Hushovd, Tyler Farrar, Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo)
- George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing)
- Lars Boom, Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
- Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss, Bernard Eisel (HTC-Highroad)