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Rainy De Panne stage brings abandons, time cuts — and a bunch sprint

DE PANNE, Belgium (VN) – Young Italian rider Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) won the bunch sprint during the morning stage of Three Days of De Panne, ahead of Wednesday’s stage winner Denis Galimzianov (Katusha).

Stage 3a started with wind and rain, prompting several riders targeting the Tour of Flanders to withdrawal. Among those names were former Tour of Flanders winners Stijn Devolder and Alessandro Ballan — as well as Filippo Pozzato and Peter Sagan, who was sitting in fifth place overall.

The bad weather caused major separation in the peloton, which split into seven different groups. Eventually a group of 56 riders formed at the front to form the winning group.

In all, eight riders did not start, 21 riders abandoned the stage, and 77 riders finished in a grupetto more than 25 minutes behind Guarnieri — and outside of the time cut. Missing the time cut was afternoon TT stage favorite Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

In the battle for the stage victory Tomas Vaitkus (Astana) tried to jump the peloton before the finish, but was caught inside the final 200 meters.

Galimzianov looked poised to take a second consecutive stage win, but mistimed his sprint; Guarnieri plunged straight towards the line and snatched a win so close he wasn’t able to post his hands in the air.

“I missed the right moment to win,” said Galimzyanov. I started the sprint a little late and that was enough for Guarnieri to win the stage. However, it was hard to choose the right strategy today; after the yesterday’s stage, and the more than 100km stage today, I was quite tired. So probably if I tried to anticipate the sprint, somebody would have passed me before the finish line.”

American Jake Keough (United Healthcare) finished ninth on the stage.

Belgian Bert De Backer (Skil) took two seconds at an intermediate sprint, and assumed the race leadership heading into the time trial.