Flying Dutchman surprises in De Panne

By Bjorn Haake in De Panne Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) rocketed to the overall victory in the...

By Bjorn Haake in De Panne

Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) rocketed to the overall victory in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, achieving something that he didn't think was possible - making up a 27-second deficit to leader Enrico Gasparotto. In the 13.7-kilometre time trial, Posthuma was hoping for a possible podium finish, but instead won the stage, putting 35 seconds into the Italian to steal the overall win.

The 27-year-old Dutchman, who finished second in last year's edition of the event, felt that the time trial was too short to gain enough time to overtake Gasparotto. The Italian led from the first stage and has had a strong start to the season. "Gasparotto has been going very well this year," Posthuma admitted. "He was very strong in Tirreno."

However, the Rabobank rider found the course to be in his favour. "There were a lot of turns and the wind kept coming from the front, from the back," he explained that the conditions were constantly changing. "It favoured the strong riders." Posthuma certainly showed that he was one of them, and liked the way the race turned out. "Last year I was down a few seconds, this year I am ahead a few seconds."

Posthuma rejected the idea that the win would put him among the favourites for the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen, explaining that Sunday's event is a race of a different level. "Sure, I have done one of the best time trials in my life, but the Ronde is 260 kilometres," he insisted that there was no comparing the two."Our captain will be [Juan Antonio] Flecha."

However, Posthuma left a little door open. "If I want to win I have to be in an early escape." He explained that he expects "a very weird race," due to the weather forecast, which predicts temperatures not much more than five degrees centigrade, rain, hail, even snow. A true hard man's Flanders. This could be the chance for the Dutchman, who noted, "if you look at recent races, attacks had been successful." He will draw strength from that and of course it will help the team, making the others work harder for their money.

Posthuma added, "If I want to win, I have to anticipate the race and be ahead of Boonen," and the other favourites, stressing the need for an early attack for him. "Then I just have to make it over the Muur." The game plan is ready, but of course a race never is made on paper.

Posthuma has somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the races in Flanders. He doesn't like the nervousness before the climbs. "[When] the climbs start, everybody wants to be at the front," which can be tricky when 200 riders trying to squeeze into a three-metre wide road. However, being at the front is essential if one wants to win the Ronde. Posthuma explained, "I lack the explosiveness," that defines riders like Boonen. Instead, he would describe himself as "a diesel" that is hard to kill. .

The fact that he likes the races came through when he talked about the safety of the courses. Many riders had complained about the dangerous conditions brought on by the wind, the little traffic islands and the parked cars. But Posthuma begged to differ. "It's racing in Belgium. It's different, but I don't think it's more dangerous than anywhere else."

His time trial performance is encouraging him to try to seek a spot for the Beijing Olympics. The criteria set forth by the Dutch federation has already been fulfilled by his team-mate Thomas Dekker and Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), who finished third in the world championships in Stuttgart last year. "I will fight for a spot," the Dutchman emphasised the fact that everyone wants to go to China. With the determination he had shown on today's course he may well achieve the Olympic dream as well.

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