By Bjorn Haake in Zottegem
Milram's sprinter Robert Förster was glad to have survived the toughest stage of the Driedaagse De Panne on day one and just prior to stage two, he was looking forward to moving up to the front of the peloton.
"Yesterday we did 13 climbs," he said to Cyclingnews, shaking his head at the experience. "Now there will be a chance for sprints, and it's important for my confidence to be riding up front."
Stage two boiled down to just that... a sprint, and no one was surprised that Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) took it. "He is going really well. What he and [Heinrich] Haussler showed at Milano-Sanremo was great."
Förster admitted that sprints against Cavendish will be hard to crack. "What's scary is how clearly he wins, often with one or two bike lengths. It'll be hard to get close for a sprinter like me or others."
One thing in Förster's favour was the weather. "I am more like a 20-degree [Celsius] type. We had a lot of rain so far in the Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen and four to five degrees." The earlier part of the season wasn't much better. "Even back home, it rained a lot throughout the winter and early spring. It's enough!"
Förster's main goal this season is the Giro d'Italia, and he will use a few more one-day races like the Hel van het Mergelland and Gent-Wevelgem to prepare. "There we will really want to do well," he said of his key races.
Then it's off to "real" stage races. "I will do the Tour of Turkey, where you can rest a bit from the stress of the Belgian races. Here you can't really roll along," said Förster. The wind and the narrow streets require constant concentration. You always have to ride near the front, as the race can always break apart over the next cobbled section or climb."
Förster managed to be near the front in the sprint of stage two, but he did not contest the sprint with Cavendish; the Milram rider finished 15th.
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the Driedaagse De Panne stage two.