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Andriy Grivko (Astana)
Astana rider will be Millar's biggest rival in time trial finale
Andry Grivko will enter the final day of the Three Days of De Panne on Thursday on the same time as the race's new leader, Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone). The Astana rider came agonisingly close to outright possession of the leader's jersey after a day-long escape in brutal weather conditions.
Racing towards the costal town of Koksijke, the De Panne peloton was lashed by a strong head wind and rain for much of the stage. The wind had such a severe impact on the race's schedule that the race jury cancelled two of the three planned finishing loops – reducing the 214 kilometre stage to 188 kilometres.
Grivko finished third on the stage in a group of four survivors from an originally 12-man break that had escaped the peloton after 24 kilometres. He had faced a particularly heavy workload in the final 30 kilometres of the stage, after overnight leader Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) was dropped from a depleted chase group, placing the obligation of leadership virtuel on Grivko's shoulders.
"Yeah, I was working for the jersey," Grivko told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I feel good but it was a very, very difficult day."
Paolini finished the stage 41 seconds down on the first four riders to cross the line, but his effort was enough to draw level with Grivko's cumulative time from the first two stages. The Italian assumed the overall lead by virtue of his higher standing in the points classification. Although he was able to secure the intermediate sprint jersey, Grivko was left to rue the one second that separated him from the overall lead.
"It was not bad, it would have been nice to take more time but a lot of people didn't want to work," he said, after having been forced to perform the longest turns in the last 10 kilometres.
Grivko will start the final day of De Panne on the same time as Paolini and twelve seconds ahead of David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), after the latter finished 44 seconds down on Wednesday's stage. With a flat morning stage of 112 kilometres to precede an afternoon individual time trial of 14.5 kilometers on Thursday, Millar's deficit may not be enough for Paolini or Grivko to hold off the Scot.
However, of the two men ahead of him in the De Panne general classification Millar is likely to face the biggest challenge from Grivko. In the one individual time trial the two have completed against each other this season – the 8 kilometre prologue of Paris-Nice - Grivko finished just five seconds behind Millar.
After a long day, Grivko indicated he will look to pick up where he left off on Wednesday afternoon. "I hope now I can recuperate and get ready for the last day of De Panne," he said.