By Bjorn Haake in Oostduinkerke
Michele Merlo of Barloworld put his stage one escape in Belgium's Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde to good use, accumulating enough points on the climbs to take the red jersey of best climber. He was able to defend his slim three-point lead over Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) in stage two and can take the jersey provided he finishes the last two stages that lack mountain points.
"It was a great day for me," he told Cyclingnews of stage one, 199 kilometres to Zottegem. "It was my first race in Belgium and it was a great experience!
"I had the jersey in mind. I was trying to be in the right break, but of course there is also a bit of luck involved. There were a lot of attacks in the beginning."
Merlo was thankful for the sunny and warm Belgian weather. He is hopeful the weather will stay the same for Sunday, at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.