Bert Scheirlinckx was awarded the combativity prize on stage one of the Three Days of De Panne after a brave, but ultimately unsuccessful late-race move. The Landbouwkrediet rider says he will use the remainder of the four-stage race to taper for this Sunday's Tour of Flanders.
Scheirlinckx launched his attack from the eventual race-winning group with 20 kilometres to go on Tuesday's 198-kilometre stage one from Middelkerke to Oudenaarde. With a number of strong riders in the group including Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), the Belgian had realised he would face stiff opposition from his Italian colleagues.
"I knew that I had to go against all the Italians that were in the break," Scheirlinckx told Cyclingnews after leaving the podium with his trophy. "I knew if I wanted to have a shot at the stage win then I had to go a long way from the finish to surprise them."
As a Flandrian, Scheirlinckx had hoped his local knowledge would help him gain a decisive advantage in the race's closing stages, but his charge was thwarted by a combination of his pursuers and the region's weather.
"It was a hard race. I live in the region so I know the race's course really well. My legs felt really good, so that's the time to race," he said.
"At first I thought the group might let me go, but the Italians anticipated quite fast and I never had more than 30 to 35 seconds, and that's not enough to survive for twenty kilometres in the wind."
With De Panne's last two road stages and individual time trial to be raced over largely hill-free profiles, Scheirlinckx said he will now aim for a trouble-free lead-up to the Tour of Flanders.
"Tomorrow should be a bunch sprint, and it's the same again on Thursday morning. For me the first stage here was my objective, for the rest of the race it'll be trying not to crash or get sick and focus on this Sunday."