With the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, the Three Days of De Panne (March 28 - 30) starts Tuesday as the lead-up event to de Ronde. Now in its 30th year, this race normally attracts a solid field and as such is one of the highlights of the Flemish cycling week that culminates in Sunday's 'Ronde'. T-Mobile sees the three-day, four-stage event as a key warm-up race for Flanders, and sporting director Valerio Piva has stuck with the same riders that contested last Saturday's E3-Prijs Vlaanderen - Marcus Burghardt is the only change, with Bas Giling slotting in for the young German.
Last year's Tour of Flanders runner-up Andreas Klier is team captain after an aggressive race on Saturday, where he featured in the early break and chased hard in the latter stages - though it wasn't good enough to prevent Tom Boonen taking the win. Klier feels he's in good shape and is looking forward to the week ahead, saying, "My fitness is as it should be. During the coming week, I'll try to keep my fitness at this level." Steffen Wesemann and Sergey Ivanov are the other experienced campaigners in the T-Mobile line-up, and Piva will be looking to them to be in the mix during the three days, saying, "Our goal is to keep a rider at the front, make the selections and fight it our for stage wins."
The parcours features hilly terrain and cobbled sections, while the proximity of the race route to the North Sea coastline means that crosswinds are also likely to play a role, something Piva is well aware of. "The strong winds will splinter the pack for sure. Anyone who misses the splits can say goodbye to their GC chances," he said. He's looking to the locals to provide the strongest competition on home turf. "As usual the Belgian teams will be all fired-up to make an impression on home turf. It's not going to be easy to nail any stage wins, but if we get a sniff of a chance we'll take it," said Piva.
For the Three Days of De Panne T-Mobile will field Lorenzo Bernucci, Bas Giling, André Greipel, Sergey Ivanov, Andreas Klier, Bram Schmitz, Stephan Schreck, and Steffen Wesemann. Directeur sportif will be Valerio Piva.