Two stages conclude De Panne final day

Discovery Channel's Stijn Devolder set the bar high and early during Thursday afternoon's 11km time...

Discovery Channel's Stijn Devolder set the bar high and early during Thursday afternoon's 11km time trial in the Three Days of De Panne. His ride in the final stage on this two-stage day initially put him more than a minute ahead of anyone who had already ridden today, and his time stood until the end. Two hours later, and the next closest rider was David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir), eight seconds back.

"De Panne is a training ride for our team but in the TT I gave all I had," Devolder said. "Beating guys like Millar and [Leif] Hoste makes me very happy. It's clear that I'm ready for the Ronde [van Vlaanderen], it'll be something else than what we've seen during the last three weeks. I'll try to finish as close as possible," Devolder said after his win.

Italian Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) went into the day with a ten second deficit to Luca Paolini (Liquigas). But Ballan made up enough time on Paolini, who suffered problems at the start, to take the overall victory in this 31st edition by six seconds over Joost Posthuma (Rabobank).

"I did all out," said Ballan after the time trial. "I did not expect to go so strong as I am not a specialist but I was able to play my cards. There were some strong adversaries, like Joost Posthuma." Asked about what this win means, the man from Castelfranco Veneto was clear. "This is good for my morale, after a season that started with a crash. This is the proof that I am at the top. I am almost 100% and I am very happy with my condition."

With this win, Ballan goes into Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen as a clear favourite, something he doesn't mind. "I was up there in the past, sixth and seventh," Ballan said. "I just hope to be strong against someone like Boonen." Regarding the end of the Ronde Ballan wasn't worried too much. "I have not seen the finale of the Ronde yet this year, but I hope to have a look at some key muren [hills] tomorrow with the team. The course is different but it will be like the last years, hard."

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep-Innergetic) won the Thursday morning's stage three which ended in a bunch sprint.

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