Kenny van Hummel is hopeful a third placed finish on stage two of the Three Days of De Panne is a signal he is ready for an expected sprint finish at Scheldeprijs-Vlaanderen next Wednesday.
The Dutchman will skip this weekend's Tour of Flanders to ensure he is ready for the midweek semi-Classic, at which he finished second in 2009.
After his podium finish in De Panne's morning stage, Van Hummel finished 72nd in De Panne's afternoon individual time trial, 2:20 behind stage and overall winner David Millar (Garmin-Transitions). He told Cyclingnews that he had been forced to do more work than intended with windy conditions continuing on the Belgian coast.
"I was thinking about doing it easy, but there was so much wind so I couldn't relax," he said. "But I'm happy with this morning - my form is building for Scheldeprijs."
Three hours earlier, the Skil-Shimano sprinter had finished third behind stage victor Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) and his own teammate, Robert Wagner. He said Skil-Shimano's eventual second and third places had been made possible by the work of another team
"Coming into the finale Robert said, 'We'll go for you in the sprint', but I said to him, 'No, no, no... next week is my turn'. We were ready to work for each other in the sprint, but Vacansoleil did a really good lead-out for [Borut] Bozic, so we were both in a good position and could both sprint."
Although the Skil-Shimano pair was unable to overcome Farrar, Van Hummel was pleased to have finished ahead of some strong sprint rivals, including Robbie McEwen (Katusha).
"I had a lot of power in the sprint and that was the first time this year. I came from sixth place and passed some guys in the final metres," he said.
His third place result was the latest improvement in a recent run of top-five finishes. Last year, Van Hummel finished second to Alessandro Petacchi at Scheldeprijs, having recorded an eighth place finish in the equivalent third stage at De Panne. With the 2010 calendar placing Scheldeprijs just three days after the Tour of Flanders, he will skip De Ronde in order to peak for Wednesday.
"[Team director] Rudi [Kemna] asked me whether I wanted to do Flanders, but the distance between that and Scheldeprijs is too short for a proper recovery," Van Hummel explained. "I said no, I want to spare my energy for Scheldeprijs."