By Jeff Jones
This year looks set to be a very windy edition of the KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde, Belgium's traditional midweek three-day stage race before the Ronde Van Vlaanderen on Sunday. With the strong south-westerly wind that has been blowing for the past few days set to continue, bringing with it the occasional thunderstorm, the racing will be hard and nervous. It's rare for this race not to claim a few victims, with their classics seasons ended before they really start. That's not a good thing, but it's part of racing in Belgium at this time of year.
The Driedaagse is run over four stages, with the first taking the riders from Middelkerke, on the west coast, to Zottegem, in the heart of the Vlaamse Ardennen. Held over 194 km, this will be a fast stage with a tail/crosswind blowing the riders most of the way and making it tough for those at the back. The stage reaches the finish line at Zottegem for the first time after 120 km, with the riders already having done four climbs, including the Leberg, Berendries and Stuivenberg. Then it's two laps of a 37 km circuit, with four climbs each lap: Leberg, Berendries, Kloosterbosstraat, and Stuivenberg, making it a little more selective than in previous years. The eventual overall winner can't afford to lose much time in this stage.
- Stage 1 - March 28: Middelkerke - Zottegem, 194 km
- Stage 2 - March 29: Zottegem - Oostduinkerke, 227 km
- Stage 3 - March 30: De Panne - De Panne, 119 km
- Stage 4 - March 30: De Panne - De Panne ITT, 12 km