Kristoff wins De Panne opener

Katusha rider out-smarts Astana duo from breakaway

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) managed to hold off the combined attacks of Astana duo Lieuwe Westra and Alexey Lutsenko to win the opening stage of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde – the Three Days of De Panne.

The trio got away in the finale of the 198km stage that included 12 of the toughest Flemish climbs. Britain’s Luke Rowe (Team Sky) was also part of the decisive attack but punctured on the final climb of the Muur de Geraadsbergen. He finished fifth just behind Mads Pedersen (Stölting Service Group), at 29 seconds, with a group of 30 or so riders finishing at 36 seconds. Those time differences could prove decisive in the final two days of racing.

Westra and Lutsenko tried to out manvouvre Kristoff but were also working to gain time on the chasers. As a result they struggled in the finale and Kristoff had no problems in leading out and then winning the sprint.

Kristoff missed Gent-Wevelgem due to a fever but looked back on track during the stage. He now leads the overall ahead of Lutsenko by one second with Westra third overall at six seconds.

Wednesday’s 211km second stage is from Zottegem to Koksijde and features the Kemmelberg and several other climbs after 110km of racing before three finishing circuits on the coast in Koksijde.

It was Kristoff’s sixth victory of the 2016 season after he won three stages at the Tour of Qatar and two at the Tour of Oman. He admitted it had been a hard day out, with fast, aggressive racing, rain and hailstone making a day for the tough men.

“It was really hard,” he explained, adding that today's stage was his first day of intensity since the E3 Harelbeke, where he first fell ill. "I felt good in the start but after 100km, I started to feel bad. But I think it was that way for everyone, it was a hard day. It split apart from kilometer zero, and it was all day a bloc. I was all the time in the front but we never got a big gap, it was always close.”

“Westra was the strongest one of the group, he was pulling me and Lutsenko all the way to the line almost. I tried to contribute but I didn't really have the legs. In the end I managed to survive and I was there at the end. I've been a bit sick, and I think I needed this day. I hope I have better legs tomorrow, I was suffering all day today. In the end I managed to win but I was really struggling.”

"They were also riding for the classement. I know Westra is really good in the time trial, and they are in a good position now. They were riding for this so they didn't attack me so early.”

Kristoff played down his own chances of overall success, perhaps keen to save his legs for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

“I didn't feel as strong as I did last year. I think I’ll suffer a bit to do a good time trial. I will try though, we'll see how it goes.”

Brief Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha4:22:34 
2Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team  
3Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team  
4Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group0:00:29 
5Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
6Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal0:00:36 
7Manuel Belletti (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela  
8Juraj Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team  
9Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal  
10Marco Haller (Aut) Team Katusha  
General classification after stage 1
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha4:22:24 
2Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team0:00:01 
3Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team0:00:06 
4Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group0:00:39 
5Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky  
6Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx - Quick-Step0:00:44 
7Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto Soudal0:00:46 
8Manuel Belletti (Ita) Southeast - Venezuela  
9Juraj Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team  
10Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal  

 

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