Omega Pharma-Lotto may have missed a stage win at the Three Days of De Panne on Wednesday, but the Belgian team was visible throughout the day with both Philippe Gilbert and Adam Blythe forming part of the race's major escape.
The two riders were included in the 12-man breakaway that fled the peloton after 24 kilometres. While Gilbert was able to survive through to the final four-man selection, Blythe was dislodged 30km from the finish line, having ridden at the front of the race for almost three-and-a-half hours in frigid temperatures and brutal crosswinds.
"It was horrible really, very cold, but I heard Phil got second so that was a good result," a shivering Blythe told Cyclingnews after rolling across the finish line more than 11 minutes after his teammate. "The weather today just made it... a long day out."
Sleet at the finish line gave spectators some indication of the conditions the riders had faced throughout the day's stage. A number of athletes were barely able to stand as their soigneurs scrambled to bundle them up in extra layers. Although able to proceed under his own steam after the finish, Blythe admitted that his eventual exit from the front group had been inevitable since the ascent of the Kemmelberg, 119 kilometres into the stage.
"On the Kemmel I didn't feel so good and when we dropped down the other side I just held on for as long as I could while Phil was away [with Astana's Andry Grivko]," he said. "[They] came back and I just didn't have anything left - my legs just went, so I just rolled in."
Blythe confessed that he hadn't started the day looking for an escape and had just been following team orders when the original selection was made. "[The team directors told us to] just follow the wheels really. It was just by chance I was in the break, I didn't mean to be there - I just ended up there."
Following the two-stage final day of De Panne on Thursday, Blythe will take his position in the Omega Pharma-Lotto line-up at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, where he will support team captain, Gilbert.
Before making a beeline for his team bus, he summed up his performance on Wednesday by saying, "It was good training. Yeah, it was good for Sunday, but we'll see."
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