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Devolder, Sagan, Ballan and Pozzato out of De Panne

Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) rides through the crowds.

Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM) rides through the crowds.
(Image credit: Barry Ryan)

The typically bad Belgian weather is taking its toll on the Three Days of De Panne. Several favourites have decided not to take the start of the penultimate stage on Thursday morning, as rain is pouring down on the North Sea coast around De Panne, where the last two stages are held.

In view of Sunday's Ronde van Vlaanderen, Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM), Filippo Pozzato and Luca Paolini (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Alessandro Ballan (BMC) have all opted to abandon the event in order to avoid any crashes. Devolder crashed on Wednesday and is reported to suffer from a painful shoulder.

Today's 111km-stage 3a will take the riders on an inland loop around the beach resort of De Panne, with stage 3b on Thursday afternoon - a 17km time trial - settling the overall classification. Sagan is thereby renouncing his chances for the final honours, as he was fifth on GC on the eve of the ultimate day of racing.

The Belgian weather forecast has meanwhile predicted rain showers for the weekend, too. A thick layer of clouds will pass over Belgium from West to East on Sunday, providing a few rain showers, gusts of wind and temperatures ranging from 9 to 13° Celsius.