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Sagan ends Cavendish’s sprint hopes on stage 1 of De Panne

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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took the initiative to attack ahead of the final 10km

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took the initiative to attack ahead of the final 10km
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quickstep)

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quickstep)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen logged some quality racing kilometers in De Panne

Tom Boonen logged some quality racing kilometers in De Panne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan celebrates his stage win

Peter Sagan celebrates his stage win
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Damien Gaudin (Europcar) puts in a dig

Damien Gaudin (Europcar) puts in a dig
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Sagan says sorry to Arnaud Demare for a close-quarters sprint

Sagan says sorry to Arnaud Demare for a close-quarters sprint
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan initiates the winning move on stage 1

Peter Sagan initiates the winning move on stage 1
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Koen Barbe (Crelan-Euphony) took the sprint jersey

Koen Barbe (Crelan-Euphony) took the sprint jersey
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini)

Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen tests out his legs on stage 1

Tom Boonen tests out his legs on stage 1
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen puts the hammer down in Driedaagse De Panne

Tom Boonen puts the hammer down in Driedaagse De Panne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Sagan's had no luck with the podium champagne this week

Sagan's had no luck with the podium champagne this week
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen gets some help from Iljo Keisse

Tom Boonen gets some help from Iljo Keisse
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wins the sprint after forcing the breakaway

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wins the sprint after forcing the breakaway
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS) had two different, clashing scarves to stay warm

Sylvain Chavanel (OPQS) had two different, clashing scarves to stay warm
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Oscar Gatto bares his arms on a cold day in Belgium

Oscar Gatto bares his arms on a cold day in Belgium
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Omega Pharma Quickstep sets a brisk tempo

Omega Pharma Quickstep sets a brisk tempo
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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The peloton awaits the start of the Driedaagse de Panne

The peloton awaits the start of the Driedaagse de Panne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Race leader Peter Sagan

Race leader Peter Sagan
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) stretched the peloton out

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) stretched the peloton out
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wins the sprint on stage 1 of De Panne

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) wins the sprint on stage 1 of De Panne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Arnaud Demare falls just short of beating Sagan

Arnaud Demare falls just short of beating Sagan
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) shows his pro skills

Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) shows his pro skills
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) put in some hard efforts

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) put in some hard efforts
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale)

Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won just ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ)

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won just ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ)
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan checks ot see the damage his attack has caused

Peter Sagan checks ot see the damage his attack has caused
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) launches a move

Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) launches a move
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was strong on the finale of stage 1

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) was strong on the finale of stage 1
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini) seems oblivious to the winter weather

Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini) seems oblivious to the winter weather
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) on the podium after stage 1 of the 2013 Three Days of De Panne

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) on the podium after stage 1 of the 2013 Three Days of De Panne
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) enjoys all Belgium has to offer

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) enjoys all Belgium has to offer
(Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) not exactly enjoying himself on stage 6

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) not exactly enjoying himself on stage 6
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

The first day of the Three Days of De Panne is often a difficult stage to control and so it was proven: Mark Cavendish was left empty handed after he and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team succumbed to the power of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in Zottegem

Omega Pharma-QuickStep came into the stage with three clear aims: Tom Boonen needed miles ahead of the Tour of Flanders, Sylvain Chavanel had hopes of defending his 2012 title and Mark Cavendish was looking for his first individual win since the Tour of Oman.

However, Cavendish was unable to make the split with Sagan attacked for the final time on the run into Zottegem. The Slovakian champion went on to pull away a group containing Chavanel and Niki Terpstra and then take the stage win and race lead.

"It wasn't necessarily a difficult day, it was more a difficult day to control," Cavendish said as he sat on the steps of the Omega team bus.

"The wind wasn't really in a direction that could make a difference but it was a difficult direction to ride in, with mostly a headwind.

"We had two guys up there at the end and we were active the whole day. That guy [Sagan] is pretty unbeatable right now though. He’s one of a generation and he’s super, super good. He’s making us all look like juniors."

Though missing the stage win, the team came away with a few promising moments: Boonen slightly eased the nerves of his team with a show of strength in the Flanders hills, while Chavanel’s overall hopes remain on course. The Frenchman’s closest rival for the overall could well be his teammate Terpstra, who finished in the same time. The final day’s time trial is likely to decide the overall title.

Cavendish has shown his form in De Panne in the past. In 2008 and 2009 he won back-to-back stages, and on both occasions they were the second and third stages of the race. Omega Pharma-QuickStep are the most complete team in the race, and throughout stage 1 they controlled much of the action, with Boonen reeling in a dangerous move from Gaudin, and Chavanel always in the thick of the action. Luck wasn't on their side at times as both Nikolas Maes and Iljo Keisse suffered untimely punctures.

However, the team simply had no answer for Sagan’s aggression, and at times he appeared to be playing with the opposition.

"It should be a sprint tomorrow and we'll see what happens," Cavendish said, adding that "the form is good and I'm really happy. I was going well in San Remo and physically I went well on Sunday so my form is good.

"We wanted to do something on the GC here and if it came back for a sprint then we'd ride for a sprint, but today wasn't a day we could control for a that. It was always going to break up."