Bright skies greeted the peloton at the start of de Panne this morning in Belgium with Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins in a relaxed but confident mood. The Brit, who is enjoying fine form so far this season has targeted the overall here in de Panne with a 14.7 kilometre time trial perfectly suited to him set to conclude the race.
I’m here to try and win it but obviously it’s such a fight to win this race and anything can happen. I’ve got to get to that time trial first, but if I get to the time trial then I’ve got a good chance of winning it. So much can happen in the next few days,” Wiggins told Cyclingnews.
"Nine times out of ten, and every time I’ve ridden this, today has been the most critical stage and this has been the day that things have been decided and the next few days have been about maintaining everything.”
Wiggins' strong start this season is in contrast to last year when despite a stage in the Giro, he aimed to save his best form for the Tour de France. In 2011 he has already been competitive in both Paris-Nice and Criterium International, finishing on the podium in both events.
"It’s just enjoyable to be racing and not having all the rubbish about waiting for the Tour because you might get it wrong and then you’ve done nothing all year. This is pretty similar to what I did two years ago and I’m enjoying racing at the moment and being at these type of races which I enjoy, rather than things like Pais Basque, which I just didn’t enjoy doing.”
Jesse Sergent (RadioShack) comes to de Panne with different aspirations, having raced at last week’s track Worlds where he won silver in the pursuit behind Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Transitions). While winning the Three Days of West Flanders kick started his season, this week he’ll be looking to simply find his road legs.
"It’s hard to say how the form is coming off the track after two and half weeks but I’m sure today I’ll find out. I’ll take it day-by-day while I’m here and just see how my legs are. I won’t be covering too many moves especially with how hard the final is. I’ll just try and get through for the time trial on the last day.”
Manuel Quinziato (Team BMC) is back on the bike after a bought of flu. The Italian who finished in the top ten at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was forced onto a course of antibiotics and de Panne marks his first race in several weeks.
"I’m happy to be here, finally. I was hit hard by the flu and I’ve lost training and racing time. I’m going to suffer more than normal in De Panne but I hope to be better for Flanders and then 100 per cent for Roubaix. At least I’ll be fresh. I couldn’t ask for better weather, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun in De Panne.”