Omega Pharma QuickStep’s French time-trial champion Sylvain Chavanel won the penultimate time-trial and took the overall victory in Driedaagse de Panne, identical to last year’s race. Chavanel completed the 14.75km windy and quite technical course in 18:02, 19 seconds faster than longtime stage-leader Anton Vorobyev of Katusha. Vacansoleil’s Lieuwe Westra was third, another two seconds back.
Chavanel was in 4th position after Stage 3a, Alexander Kristoff leading by 10 seconds thanks to the time bonuses he collected in Stage 1 and today’s Stage 3a victory. Kristoff couldn’t defend his lead but moved only one step on the podium, finishing second in the overall standings. Niki Terpstra, 5th in the time-trial stage was the second OPQS rider on the podium. Kristoff also led the points classification ahead of Arnaud Demare and Elia Viviani.
Stage 3a Final Kilometers
Stage 3b Final Riders
Final General Classification
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 12:34:28
2. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha 22″
3. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 31″
4. Johan Le Bon (Fra) FDJ 32″
5. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 38″
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano 51″
7. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 52″
8. David Boucher (Fra) FDJ 57″
9. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 58″
10. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1′ 06″
Châtel-Guyon and Brioude are the stage towns and we’ll be heading south once more on 6th March, Wednesday. Similar to Stage 2, the pelaton will loop around Brioude before passing the finish line but this time, they’ll be facing a 2nd category climb within the circuit.
The stage is very suitable for a breakaway group to succeed. Tom Boonen of Omega-Pharma-Quickstep lost more time in the GC, probably deliberately, so it won’t be a suprise to see him in an escape group. I don’t think the pelaton would let Thomas Voeckler or Simon Gerrans to escape unless it is quite a large one, which is very unlikely.
If the breakaway get caught before the Cote de Mauvaganat, it’ll most likely be a group sprint and amongst the sprinters; Jose Joaquin Rojas and Sylvain Chavanel have the best chance of staying with the bunch in the climb. I don’t think the stage will have a big impact with the GC but Elia Viviani will lost his yellow jersey for sure.
No proper sprint train managed to control the pelaton due to strong headwind and it was Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre who started a very long sprint with more than 500 meters to go but it was Argos Shimano’s german sprinter Marcel Kittel‘s last 200 meters late sprint that shaped the podium. Elia Viviani from Cannondale finished second while Leigh Howard of Orica-Greenedge finished third.
Stage 1 winner Nacer Bouhanni, slipped on a turn and crashed out of the stage and is forced to abandon. Kevin Seeldraeyers couldn’t start today’s stage due to the incident he was involved in yesterday. And besides Bouhanni, Jacob Rathe and Alexandre Pichot abandoned the race as well.
Viviani is now leading not only GC but also youg rider and the points classifications. Borut Bozic of Astana will wear the green jersey whereas Wilco Kilderman from Blanco will wear the white jersey.
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 5:42:18
2. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
3. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica GreenEdge (more…)
Quite similar to the first stage, Stage 2 starting on 5th March, Tuesday is a flat course that favors sprinters for more than anyone else. Nacer Bouhanni, Elia Viviani, Alessandro Petacchi and Jens Debusschere showed that they are in form. Marcel Kittel missed the sprint in Stage 1; pelaton split into two and the group he got stuck with couldn’t catch up. He won the first sprint stage of Tour of Oman in front of pretty much the same sprinters that were in the field today; so this time, I don’t think Argos-Shimano will make the same mistake again and got stuck behind. Orica Greenedge managed to do a very good job with their sprint train, it was a pity Leigh Howard failed to respond in time, this time they’ll be more careful with the positioning and maybe with Michael Matthews instead.
The stage will start in Vimory, a small village near Montargis and after 200.5 kms of pedaling straight to the south, we’ll end up in an another small village Cérilly in Allier. The intermediate sprints are interesting, one very close to the start and the other just before the actual sprint. Sprint teams can show some interest this time both for the green jersey points and time bonuses.
Both the green and yellow jerseys can change hands after the stage. It is a slightly uphill finish but don’t think it’ll be steep enough for anyone other than the pure sprinters to have a chance in here.
Orica Greenedge worked very hard in the final kilometers for their Australian sprinter Leigh Howard but it was FDJ’s Nacer Bouhanni outsprinting Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre and Elia Viviani from Cannondale. Bouhanni was “less than” 10 seconds slower than Gaudin in the prologue and with the 10 second time bonus, he is now the proud owner of the yellow jersey.
Sylvain Chavanel failed to finish the bunch sprint with a podium spot, but still got 9 points for the sprinters qualification. With so much sprinters in good form, he may as well say goodbye to the green jersey tuesday evening. Bertjan Lindeman of Vacansoleil was in the escape group today and also the first to cross both the intermediate sprints and the single mountain gate. He wears the mountains jersey and is guaranteed to keep it tomorrow as well since there is not a single categorized climb.
Movistar’s GC contender Rui Costa failed to finish the stage after crashing and possibly breaking his wrist, alongside Jure Kocjan of Euskatel and Pierrick Fedrigo of FDJ due to illness. Also during the final kilometers, due to cross-wind, minor accidents and increasing pace, the pelation is split into two, resulted Marcel Kittel to miss the sprint and Tom Boonen to lose very valuable time.