3 Days of De Panne 2015 – Stages 3a and 3b Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

3 Days of De Panne 2015 – Stages 3a and 3b Preview

By David Hunter

Stage 3a De Panne – De Panne 111.4km

panne3

The race ends with it’s usual split stage. First up, is a trip around the streets of De Panne. Rain is forecast for the morning and that’s bad news for the riders. This is usually a very nervous stage and wet roads is going to make it even more so. With Flanders on Sunday, most of the peloton will be hoping for a stress free day. Good luck!

It will be windy again and there is a chance of some crosswinds, particularly as they head past Kortemark. Most teams will want a sprint and it looks likely that we’ll get one.

This stage is usually all about the final 3km. The road is narrow, just two lanes and a bicycle path. It forces the head of the peloton to be very narrow and it’s difficult to recover from a poor position. With 400 metres remaining, we have a tight, right hand bend. This is a nasty turn, especially if wet, and we got a crash last year.

Kristoff has a commanding lead going into the TT and if I was his manager I would be telling him not to sprint. He can take no risks, finish at the back of the bunch and still win the GC. The other way of thinking is to dominate the race, getting him to the head of the peloton. Both ways keep the rider safe. What will Katusha choose to do?

A good lead-out is essential here. To win the stage, you need to be in the top 5 riders at the corner. Last year, Modolo was 3rd wheel and perfectly placed. The last 400 metres is also uphill. It’s not a big gradient but enough to make the sprint demanding.

Three teams dominated the lead-out today: Katusha, Lampre and Sky. I was very impressed with Lampre and Modolo. He hesitated, as he didn’t want to sprint from 200 metres. At the same moment, Kristoff launched his sprint. That was the end of his chances. Modolo loves this stage. He was 3rd in 2013 and won in 2014. His team is good enough to put him into the prime spot and he loves an uphill sprint. This marks a wonderful chance for him to take his first win of 2015.

Kristoff is clearly in a class of his own just now. I do have concerns about this finish and it would be wise for him not to sprint.

Viviani finished fast today. Sky did a good job, but the Italian lost the wheel. Yet again, he had to sprint from way back and did well to finish 2nd. He has the speed to win but not the positioning.

Arnaud Demare and Andre Greipel also disappointed today. Greipel didn’t look that interested and even touched his brakes in a corner. This was reminiscent of the early stages in the 2014 Tour de France. It’s not a good sign! FDJ looked to be doing okay but fell apart in the closing kilometres. Their team doesn’t seem fast enough to take the lead in the closing three kilometres.

Prediction Time

I’m backing Modolo again. This stage is perfect for him!

Stage 3b De Panne – De Panne 14.2km

panneitt

panne3b

The race ends with the normal ITT. It’s 14.2km and one for the strongmen of the peloton. Last year, Bodnar took the win with an average speed of 48.1km/h. The wind is to ease throughout the day, so it favours the riders high on GC.

The route has many long straights, so it does favour the TT specialists in the race. That means we need to talk about Wiggins!

The TT should be brilliant for him and he has to start the favourite. He’s looked interested this week and could do with a big effort, before Sunday. Yes, he’s focussed on Roubaix but requires a good turn of the legs.

Next up is Luke Durbridge. He’s struggling to regain his TT form and spent time in a wind tunnel, during the winter. A big performance is just around the corner, for the former under 23 world champion. It could be here.

Both Wiggins and Durbo are 54 seconds behind Kristoff. Over 14.2km, it’s nearly impossible to pull that time back on the Norwegian. They won’t win the GC but will battle for the stage.

Others who will hope to make the top 5 are Lars Boom, Michael Hepburn, Stefan Kung and Jesse Sergent.

The GC battle is between Kristoff, Devolder, Bak and Di Bie. Kristoff currently leads these riders by 16, 17 and 20 seconds respectively. All of these riders are capable of a fast TT. Devolder was national TT champion and used to finish in the top 10 of Grand Tour TTs.

Lars Bak is a machine! He can sustain high watts for a long period of time but has struggled in recent TTs. In the 2014 Tour of Denmark, he lost 23 seconds to Sean Di Bie. That day, Di Bie was 5th, with an average speed of 47.7km/h. The Lotto bike isn’t great for TTs but he has a big chance to make the podium and maybe even take the overall crown. At just 23 years old, it would be a sensational result for the young Belgian, but he could be the main beneficiary of Kristoff keeping a little back for Sunday.

Prediction Time

Kristoff to just hold on to the overall win and Durbridge to take the TT.

David Hunter

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