Kittel finishes second in Koksijde
Both the team and the German sprinter worked hard on Wednesday, missing on the win for just a wheel's length.
Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal), Julien Morice (Direct Energie), Ivar Slik (Roompot Oranje), Mamyr Stash (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Jonas Tenbrock (Stölting Service Group), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani), Bert Van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Gianfranco Zilioli (Nippo-Vini Fantini) were the riders to make it into the break on Wednesday for the longest stage of this year's Driedaagse De Panne (Zottegem – Koksijde, 211.1 km). Despite having a maximum lead which reached eight minutes, they didn't stand a chance, with the likes of Etixx – Quick-Step, Astana, Katusha and Orice-GreenEdge poised to see this stage come down to a bunch sprint.
The day – which included some of Flanders' most known and difficult climbs – also witnessed many crashes, with some riders being forced to abandon or losing contact with the pack as a result. The remnants of the break were caught inside the final 20 kilometers, and a little bit later, as soon as the race hit the final 10 kilometers, our team came to the front and did some monster pulls, stretching out and slimming the peloton, while also protecting Marcel Kittel. After Fabio Sabatini and Maximiliano Richeze did their share of work, the German opened his sprint with 300 meters to go, but Elia Viviani (Team Sky) came strong from behind and outpaced him, taking the victory.
"I am very disappointed, but it's not a shame to lose to Viviani. The team worked really hard to take me there and provide me a strong lead-out. I started my sprint early, because otherwise I wouldn't have been on the podium, and Elia took advantage of that. Despite this, I see the positive side of this defeat, which is that both the team and I are very strong and have confidence; that's very encouraging for my next goal of the season, Scheldeprijs", said Marcel Kittel following the arrival in Koksijde.
On Thursday, the 40th edition of Driedaagse De Panne will conclude with two half-stages. The first one (De Panne – De Panne, 110.5 km) will be for the sprinters, while the 14.2 km-long individual time trial – which is due to take place along the sea coast on a fast course – will decide the winner of the general classification.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele