Gasparotto leads overall standings
By Andrew Hood
Mark Cavendish (High Road) charged to victory in Wednesday’s second stage of the Three Days of De Panne in Belgium, while Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld) retained the overall lead.
Cavendish, who notched 11 wins in his rookie season last year, unloaded an electrifying sprint to relegate Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) to second with Sebastien Chavanel (FDJeux) coming across the line for third.
“I am in good form,” said Cavendish, who won the Madison gold medal with teammate Bradley Wiggins at the world track championships last week in Manchester, England. “It’s good for the morale ahead of Ghent-Wevelgem.”
“It was a really crazy finish, totally lethal.” Cavendish said afterwards. “So many riders from so many teams all over the place made it very complicated. With 400 metres to go I was just behind [Robbie] McEwen and then 300 to go I got through a gap on the left and just went for it.”
A three-man breakaway that included Frenchman David Boucher (Landboukrediet) and Belgians Gianni Meersman (FDJeux) and Bart Vanheule (Top Sport Vlaanderen) pulled away on some early climbs in the 228km route from Zottegem to Coxyde.
The leading trio opened up a gap of more than five minutes and the sprinter teams didn’t pick up the chase until less than 100km to go. Silence-Lotto led the chase to neutralize the attack with less than 5km to go to try to set up Robbie McEwen for victory.
Crashes took their toll again in the nervous peloton with two Slipstream-Chipotle riders forced to abandon. Steven Cozza touched pavement with about 30km to go and broke a collarbone while Will Frischkorn, banged up from a crash on Monday, abandoned early with a bruised patella to recover ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
Magnus Backstedt (Slipstream-Chipotle) sprinted to 10th to reveal he’s recovering from a broken clavicle suffered during January’s Tour of Qatar just in time for the northern classics.
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) finished more than eight minutes back, but, like Cavendish, he’s likely using De Panne to keep his legs fresh ahead of Sunday’s Flanders.
“Compared with last year I’m doing a lot better in this race,” said Cavendish. “I was finishing well down on every stage here in De Panne, maybe in the last 40 riders.”
““I’m very pleased to get this first road-race win of 2008 because it’s been quite a long time coming and I’ve had some very near misses,” he added. “This time, though, luck was on my side, plus I saw the right opportunity in the sprint and I took it. ”
De Panne concludes Thursday with a split stage. The morning section is a 119km road stage followed by the decisive afternoon time trial. Wind will be a factor on the 13.7km course.
Gasparotto is not a bad time trialist and will carry a five-second cushion to Luca Paolini (Acqua e Sapone) and seven seconds to Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas). Teammate Baden Cooke is sixth at 25 seconds back while defending champion Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) is still in striking distance at 10th at 40 seconds back.
Results, Stage 2
1. Mark Cavendish (GB), High Road, 228km in 6:06:35
2. Francesco Chicchi (I), Liquigas, s.t.
3. Sébastien Chavanel (F), Française des Jeux, s.t.
4. Graeme Brown (Aus), Rabobank, s.t.
5. Kenny De Haes (B), Topsport Vlaanderen, s.t.
6. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit), Astana, s.t.
7. Luciano Pagliarini (Brz), Saunier Duval-Scott, s.t.
8. Sebastien Siedler (G), Skil, s.t.
9. Rony Martias (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
10. Magnus Backstedt (S), Slipstream, s.t.
1. Enrico Gasparotto (I), Barloworld 11:04:35
2. Luca Paolini (I), Acqua Sapone – Caffe Mokambo, at 0:05
3. Manuel Quinziato (I), Liquigas, at 0:07
4. Niki Terpstra (Nl), Team Milram, at 0:11
5. Bernhard Eisel (A), Team High Road, at 0:25
6. Baden Cooke (Aus), Barloworld, at 0:25
7. Simon Spilak (Slo), Lampre, at 0:25
8. Joost Posthuma (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:27
9. Kurt Hovelynck (B), Topsport Vlaanderen, at 0:39
10. Rick Flens (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:40