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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright 2001 AFP
Cofidis’s Nico Mattan won the closing time trial at the Three Days of De Panne to overtake Lotto’s Hans de Clercq for the overall title in the three-day race in the western part of Belgium. Mattan jumped from ninth place to first on the strength of his time trial. The Belgian covered the 14km time trial course in 17:41, four seconds faster than runner-up Levi Leipheimer (U.S. Postal Service) and six seconds faster than third place Erik Dekker (Rabobank). In the overall standings, Mattan finished ahead of Dekker and Postal’s Viatcheslav Ekimov. Ekimov led a trio of Postals in the top five, followed by Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie.
The performance was a good sign for Postal heading into the second and third World Cup rounds, the Tour of Flanders on April 8 and Paris-Roubaix, April 15. Also showing strong form heading into the upcoming classics were Andrei Tchmil (Lotto-Adecco) and world champion Romans Vainsteins (Domo-Farm Frites).
The three-day race wasn’t so kind to the American Mercury-Viatel squad, which saw its leader Peter Van Petegem withdraw due to illness. Teammates Jans Koerts, Gord Fraser, Fabrizio Guidi and Mike Sayers were also among a large number of riders who didn’t finish the race. Koerts and Guidi each crashed on the first day of the race, with Guidi suffering a concussion.
Final overall: 1. Nico Mattan (B), Cofidis, in 13:20:46; 2. Erik Dekker (Nl), Rabobank, at 0:04; 3. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:14; 4. Christian Vande Velde (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:24; 5. George Hincapie (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:27; 6. Philippe Gaumont (F), Cofidis, at 0:28; 7. Servais Knaven (Nl), Domo-Farm Frites, at 0:31; 8. Andrei Tchmil (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 0:37; 9. Nico Eeckhout (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 0:38; 10. Romans Vainsteins (Lat), Domo-Farm Frites, at 0:40; OTHERS: 12. Antonio Cruz (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 0:46; 34. Levi Leipheimer (USA), U.S. Postal Service, at 34:48; 87. Jeff Louder (USA), Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, at 50:55