By Andrew Hood
Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel) shot to victory in Tuesday’s opener at the Three Days of De Panne with a late burst to win a three-up sprint after a 50km breakaway held off the peloton.
Hoste sprang with just about 75 meters to go to come around the hard-charging Austrian Berhnard Deisel (FDJeux) and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) to win the 194km stage from Middelkerke to Zottegem under sunny skies that saw many riders in short sleeves.
“It was nice to win today after all the second and third places,” Hoste told Belgian journalists. “It was very windy today and I’m not yet thinking about final victory because the final time trial will be very important.”
Coming through fourth at 12 seconds back was Luis León Sanchéz (Liberty Seguros) and fifth at 42 seconds was Luca Paolini (Liquigas), who were both chasing alone in the final kilometers.
Milan-San Remo winner Filippo Pozzato (Quick Step-Innergetic) led a three-man chase group at 47 seconds back while Jeremy Hunt (Unibet.com) led the peloton across at 58 seconds back.
The win bodes well for Hoste ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, where he finished second in 2004. The victory is also the fourth of the season for Discovery Channel.
“I already feel stronger now than I did in 2004,” Hoste said. “I am in good condition for Flanders.”
Before the race, Bodgan Bondariev, a Ukraine on the Intel Action team, was declared unfit to race when blood screenings revealed a high level of hematocrit. He’s been given a two-week forced rest then faces another round of screenings before he can return to racing. Riders from Wiesenhof, Landbouwkrediet, Liberty Seguros and Intel Action were also screened ahead of Tuesday’s stage.
The De Panne race continues Wednesday with the 227km second stage from Zottegem to Oostduinkerke. Thursday’s split stage features a morning road stage and a decisive 12km time trial in the afternoon.
Brochard under the knife
Veteran French rider Laurent Brochard (Bouygues Telecom) underwent surgery Tuesday in a Nantes hospital to repair a herniated disc in his back, his team announced.
Brochard, one of France’s most consistent riders and the 1997 world champion, should be sidelined at least two weeks, officials said.
Other Bouygues Telecom riders are also nursing wounds from recent crashes. Christophe Kern fell while on his scooter and will skip the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with an inflamed knee. Laurent Lefevre, who crashed into a spectator in Sunday’s Brabantse Pijl and will miss the Route Adelie with a sore wrist.
Backstedt out for classics
Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) will miss the upcoming northern classics, sidelined by nagging pain in his left knee dating back to a crash early in the season.
Backstedt, who won the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, will definitely miss Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and didn’t start today’s stage at Three Days of De Panne. Team officials said Backstedt “is likely to skip Paris-Roubaix as well.”
Di Luca back in action in Spain
Defending ProTour champion Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) will return to action this weekend in Spain, but he won’t be looking to repeat at the Tour of the Basque Country.
Di Luca, who won the race last year to spring toward the overall ProTour title, said he’s looking to come into form later this season as he makes a run at the overall at the Giro d’Italia.
“This year I am focusing on the Giro,” he said in a team release. “I like this race very much and I’m going to do my best, though I am not in peak form like I was last year.”
Another Liquigas rider looking for strong results will be Stefano Garzelli, who won the GP Miguel Indurain in 1999 and has won two stages at Pais Vasco in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
Liquigas for GP Miguel Indurain (April 1) and Basque Country (April 3-8): Danilo Di Luca, Stefano Garzelli, Vladimir Miholjevic, Dario Cioni, Matej Mugerli, Andrea Noe, Alessandro Spezialetti and Charlie Wegelius
TIAA-CREF looking ahead to Adelie, track world’s
Team TIAA-CREF will reload for the Route Adelie and the world track championships following a successful Tour of Normandie that saw the team win a stage with Charles Bradley Huff and hold the leader’s jersey.
“Team TIAA-CREF had a tough second half of the Tour of Normandie, but now they can look forward to Route Adelie (1.1) another Coupe de France race – one that is well-suited to team leader Danny Pate’s strengths,” the team said in a release.
“Hopefully, Pate will be able to use the fitness he gained at the Tour de Normandie to produce a result commensurate to his talent in this tough one-day race. The rest of Team TIAA-CREF will begin to focus on the World Track Championships in Bordeaux. They will use these last few one day events to fine-tune their fitness before heading onto the track April 3.”
Bak out with broken ribs
Rising Danish star Lars Bak (CSC) will miss at least 10 days after exams revealed four broken ribs he suffered in a spill back at Tirreno-Adriatico in early March. “Now I know why I was in so much pain for the past couple of weeks,” Bak said on the team’s web page. “I’ve been able to deal with the pain, so I didn’t think anything was broken. I can still work out on my home trainer, but I’m not racing for a while, as I can feel every little bump in the road, and it would be too dangerous to crash again with four broken ribs.” Bak said he hopes to return to racing within 10 days. In the meantime, he’ll stick to the home trainer.