Belgian champion takes commanding overall lead

Phlippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) took victory on the opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne after attacking on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and riding solo to the finish.

Gilbert had forced an initial selection when he accelerated on the first of two ascents of the Muur, dragging a group of 15 riders clear of the field.

>>> Watch: Katusha rider nearly takes out spectator while riding on pavement

After hard work from team-mate Dries Devenyns to make sure that the move wasn’t caught by a chasing group, Gilbert attacked on the Muur for a second time with 16km to go, with no one able to match his acceleration.

The Quick-Step Floors rider was then able to hold off a valiant chase from two-time Australian time trial champion Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) to take the stage win by 17 seconds, putting himself in a commanding position to also win the race overall.


Watch: How to ride on cobbles


The opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne saw the toughest day of racing with more than 200km covered from the coastal resort of De Panne, finishing with a hilly circuit around Zottegem.

The main break of the day contained seven riders, but the racing really got going on the first climb of the Muur van Geraardsbergen with just over 60km to go, when Philippe Gilbert led a group of 15 riders clear.

The second and final climb up the Muur came with 16km to go and saw another Gilbert attacked, with the Belgian champion accelerating from the very base of the climb.

This time Gilbert was able to dispense with all of his fellow riders, with Luke Durbridge the last rider to be dropped only a couple of hundred metres from the top of the climb.

>>> Muur van Geraardsbergen: cycling’s iconic places

What followed was essentially a pursuit between Gilbert and Durbridge, with the Australian unable to eat into Gilbert’s narrow 10-second lead on the flat roads towards the final climb of the Klemhoutstraat.

That gentle ascent played into Gilbert’s hadns as he opened his advantage out to 20 seconds, which he would hold all the way to the line.

The race will continue on Wednesday with a stage from Zottegem to Koksijde featuring the Kemmelberg climb, and concludes on Thursday with a road stage and time trial stage.

Results

Three Days of De Panne 2017, stage one: De Panne – Zottegem (2o2.5km)

1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-26-18
2. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 17 secs
3. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 34 secs
4. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
5. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
6. Frederick Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 53 secs
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, at 58 secs
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
10. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time

Overall classification after stage one

1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, in 4-36-05
2. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 22 secs
3. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 43 secs
5. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo, at 46 secs
5. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 47 secs
6. Frederick Backaert (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 1-06
7. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-11
8. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
9. Marco Canola (Ita) Nippo-Vini Fantini
10. Sacha Modolo (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time