By Nigel Wynn
Alexander Krisoff (Katusha) put himself into the perfect position into the tight final corner to open up his sprint and take the morning road stage of the final day of Three Days of De Panne.
Yesterday's stage winner, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) found himself too far back going into the ninety-degree final corner and could not make up ground in the finishing straight.
Sacha Modolo (Bardiani Valvole) took second with Elia Viviani (Cannondale) in third.
Earlier, Brit Russell Downing (NetApp-Endura) had been part of a five-man escape group that was reeled in as the sprinters' teams upped the pace.
Kristoff now leads the race ahead of Arnaud Demare (FDJ) at four seconds and Cavendish at nine seconds.
Stage one winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) all withdrew from the race. All three will be in action in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday.
Cavendish's Omega Pharma team-mate and 2012 Three Days of De Panne winner Sylvain Chavanel is fourth overall, and looks in a good position to repeat last year's victory after this afternoon's decisive 14.75km individual time trial.
Three Days of De Panne 2013, stage 3a: De Panne to De Panne, 109.7km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
2. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani Valvole
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Cannondale
4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani Valvole
5. Baptiste Planckaert (Bel) Crelan-Euphony all same time
Overall classification after stage 3a
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 12-16-16
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ at 4 secs
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 9 secs
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 10 secs
5. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Crelan-Euphony at 10 secs
Alexander Kristoff wins stage 3a
Three Days of De Panne 2013: Related links
Cavendish motivated by De Panne win
Stage two: Cavendish wins
Peter Sagan continues winning streak with De Panne stage one victory
Effetto Mariposa releases its line of environmentally-friendly cleaning products
Best known for its torque wrenches, the Swiss-based brand seeks to lessen our collective environmental impact through its use of plant-based ingredients and replaceable parts
By Luke Friend •
Transport for London pauses new 'see their side' campaign after backlash against advert
TfL paused the campaign after facing a backlash on social media
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •