After finishing second to Mark Cavendish in the Tour of Oman, Denis Galimzyanov won his first race of the year. Team Katusha's Russian sprinted ahead of the field in the Three Days of De Panne stage two in Koksijde, Belgium.
"I always thought that it was possible, even if Cavendish is the strongest in cycling now," said Galimzyanov. "He goes off like a bomb in the last 200 metres."
Sky's Russell Downing took seventh in the sprint. John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) were second and third, respectively.
Brad Wiggins (Sky) missed the principle split midway into the stage, but ahead Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) was in Galimzyanov's group. Westra took the overall leader's white jersey from André Greipel and the title of race favourite.
"After the Kemmelberg, it was split into four groups and was all over the place. I think that's where Bradley lost control," said Sky's sports director, Steven De Jongh.
Wind and four climbs, including the cobbled Kemmelberg normally used in Ghent-Wevelgem, split the race into four groups midway into the 219-kilometre stage. A trio eventually emerged with a large group behind containing Galimzyanov, Westra and others.
The group caught the lead trio only in the final kilometre. Sky had Downing in the front group, but De Jongh was unable to assess the situation earlier on to save Wiggins' chance of an overall victory. Wiggins said yesterday that he hoped to repeat Brit David Millar's win from last year.
"I was too far back and without radio communication, so I don't even know what was going on," added De Jongh. "It's just sh*t."
Three Days of De Panne is ranked 2.HC and it's not in the WorldTour, which means two-way radios are prohibited as per UCI rules.
The race ends tomorrow with a 111-kilometre road stage and a 14.7-kilometre time trial. Dutchman Westra finished second in the time trial in 2009 and last year behind Millar.
Westra's top rival is 2008 time trial world champion, Bert Grabsch. If the German of team HTC-Highroad survives any splits in tomorrow morning's stage, he has a chance of winning the overall in the afternoon.
"The chance is good," said Grabsch, former World Champion time trialist. "We will have to see after tomorrow's road stage, you saw what happened today with the split, Wiggins left behind in the second group."
Three Days of De Panne 2011, stage two: Oudenaarde to Koksijde, 219km
1. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
4. Tomas Vaitkus (Lit) Astana
5. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM
6. Aidis Kruopis (Lit) Landbouwkrediet
7. Russell Downing (GB) Sky
8. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Francaise des Jeux
9. Jimmy Casper (Fra) Saur-Sojasun
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) RadioShack all same time
74. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 5-09
Overall classification after stage two
1. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM
2. Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil-Shimano at same time
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad at 2 secs
4. Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda's Willems at 2 secs
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale at 4 secs
6. Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Radioshack
7. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-ISD at 5 secs
8. Mickaël Delage (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 6 secs
9. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM at 8 secs
10. Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Francaise des Jeux at 8 secs
13. Russell Downing (GB) Sky at 8 secs
62. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 5-17
124. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 12-54
156. Peter Kennaugh (GB) Sky at 24-45
Three Days of De Panne 2011 stage one: Greipel wins from break
Wiggins passes first test for De Panne overall victory
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