Italian Jacopo Guarnieri took his season’s first victory in the morning leg of the Three Days of De Panne today on Belgium’s coast. The Liquigas-Cannondale cyclist sprinted ahead of yesterday’s winner, Russian Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha).

“I’ve been chasing this victory since the start of the season,” said Guarnieri in a press release. “I knew I had trained hard over the winter, but for one reason over the other, I was unable to express myself.”

Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) are favoured for this afternoon’s 14.7-kilometre time trial. Dutchman Westra finished second in the time trial last year behind David Millar and in 2009.

“All the [HTC] team riders sacrificed themselves for Grabsch. We want to win the GC for him,” said HTC’s sports director, Allan Peiper.

“He’s in great form and about as thin as I have ever seen him. The only thing, he’s upset because we don’t have the 58-tooth gear for him here, he’ll have to use a 56.”

Westra held the overall leader’s white jersey heading into the 111-kilometres stage this morning around De Panne. However, he lost it to Bert De Backer (Skil-Shimano), who took second an intermediate sprint to gain two extra seconds.

Belgian De Backer leads by two seconds over Westra and four over Arnoud Van Groen (Verandas Willems-Accent).

Wind and light rain marked the stage, causing havoc for Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.

“He couldn’t have punctured at a worse time,” said team sports director, Steven De Jongh.

Wiggins is out of the race. He lost after losing 5’09” in yesterday’s stage to Koksijde and more importantly, finished outside the time limit today.

Only 56 riders of 155 starters today made the cut; 77, including Wiggins finished 25 minutes and 22 seconds behinds Guarnieri. The jury decided to start the 56 racers at two-minute intervals. The time trial starts at 14:30 local time.

“Super disappointed,” said Sky’s coach, Rod Ellingworth. He arrived today to help guide Wiggins and Sky’s other riders in the time trial.

“Today was bad luck, but yesterday was a mistake. Our guard was down and Brad was caught out in the feed zone.”

The feed zone preceded the stage’s four climbs, including the cobbled Kemmelberg used yearly in Ghent-Wevelgem. Wiggins now travels home and will return to mainland Europe to race Paris-Roubaix next Sunday.

Tour of Flanders favourites Stijn Devolder, Alessandro Ballan, Filippo Pozzato and Peter Sagan skipped this morning’s stage. They will use the extra day to prepare for Flanders on Sunday.

Results

Three Days of De Panne 2011, stage 3a: De Panne to De Panne, 111km

1. Iacopo Guarnieri (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale in 2-32-11


2. Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha

3. Jimmy Casper (Fra) Saur-Sojasun

4. Kenny Van Hummel (Ned) Skil-Shimano

5. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) BMC Racing

6. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quick Step

7. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Radioshack

8. Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Astana

9. Jacobe Keough (USA) Unitedhealthcare

10. Stijn Neirynck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen all same time

Overall classification after stage 3a

1. Bert De Backer (Bel) Skil-Shimano


2. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 2 secs

3. Arnoud Van Groen (Ned) Veranda’s Willems at 4 secs

4. Dmitri Muravyev (Kaz) RadioShack at 6 secs

5. Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM at 7 secs

Related links



Galimzyanov grabs first win in De Panne



Three Days of De Panne 2011 stage one: Greipel wins from break



Wiggins passes first test for De Panne overall victory