By Nigel Wynn
Belgian squad Omega Pharma-QuickStep dominated the opening prologue time trial of the
Three Days of West Flanders in Belgium on Friday, with Michal Kwiatkowski scoring the win
British hope Alex Dowsett (Sky) set the early marker of eight minutes and 18 seconds on the 7km course in Middelkerke. The British time trial national champion took the hot seat for a lengthy period before being usurped by eventual runner-up Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Eventually, Dowsett ended up in 12th place, 18 seconds adrift of Kwiatkowski - who finished third overall in last year's race whilst riding for RadioShack. Vermote finished at four seconds, with Robert Wagner (RadioShack-Nissan) in third at nine seconds.
"Well that hurt! Haven't ever blown with 500m to go in a TT before, safe to say I got everything out," Dowsett tweeted shortly after he finished.
Dowsett's Sky team-mate Michael Rogers finished in eighth spot, 13 seconds behind stage winner Kwiatkowski.
American team Garmin-Barracuda placed three riders in the top ten, with Alex Rasmussen, Jack Bauer and sprinter Tyler Farrar placing fourth, ninth and 10th respectively.
Two further stages of the three-day race remain, a 181.5km trip from Brugge to Kortrijk-Bellegem on Saturday followed by Sunday's 186.5km finale from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem.
New Zealander Jesse Sergent won last year for RadioShack after winning the prologue and successfully defending his lead. This year he placed fifth in the opening test against the clock.
Three Days of West Flander 2012, prologue: Middelkerke, 7km ITT
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep in 8-00
2. Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 4 secs
3. Robert Wagner (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan at 9 secs
4. Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Barracuda at 10 secs
5. Jesse Sergent (NZl) RadioShack-Nissan at 10 secs
6. Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 10 secs
7. Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Katusha at 13 secs
8. Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky at 13 secs
9. Jack Bauer (NZl) Garmin-Barracuda at 14 secs
10. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Barracuda at 15 secs
12. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Sky at 18 secs
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