By Nigel Wynn
Elia Viviani (Team Sky) won stage two of the Three Days of De Panne in Belgium on Wednesday in a close finish with Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep).
Viviani let out a roar as he crossed the line in Koksijde having sprinted past Kittel in the final few metres of the long 211km stage. It's the Italian's second victory of the 2016 season after winning a stage of the Dubai Tour.
Stage one winner and overall leader Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) finished in third to retain his position at the top of the general classification. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) is in second place at five seconds, with Lieuwe Westra (Astana) in third at 10 seconds.
The mid-section of the stage featured five tough climbs, including the Kemmelberg, before hitting a flat section and three loops of a finishing circuit. Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal) was the last rider from the day's escape group to be caught by the peloton, setting up a bunch finish.
Having finished fifth on stage one, British rider Luke Rowe (Team Sky) dropped out of the race and was a non-finisher. American Taylor Phinney (BMC) was a non-starter.
After Rowe's withdrawal, the top-placed British rider overall is now Scott Thwaites (Bora-Argon18) in 19th spot.
The Three Days of De Panne concludes on Thursday with two stages: a short and fast 112km road stage followed by a 14.2km individual time trial. Many of the riders present in the race - including Rowe - will contest the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, April 3.
Three Days of De Panne 2016, stage two: Zottegem to Koksijde, 211km
1. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
2. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
5. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
6. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot Oranje Peloton
7. Paolo Simion (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
8. Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
9. Erik Baska (Svk) Tinkoff
10. Ivan Savitskiy (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha in 9-23-24
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana at 5 secs
3. Liuewe Westra (Ned) Astana at 10 secs
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Stölting Service Group at 43 secs
5. Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen at 45 secs
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 46 secs
7. Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC Racing at 48 secs
8. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep at 48 secs
9. Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha at 49 secs
10. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 50 secs
19. Scott Thwaites (GBr) Bora-Argon18 at 50 secs
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