David Millar positioned himself to win The Three Days of De Panne overall today in Oudenaarde, Belgium. The Scot of team Garmin-Transitions made the final selection of seven men, which included stage winner Frenchman Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom).
“I was very intelligent today,” Millar told Cycling Weekly. “Sometimes when I feel good I get too carried away, but I was very calculated today. I wanted to win, it is a big difference when you really want to do something, and that was the case today. I used my head.”
Millar was the best time trial rider in the group. He finished seventh, three seconds behind winner Chainel and 45 seconds ahead of the next group. The time he gained will be important for the final stage, Thursday afternoon’s 14.75-kilometre time trial.
He won the time trial stage 12 years ago, in 1998, racing for French team Cofidis. Italian Michele Bartoli defended himself and won the overall that year.
“I was a baby, it’s hard to remember that, it is so long ago. It’s taken me 12 years to come back and try to win the GC,” Millar told Cycling Weekly. “I think I won it by a lot, 14 seconds. I was a little, a few kilos lighter, a young man then, but I am a lot smarter now.”
The 198-kilometre stage from Middelkerke to Oudenaarde was marked by 12 bergs, or short, steep climbs. By the Berendries climb, kilometre 160, five riders remained from the initial escape group of 10 men: Tiziano Dall’Antonia (Liquigas-Doimo), Bert Scheirlinckx (Landbouwkrediet), Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Aleksejs Saramotins (HTC-Columbia).
Millar moved clear with a group of eight after the Berendries climb. The group worked to join the front five, making 13 with 31 kilometres to race and ahead of the day’s final climbs: the Kruisberg and Korte Keer.
Millar’s group included Dall’Antonia, Scheirlinckx, Chainel, Saramotins, Grivko and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Daniel Oss and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo), Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil), Marco Bandiera (Katusha), Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) and Simon Spilak (Lampre).
“I didn’t actually attack,” continued Millar. “On the last climb, Gasparotto and I went at the same time. It was hard, a very hard day.”
There were only seven riders left after the Korte Keer climb, which left nine kilometres to race.
Italians Paolini and Gasparotto battled for the opening stage win two years ago, but today 26-year-old Chainel duped them.
Three Days of De Panne 2010, stage one: Middelkerke-Oudenaarde
1. Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom 198km in 4-34-28
2. Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
3. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
4. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
5. Frederic Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil at same time
7. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 3secs
8. Niko Eeckhhout (Bel) An Post-Sean Kelly at 45secs
9. Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
10. Marco Bandiera (Ita) Katusha at same time
Overall classification after stage one
1. Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
2. Luca Paolini (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 4secs
3. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana at 6secs
4. Daniel Oss (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 7secs
5. Frederic Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago at 10secs
6. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil at 10secs
7. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 13secs
8. Niko Eeckhhout (Bel) An Post-Sean Kelly at 55secs
9. Johan Coenen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator at 55secs
10. Marco Bandiera (Ita) Katusha at 55secs
Millar aims for De Panne overall