Peter Sagan unintentionally wins opening stage of Three Days of De Panne

Peter Sagan says he was trying to set up the stage win for team-mate Oscar Gatto, but it went a bit wrong

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne on Tuesday after an aggressive display of riding. Surprisingly, Sagan didn’t intend to win – he was trying to set up the stage victory for team-mate Oscar Gatto.

Sagan had earlier given Gatto a tow up to bridge over to a seven-man escape group in the final 10 kilometres of the 201-kilometre opening stage of the UCI 2.HC ranked race.

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The Slovak then attempted to lead out Gatto for the sprint in Zotegem from the lead group, but realised too late that his pace was too much for his team-mate to pass him. Sagan could be seen to jab on his brakes, Gatto raised his arm in celebration but a photo-finish confirmed that Sagan had taken the win. Kenneth Van Bilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) was best of the rest in third.

“In the final I was working for Oscar,” Sagan said after the finish. “In the last two years I won the first stage and this year, we said that we wanted to do well for Oscar, maybe he can keep going until the finish.”

“I attacked over the last two climbs for him… afterwards, we caught the group on the front. In the final kilometres, I pulled in the sprint for Oscar. I thought he passed me on the line, I thought he won and I got second, but it was the other way around.”

Sagan was asked whether his team-mate was happy at the outcome. “I hope so,” he said. “I wanted to do something for him and the team because I’m also happy with the guys work for me in the big races – Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Flanders. This is one thing, I want to say to the team, thanks for your work. I wanted to do it for the team but it changed.”

Unconfirmed rumours have it that Sagan will now leave the race to prepare for the Tour of Flanders this coming Sunday (April 6), one of his key objectives for the spring. He won E3 Harelbeke on Friday, and finished third in Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday (March 30).

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was a non-starter in the race after suffering from a persistent stomach upset. The Manxman had missed Ghent-Wevelgem after falling ill in the wake of Milan-San Remo on March 23, and was hoping to be back in shape by Tuesday to start De Panne. An overnight bout of vomiting put paid to his plans and he has now returned home to Britain.

The Three Days of De Panne concludes on Thursday with a split stage – a road stage in the morning and 14.3km time trial in the afternoon.

Three Days of De Panne 2014, stage one: De Panne to Zotegem, 201km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale in 4-29-39

2. Oscar Gatto (Ita) Cannondale
3. Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
4. Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
5. Laurens De Vreese (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
6. Mauro Finetto (Ita) Yellow Fluo
7. Vincent Jerome (Fra) Europcar
8. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Jerome Baugnies (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10. Sander Cordeel (Bel) Vastgoedservice all same time

The peloton on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane

The peloton on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane

Orica-Green Edge on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane

Orica-Green Edge on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane

Matthew Hayman on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane

Matthew Hayman on stage one of the 2014 3 Days of DePane