Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) won an eventful second stage of the Three Days of De Panne in Belgium on Wednesday.
The Norwegian won the sprint from a lead group after the peloton was split apart by crosswinds and aggressive riding. Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) placed second with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) in third.
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The victory is a welcome morale-boosting result for 2015 Tour of Flanders winner Kristoff, who had up until that point missed out on success this season in Belgium.
Stage one winner, overall race leader and Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) was one of those who helped to drive the split in the bunch. Gilbert and the Quick-Step team joined with members of Trek-Segafredo, Katusha-Alpecin, and others to force open a break in the bunch.
Australian Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) saw his hopes of taking the overall lead all but evaporate after he was caught in the second group. Starting the day in second place overall and 17 seconds behind Gilbert, Durbridge rolled in over two and a half minutes down.
As well as assisting in forming the split in the bunch, Gilbert also chased down intermediate sprint bonus seconds in an entertaining duel with Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie).
Gilbert extended his overall race lead to a significant 50 seconds over second-placed Matthias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo), with Kristoff in third at 1-07.
The 2017 Three Days of De Panne concludes with a double-header of stages on Thursday, starting with an undulating 118.5km road stage and a decisive 14.2km individual time trial.
Barring disaster and given the way he has been riding, Gilbert looks to have the race sewn up.
Three Days of De Panne, stage two: Zottegem to Koksijde, 192.9km
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, in 4-37-29
2. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors
4. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Andrea Guardini (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect
7. Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
8. Coen Vermeltfoort (Ned) Roompot–Nederlandse Loterij
9. Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept
10. Conor Dunne (Irl) Aqua Blue Sport, all same time
General classification after stage two
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, in 9-13-28
2. Matthias Brändle (Aut) Trek-Segafredo, at 50 secs
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-07
4. Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-11
5. Pim Ligthart (Ned) Roompot–Nederlandse Loterij, at 1-15
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Direct Energie, at 1-15
7. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect, at 1-17
8. Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fra) Fortuneo-Vital Concept, at 1-17
9. Boy van Poppel (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-22
10. Jasper De Buyst (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 2-25