Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) recovered from Wednesdays disappointment to win stage 3a of the Three Days of De Panne, although a late crash left the bunch sprint reduced in numbers.
Kittel was beaten on the line by Elia Viviani (Team Sky) on stage two but made sure he was in the right position heading into the final tight corner which caught out some of his rivals.
With several roundabouts and corners in the final three kilometres it was imperative for the favourites to be towards the front of the peloton to avoid the dangers.
Etixx got Kittel up to the front, as Katusha also did with race leader Alexander Kristoff. As the surging peloton reached the final 90 degree corner around 20 riders made it through unscathed but a big crash midway through the pack blocked the road for the others.
Andre Greipel was one of the riders to be caught out in the crash, but Kittel and Kristoff were already on the final straight battling for the win.
Kristoff faded slightly towards the end, allowing Bora-Argon 18's Phil Bauhaus through to take second place.
Kristoff retains the lead by seven seconds over Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and 12 seconds over Lieuwe Westra (Astana) heading into the short time trial this afternoon.
Three Days of De Panne stage 3a, De Panne - De Panne (111.5km)
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step, 2-27-03
2. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bora-Argon 18
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
4. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
5. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Marc Sarreau (Fra) FDJ
7. Michael Van Staeyen (Bel) Cofidis
8. Erik Baska (Svk) Tinkoff
9. Raymond Kreder (Ned) Roompot Oranje Peloton
10. Marko Kump (Slo) Lampre-Merida, all same time
Overall standings after stage 3a
1. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, 11-50-25
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana, at 7s
3. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana, at 12s
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Skolting Service Group, at 45s
5. Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, at 47s
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge, at 48s
7. Rick Zabel (Ger) BMC, at 50s
8. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step, st
9. Michael Morkov (Den) Katusha, at 51s
10. Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen, at 52s
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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