Brussels - Alexander Kristoff proved he has rediscovered his form ahead of the
defence of his Tour of Flanders title as he won the first stage of Three
Days of De Panne on Tuesday.
The Norwegian edged out Astana pair Alexei Lutsenko and Lieuwe Westra
in a sprint finish at the end of the 198km stage from De Panne to
Kristoff won the race last year as well before going on to claim Tour of Flanders glory just three days later.
It was a welcome return to form for the 28-year-old had seemed out of
sorts last week at E3 Harelbeke and then Gent-Wevelgem, the first two
cobbled classics of the season.
He had complained of having "no legs" at E3 and was ill two days later at Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem race.
"I've been a bit sick, and I think I needed this day," said Kristoff.
"I hope I have better legs tomorrow, I was suffering all day today. In the end I managed to win but I was really struggling."
Katusha's Kristoff, who won three of the four stages last year, now
leads by a second from Kazakh Lutsenko and six seconds to Dutchman
Westra in the overall standings.
At the start of the day's racing, the peloton observed a minute's
silence in memory of Belgian duo Antoine Demoitie and Daan Myngheer, who
died on Sunday and Monday respectively.
Demoitie, 25, died after crashing with a motorbike during Gent-Wevelgem.
Myngheer, 22, suffered a heart attack during the Criterium International.
Wednesday's second stage is 211km long from Zottegem to Koksijde.
Results from Tuesday's 198km first stage of the Three Days of De Panne race from De Panne to Zottegem:
1. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/Katusha) 4hr 22min 34sec, 2. Alexei
Lutsenko (KAZ) same time, 3. Lieuwe Westra (NED) s.t., 4. Mads Pedersen
(DEN) at 29sec, 5. Luke Rowe (GBR) s.t., 6. Pim Ligthart (NED) 36, 7.
Manuel Belletti (ITA) s.t., 8. Juraj Sagan (SVK) s.t., 9. Sean De
Bie (BEL) s.t., 10. Marco Haller (AUT) s.t.
1. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) 4hr 22 min 24sec, 2. Alexei Lutsenko
(KAZ) at 1sec, 3. Lieuwe Westra (NED) 6, 4. Mads Pedersen (DEN) 39, 5.
Luke Rowe (GBR) s.t., 6. Tony Martin (GER) 44, 7. Pim Ligthart (NED) 46,
8. Manuel Belletti (ITA) s.t., 9. Juraj Sagan (SVK) s.t., 10. Sean De
Bie (BEL) s.t.