Durbridge retains sixth place on the general classification after stage two of De Panne

Wed 30 Mar 2016

Stage two of Driedaasge De Panne-Koksijde ended in bunch sprint with Luke Durbridge of ORICA-GreenEDGE finishing safely in the front group to retain sixth place on the general classification.

After a fast and windy 211kilometres Slovenian Luka Mezgec claimed fourteenth place in the hectic bunch sprint behind stage winner Elia Vivaini (Team-Sky). Durbridge is 46seconds behind race leader Alexander Kristoff (Team-Katusha) going into the third and final day tomorrow.

Sports director Laurenzo Lapage was happy that ORICA-GreenEDGE finished the race in one piece after a big crash at the start of the stage.

“The team rode really well today,” said Lapage. “There was a worrying moment at the start when a crash happened but thankfully we managed to avoid it and everyone came through OK.”

“Luke (Durbridge) positioned himself very intelligently throughout the race, he stayed up near the front when the splits happened and did a great job going over the Kemmelberg.”

“The team tried to work for Luka (Mezgec) in the final kilometres for the sprint,” continued Lapage. “The boys did well to keep him up there but he just didn’t quite have the legs in the last 100metres.”

“We are in a decent position going into the last stage, hopefully we can look after Luke in the morning race and keep him in good condition for the afternoon time trial.”

How it happened:

Stage two of De Panne got underway with another fast start as crashes occurred in the neutral zone for the second consecutive day. Strong cross winds played an important role in the forming of echelons within the peloton during the first 30kilometres.

A group of eight riders managed to break away and gain a lead on the peloton of over six minutes after 50kilometres of racing. The advantage of the leaders rose to over seven minutes before Team Katusha and Etixx-Quickstep at the head of the bunch began to give chase.

After 100kilometres of racing there were three groups on the road as the breakaway began to separate, three riders remained in the lead group with a gap of five minutes over the main peloton. The wind continued to contribute to the race conditions as riders began to drop out of the back of the bunch with the increased effort of the chase.

The undulating parcours included some difficult climbs, including the iconic Kemmelberg, and with around 60kilometres left to race the peloton had caught the first group of leaders. Three more riders remained up the road with a falling advantage of under three minutes.

On the second of three finishing circuits around Koksijde, Pim Litghart (Lotto-Soudal) attacked from the trio of leaders and attempted to go it alone developing a slim but immediate advantage. Heading into the final 30kilometres Canadian Svein Tuft moved to the front for ORICA-GreenEDGE and the minute-plus lead of the remaining two escapees instantly began to plummet. Less than 15kilometres to go and the field had come back together, the sprinter's teams started to battle for position at the front of the bunch.

The stage finish was shaping up for a bunch sprint with Team Sky, Etixx-Quickstep and Team-Katusha all jostling for position at the front of the peloton alongside ORICA-GreenEDGE. The final five kilometres were raced at breakneck speed as positioning on the tight corners became the priority. Viviani, Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) and race leader Kristoff all started their sprints early with Viviani just holding on to take the stage victory.

Thursday’s third and final stage is split into two parts, with a 111kilometre ‘criterium’ in the morning followed by a 14.2kilometre individual time trial in the afternoon.

Driedaasge De Panne-Koksijde Stage 2 results:

1. Elia Viviani (Team-Sky) 5:01:04
2. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) ST
3. Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) ST
14. Luka Mezgec (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST

 General classification after stage 2:

1. Alexander Kristoff (Team-Katusha) 9:23:24
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) 0:00:05
3. Lieuwe Westra (Astana) 0:00:10
6. Luke Durbridge (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 0:00:46