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Gilbert crushes the opposition in De Panne opener

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Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) fired an warning to his rivals ahead of Sunday’s Tour of Flanders with an impressive solo win in the opening stage of Three Days of De Panne.

Philippe Gilbert became the first Belgian Champion to win a stage at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde since 2005, following an audacious display on the queen-stage of the race.

In a perfectly-executed strategy of Quick-Step Floors, Dries Devenyns booked a place in a group that got clear 80 kilometers from the finish and patiently waited for Gilbert to bridge across, which he did with a vicious attack on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The newly-formed group enjoyed at first a slim lead, of just 20 seconds, but the gap went out to 40 seconds inside the final 30 kilometers.

The chasing group was led by four Katusha riders, and despite having the numbers, they couldn’t match Devenyns’ efforts, who allowed Philippe Gilbert to start the Muur with a healthy margin of half a minute. On the steep cobbles of the legendary hill which saw many great champions emerge throughout history, Gilbert attacked without even getting out of the saddle and distanced all the riders of the main group, crossing the top with five seconds in hand.

Only 16 kilometers separated him from the finish after Kapelmuur, and on the long and wide roads to Zottegem, which included one last climb (Klemhoutstraat), the Quick-Step Floors rider never looked behind and extended his lead on Luke Durbridge arriving at the finish line solo and celebrating his first success since conquering the Belgian title last June.

“To finally get a victory in this beautiful jersey, and for Quick-Step Floors, makes me very happy! I want to thank to my team, and especially to Dries, whose hard-work at the front was quintessential. Now I’m at the top of the overall standings, but I know it won’t be easy to defend my position, so we’ll just take it day by day”, said Philippe Gilbert, who leads the general classification by 22 seconds.

Three Days of De Panne 2017 – stage 1 results (De Panne – Zottegem):

1Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors)

4:36:18

2Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott)

+17”

3Simone Consonni (UAE Team Emirates)

+34”

4Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Soudal)

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5Matthias Brandle (Trek-Segafredo)

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6Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)

+53”

7Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin)

+58”

8Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo)

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9Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini)

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10Sacha Modolo (UAE Team Emirates)

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