Cavendish Powers to Seventh Season Victory in De Panne
Team Columbia-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish powered to an emphatic stage win in the Three Days De Panne in Belgium on Wednesday, with Columbia-Highroad’s ubiquitous superior teamwork playing a key part in the British rider’s victory.
Cavendish took his seventh victory of the season at the end of a 219-kilometer stage from Zottegem to OostDunkuirke, beating Robbie McEwen of Katusha and Francesco Chicchi of Liquigas. “There was a three-rider break with a very big lead in the final 40 kilometres and a strong headwind,” reported Allan Peiper, Columbia-Highroad team sports director at the event. “We initially put two of our guys on the front, Gert Dockx and Bert Grabsch, because if we’d put four riders there when the gap had been at 10 minutes, then we wouldn’t have had anybody left to control it when it got closer to the finish. At the same time, we wanted to lift the pace, so after Gert and Bert, Marcel [Sieberg] and Vicente [Reynes] really helped keep things going. There was a really epic chase with the bunch lined out for most of the last part of the stage.”
Team Columbia-Highroad teammate Bernhard Eisel crashed out of the stage, hurting his shoulder and arm, but is expected to make a fast recovery. “There was a massive pile-up with about three kilometres to go, and Mark, Greg [Henderson] and Mark Renshaw luckily avoided that one,” added Peiper. “The last part was very tricky, the break was only brought back with nine kilometres left to race, but having Grabsch there and then Mark Renshaw in the final kilometre was a big help for Cavendish. If Mark had had to rely on another rider from another team in the last 500 metres, then it might have been much more complicated.”
The De Panne stage win continues Cavendish’s impressive run of 2009 victories, with the Milan-San Remo Classic the biggest success of the year so far. ”It was a great win here today, but it’s not like he needs any more boosts to his morale before his next big goal. He’s already doing so well,” beamed Peiper. “I know he’s really focused on Ghent-Wevelgem, and he’s also looking forward to a bit of a break which is understandable. I think he’s spent about five nights in his own bed since the start of the season!”
The Three Days De Panne finishes on Thursday with a split stage, a 112-kilometre road stage and a 14-kilometre time trial in De Panne.