Cooke Wins Stage 2 of Three Days of De Panne, Leads Race
Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com) has won Stage 2 of the Three Days of De Panne. The Australian took a bunch sprint from Giosue Bonomi (Saeco) and Steven De Jongh (Rabobank) to win the flat, 237-km ride from Zottegem to Koksijde in 5:20:02. Cooke has taken the overall lead.
Bart Voskamp (Chocolade Jacques), Stefan Van Dijck (Lotto-Domo), and Matthew Hayman (Rabobank) made the day's great escape. The trio forged a seven-minute lead, at which point Gerolsteiner rode tempo to protect race leader Danilo Hondo. The bunch, assisted by a railroad crossing at which the trio had to stop, gradually reduced the break's lead.
La Francaise des Jeux.com took over the pacemaking, and Gerolsteiner, Lotto-Domo, and U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor, among others, joined the French squad. The bunch reeled in the break, and Marco Milesi (Vini Caldirola) countered. With 18 km left, he led the field by 0:11.
The bunch was having none of it. Quick Step-Davitamon led the chase that brought back Milesi, only to have Wim De Vocht and Bert Roesems (both from Relax-Bodysol) sally off of the front. British champion Roger Hammond (Mr. Bookmaker-Palmans) bridged up to the pair, but the peloton brought them back. Hammond made a solo effort, but he never had a chance.
Nico Mattan (Relax-Bodysol) and Tomas Vaitkus (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) had a go. They forged a 14-second lead, and Leon Van Bon (Lotto-Domo) joined them, but Quick Step-Davitamon and Gerolsteiner reeled them in with five km left. Salvatore Commesso (Saeco) tried to get away, but the sprinters' teams were letting no one escape.
Cooke took Hondo's wheel, but Quick Step-Davitamon bumped and barged its way to the front. Cooke's teammate and compatriot Brad McGee led him to the front, and Cooke took over from there. The Australian won easily.
In the overall, Cooke leads Hondo by 0:06 and George Hincapie (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) by 0:12. Tomorrow will be the decisive day of racing. Stage 3 will be a hilly, 116-km road race that will begin and end in De Panne. Stage 4 will be a 13.7-km time trial in De Panne. Who will prevail? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!