Hondo Wins Stage 1 of Three Days of De Panne
Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) has drawn first blood in the Three Days of De Panne. The German sprinter outlegged 19 companions to take the hilly, 196-km ride from Middelkerke to Zottegem in 5:16:20. Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com) finished second, and George Hincapie (U.S. Postal Service-Berry Floor) finished third.
Frederik Willems made the break of the day. The Vlaanderen-T Interim rider attacked into a headwind at 12 km, and his lead ballooned to 18 minutes before the peloton reacted. Willems was caught at the top of the Berendries, where Laszlo Bodrogi (Quick Step-Davitamon) countered.
With 14 km left, the bunch reeled in Bodrogi. On the Leberg, Luca Paolini (Quick Step-Davitamon), Leif Hoste (Lotto-Domo), and Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) attacked. Eighteen other riders, including Hondo, Cooke, and Hincapie, joined the break. With most teams represented, the peloton had little inclination to chase the fugitives, who led the bunch by 0:18 at the top of the ascent.
With nine km left, the escapees began to attack each other. Everyone was ridden down until the last km, when Steffen Wesemann (T Mobile) tried a solo escape. With 200 m left, Hondo led the break past his countryman to win. The peloton rode home at 0:41.
In the overall, Hondo leads Cooke by 0:04 and Hincapie by 0:06. Stage 2 will be a flat, 237-km ride from Zottegem to Koksijde that should end in a bunch sprint. Will Hondo keep his overall lead, or will one of his competitors take it from him? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!