Two great races this past weekend had the Panel of Temporary Experts feeling glad they kept their day jobs. KOM Vuelta gets to eat the donut. Sallee and Beringhele are in no position to make fun of Gavia's Kelly Slater pick. And is there any more damning description of a competition than to say that I am tied for the lead?
This week is Driedaagse de Panne. You will see it referred to as tres jours, three days, three dogs, and the bread race (even though "panne" is only bread in Italian and Google says it's Dutch for "breakdown," not something you want to name a bike race after.) Anyway, De Panne is the town on the Belgian coast, and I'm pretty sure Panne are the dunes or something. Stage 1 should run the combatants up and down enough hellingen to sort things out, and the final day's short ITT will finish off matters. Now, the picks. We are only doing the final GC, not stages. Here's your low-hanging fruit:
|3Daagse de Panne||
|Edredon Browny||Brad Wiggins||Lieuwe Westra||Leif Hoste||0||4|
|Millsy 89||Brad Wiggins||Michael Matthews||Rick Flens||0||2|
|KOM Vuelta||Lieuwe Westra||Andriy Grivko||Rick Flens||0||0|
|Rubesandbabes||Alessandro Ballan||Lieuwe Westra||Adriano Malori||0||6|
|JSallee||Brad Wiggins||Seb Rosseler||Rick Flens||0||1|
|Popup Rolen||Brad Wiggins||Andre Greipel||Danny Pate||0||5|
|FrenchKheldar||Peter Sagan||Sylvain Chavanel||MIchael Matthews||0||2|
|Margin Walker||Sylvain Chavanel||Brad Wiggins||Niki Terpstra||0||3|
|Dan Beringhele||Stijn Devolder||Sylvain Chavanel||Rick Flens||0||1|
|Stevie Dexter||Brad Wiggins||Andriy Grivko||Gert Steegmans||0||6|
|Gavia||Leif Hoste||Stijn Devolder||Manuel Quinziato||0||2|
|Chris F||Niki Terpstra||Stijn Devolder||Rick Flens||0||6|
Subtle Clues and Mayhem in De Panne
Ah, "les Trois Jours de la Panne". This was the name by which i have known this race since I was a kid but I never paid too much attention to it. Reason number 1, no Frenchie has ever won it in 34 editions. Even when they had some success in the "Flandriennes" during the 90's (think Durand, Gaumont). Reason number 2, the name of the race literally sounds like "the three days of breakdown/mechanical" in French. Not the most enticing name you have to admit... Reason number 3, 3 days of relatively flat racing punctuated by a small ITT, it can be hard to be excited. However, it is an important preparation to the cobbles double, especially for riders a little short of their racing mileage. Also, the ITT is short enough that powerful classics riders can aim for the GC victory. Maybe one of the only stage races where it is the case alongside "Les 4 jours de Dunkerque", which runs in May on the other side of the border.
Since I was not extremely familiar with the race and its previous winners, allow me to dig a bit in the history of "De Panne".
Last year, Millar won but he was a non-factor in the Flanders before or after. Willems won in 2009 after finishing 6 at the Brabantse Pijl and before finishing 18th in Meerbeke. Posthuma won in 2008 and finished 2nd in 2009 and 2007. His only other results in the Flanders was 9th in Dwars in 2008.
But things change with Ballan who won De Panne and RVV in the same week in 2007 after finishing 10th in Harelbeke. Hoste did almost as good in 2006, winning De Panne and finishing 2nd in Meerbeke and 5th at E3. Devolder won in 2005 but wasn't a factor in RVV that year. Further back, guys like Hincapie, Van Petegem or Museeuw have proven that De Panne could be a good indicator of form for the 1-day classics in Flanders. It just hasn't been the case for the last 3 years. Will it be the case this year? I'm gonna say no, given the fact that the startlist doesn't contain many contenders for RVV. Probably because with E3 and GW last week-end, there were many opportunities of adding racing mileage without going to De Panne.
Here is a list of possible contenders if things are not set before the TT:
- Devolder: not sure what he could hope from RVV given his current form, but will he be motivated for this?
- Matthews: good references on TT, but hasn't shown much in the North yet as a Pro.
- Grabsch: TT usually not long enough for him
- Grivko: on the podium last year. Maybe watch out for Simon Clarke from Astana too
- Peter Sagan: I think he should seize the opportunity to add this race to his "palmarès"
- Sylvain Chavanel: QS is on the rise !
- Amorison was 4th last year and has already shown good form this years in the Flanders.
If expecting a crazy race with breakaways, one could go with Chainel, Keukeleire, Degenkolb and many others. But that's of course very hard to predict. In the end, I'm going with:
- Peter Sagan
- Sylvain Chavanel
- Michael Matthews
Good luck to you all.