|Trailing by 14 seconds entering today’s second and final|
stage of the Three Days of the Panne stage race in Belgium, the United States Postal
Service Pro Cycling Team’s Viatcheslav Ekimov turned in what USPS team assistant
director sportif Dirk Demol called a "perfect" time trial to win the stage
and the overall.
Under gray skies and in chilly conditions, Ekimov blazed through the flat 14.3 kilometer
time trial course from Zeelane to De Panne in 17:17, averaging just under 50 kilometers
per hour. Ekimov defeated race leader Romans Vainsteins of Vini Caldirola by 17 seconds
in the stage, giving the Russian the victory by just three seconds.
"He rode the perfect time trial today," Demol said of Ekimov. "He
didn’t even make one small mistake. He was pushing a big gear all the time but had
a very good cadence. Every corner and turn was perfect – he was really concentrating
on the possible victory."
It is the second victory in the Three Days of the Panne for Ekimov, having previously
won the event in 1996. As a member of the USPS team in 1998, Ekimov finished third
overall. Today’s victories were the second and third of the year for the team, following
Dylan Casey’s time trial stage win at the Redlands Classic earlier this month.
Ekimov was in 33rd place overall following Tuesday’s opening stage but jumped to
seventh overall after yesterday’s second stage when he and 19 other riders finished
over 15 minutes ahead of the field. Ekimov was then well-protected by his teammates
in today’s first half-stage and entered the final time trial with a clear shot at
the overall victory.
"We were sure yesterday evening that he (Ekimov) had a chance to win the (time
trial) stage and the overall," Demol said. "The team worked very hard this
morning (in the day’s first stage) to protect (Ekimov) to put him in the best possible
condition for the time trial.
"It’s a really good feeling because of all the bad luck we have had this year
The USPS’ Dylan Casey also turned in a solid ride in the time trial today, finishing
sixth in the stage, 36 seconds behind Ekimov.
Other team members were not as fortunate in the race, as George Hincapie crashed
three times – twice in the first stage – while Frankie Andreu also went down in the
opening stage. However, both are recovering quickly and are slated to start the Tour
of Flanders this Sunday, joining Ekimov, Casey, Julian Dean, Marty Jemison, Kirk
O’Bee and Cedric Vasseur.
"It’s a big win for us and also a relief for the guys," said Johan Bruyneel,
director sportif of the team. "Since Paris-Nice, the team has been on a very
good level and should have been able to win a couple of times with any luck, but
something always happened. Also, its good for the confidence of the team before important
races like Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Now the team knows that when they work hard,
something can come of it. They see they can win."
STAGE 3B, THREE DAYS OF THE PANNE
1. Viatcheslav Ekimov, USPS; 14.3 kms in 17:17
2. Romans Vainsteins, Vini Caldirola; at :17
3. Servias Knaven, Farm Frites; at :31
4. Peter Van Petegem, Farm Frites; at :32
5. Nico Mattan, Cofidis; at :35
6. Dylan Casey, USPS; at :36
13. Cedric Vasseur, USPS; at :56
25. Marty Jemison, USPS; at 1:13
32. Kirk O’Bee, USPS; at 1:26
36. Benoit Joachim, USPS; at 1:33
FINAL GC, THREE DAYS OF THE PANNE
1. Ekimov; 13:59:40
2. Vainsteins; at :03
3. Sergeui Ivanov, Farm Frites; at :39
4. Andrei Tchmi, Lotto; at :47
5. Maarten Den Bakker, Rabobank; at :48
53. Casey; at 25:07
68. O’Bee; at 33:36
73. Vasseur; at 36:31
74. Jemison; at 36:48
94. Joachim; at 43:23
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