Settimana Ciclista Lombarda and KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde are two stage races that has begun today.
The first stage of Settimana Ciclista Lombarda, a team time trial, was won by LPR Brakes - Farnese Vini and the leader of the race is Alessandro Petacchi, who crossed the finish line in first place. Last year LPR Brakes dominated this year as they took all three spots of the overall podium, with Danilo Di Luca taking the overall title.
Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team finished 13th. Sergey Lagutin seems to injure or ill. He lost time in the team time trial, and honestly, I don't think that has ever happened before. He is usually not the type of rider who lose contact with his team in team time trials, even though he is certainly not a time trial specialist. I would like to know what has happened, but it's true, he probably crashed during the Critérium International. I am worried about him.
KBC-Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde's first stage was won by Filippo Pozzato (Katusha), just three days after winning the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen. Today he easily won the downhill two-up sprint ahead of Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and he took the lead in the overall classification. "The victory on Saturday certainly has given me morale." But he may not give it all in the time trial, just to win the overall. Surely it depends on how far ahead of the rest of the riders he is. He is not a time trial specialist either, so defending the overall may be difficult in some situations. "If I have the lead, I will try to defend it, but if I don't have the jersey, I won't go for it in the time trial." Tour of Flanders is also more important than the De Panne race, so he may not do everything just to keep the lead either. "This is De Panne, but Sunday is really important for me."
Frederik Willems tried to win the race and took the initiative in the end of the race, but Pozzato is a great sprinter. "I tried to accelerate with about 200m to go, in the turn, but he [Pozzato] was too strong and too fast. I knew I was beaten right away... "I was in the front, but Pozzato is like a derny at the moment." He was proud of his race though and did not regret anything. "In the beginning I was in the [Tom] Boonen group and too far back. I knew I had to get to the front group, as Boonen and [Kevin] van Impe were the only ones driving. They came close, but not really fast enough, so I jumped."
Alessandro Ballan won the Driedaagse De Panne in 2006, but for this year's race he will not be riding his bike. Instead he is ill. He has missed quite a big part of the spring season due to a cytomegalovirus - a herpes-type virus that causes tiredness and fever - and he will not be able to ride the Spring Classics either, but the world champion will help his Lampre-NGC teammates anyway as they prepare for the Paris-Roubaix, where he finished third in 2008, but of course he will not race in it. "I am doing better, and next week I will have some more exams to check the status of the virus," he said in video press release at Lampre's homepage. "I would like to head north on the eve of the Paris-Roubaix to reconnoitre some of the sectors with my teammates."
The rider had to withdraw from the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in mid-March and he has not been able to race since then. He had a big wish of winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race that he won in 2007, but he will not be there this Sunday (of course). Perhaps it's the curse of the World champion jersey, but I really had hoped to see him in the spring classics. "It will be hard to have another occasion to race the Northern Classics with the World Champion jersey. ... My objective is to return for the Giro d'Italia." Ballan said. And yes, it may be difficult. Ballan may not be double world champion, he is not a supersprinter who can win races all the time, but instead he needs to be clever to win. But it is true, he is quite clever so it's possible for him to win the world championship another time, but it might be difficult.
The Driedaagse De Panne starts today and one of the favourites are Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) who won the race last year. A race which he won thanks to victory in the final stage. He won the time trial and took the general classification from Enrico Gasparotto. He finished second in 2007 to Alessandro Ballan. "I finished second two years ago and I won last year," he said this morning. "I will be trying to win again." The race started in Middelkerke, Belgium. Posthuma became the winner of the Vuelta a Andalucía in February, so he has, at least, been in a good form and he seems to believe in himself as the winner this time too. "It will all depend on today. If a break stays away then that will decide the race."