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3 Days of De Panne: Bortolami Leads

3 DAYS OF THE PANNE – First etappe : Middelkerke – Zottegem (196 km) – Reported by Eugeen Peelman

Gianluca Bortolami won the first nervous stage from the “3 Days of De Panne” and is the leader of this Tour. Bortolami was 2 years ago the winner of the “Tour de Flanders”, and is one of the favourites for next Sunday. Here’s today’s report from what has become a pre-Flanders predictor…

Under a cloudy sky, with a hard cold wind and a temperature of 9 degrees celsius the riders started this morning for an etappe of 196 kms. The riders had to go 3 times over the Leeberg and 3 times over the Berendries, called the “Flemish Mountains”. The Belgian Press has Nico Mattan as top-favourite for these 3 days. 181 Riders started this morning. The fireworks started as soon as the bunch left Middelkerke, 4 riders went clear including: Eeckhout (B) – Lotto Domo, Dhollander (B) – Lotto Domo, Shmits (NL) – Bank Giro Lotterij – Batavus, and Van Dyck (B) – Palmans Colstrop.

The break had 9 minutes before the peloton, but at 52 kms before the finish all this work was for nothing because they came together and the final could start. We saw one attack after another.
At 44 kms we got 2 riders : Bortolami (I) and Voskamp (NL). They were maximum 1 min. 55 seconds before a very nervous main pack.

At 13 kms to go : the pack gets to within 26 seconds of the escapees, with a very strong rider Dario Pierrie, but at 9 kms Van Peteghem (B – Lotto Domo) (also one of the favourites for Sunday) and Mengin (F) attack, they closed to within 12 seconds of the first 2 riders; but these 2 are too strong and go for the victory.

Result of the etappe :

1. Gianluca Bortolami
2. Bart Voskamp
3. Kristof Mengin
4. Peter Van Peteghem
5. Dario Pierie

Classement general

1. Gianluca Bortolam
2. Bart Voskamp “2 seconds
3. Kristof Mengin “28
4. Peter Van Peteghem “32
5. Dario Pierie “46

The leader of the mountains : Van Dyck

The leader of the points : Bart Voskamp

After a very exciting race today, we look forward to the race of tomorrow and I hope Museeuw, VDB, Mattan and other classement drivers will be in the front line. I guess it will be a big spectacle tomorrow because the weather-forecast gives storm, wind and rain so it will be a day for the strongest riders.

Have a nice day!

From a cold and rainy De Panne,
– E. Peelman

Visit Eugeen website at Koersfotos
01/04/03

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