Better known as the Three Days of De Panne, the 30th edition of the 3 stage race begins on April 1, continuing Flemish Cycling Week and acting as precursor to the most important race of Flemish Cycling Week, the Tour of Flanders. Last year’s overall winner of De Panne, Alessandro Ballan, went on to win the Ronde, proving this mid-week tuner is serious business…
There's time for frites and a beer between the two stages, our jackets are off and the shirt sleeves are rolled-up, it's a hard job... Over lunch we consult Velo 2007, the bible for bike race followers. Paolini, Ballan and Posthuma have no big TT palmares at all, but there's a big one at stake here; continental pros only ride hard against the watch if there's a good reason.
It’s day 2 of the Three Days of De Panne – and PEZ is back – hangover-free and enjoying the sunny Belgian Spring. Going in to Stage 2, Paolini has the jersey, Ballan is at four seconds, there are five at around quarter-of-minute, including Bert Roosems, then 11 at around a minute-and-half, the main bunch is at two-and-half minutes but there are other big groups that lost six and 14 minutes.
Nico Mattan and Eric Vanderaerden - cool guys; but maybe we should have headed for our hotel after we finished interviewing them? But the juke box in 'Pour que non?' - that's the local gay bar - is just stacked with goodies, from Edith Piaff to Boys Town Gang and the owner is cool with straight guys who buy pils and spend fortunes on tunes, so it was 03.00 when we hit the sack.