• It was season victory number six for Alexander Kristoff. (Getty)Source: Getty
Alexander Kristoff won a bunch sprint ahead of Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) to claim stage two of the Three Days of De Panne (Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde).
Cycling Central

30 Mar 2017 - 8:12 AM  UPDATED 30 Mar 2017 - 8:17 AM

“I sort of led out myself for the sprint," Kristoff said. "I was afraid with the headwind I would be too slow so I sped up slightly all the way and when I saw the others guys coming I was able to speed up more. It was a hard sprint in the headwind but in these smaller sprints without the trains, it is more man-against-man and they usually suit me quite well.”

The 193km stage from Zottegem to Koksijde was Kristoff's sixth win of the season, and despite his denials, the victory places him in the mix for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

 “I don’t look at myself as one of the favorites for Flanders this year because if we look at the results of the largest races so far, I do not have quite the strongest shape," Kristoff said.

"The win here today is good for my confidence, but today is different from Flanders and it’s way harder. Hopefully, my condition is coming, but there are many favorites for Flanders, like [Philippe] Gilbert and [Peter] Sagan and [Greg] Van Avermaet. I hope I can be there fighting among them. I hope I will manage to do it on Sunday.”

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step-Floors) strengthened his overall lead after his solo win on stage one to hold a 50-second lead on Matthias Brandle (Trek-Segafredo) in the overall standings, with Kristoff 1min 07sec behind in third ahead of the final day's racing, which is split into two with a 118.5km road stage followed by an afternoon time trial held over 14.2km.

"This stage was very nervous, but we stayed at the front and were well-positioned at all times," Gilbert said. "I knew [Sylvain] Chavanel or Brandle will try something in the finale, so when the latter went, I responded immediately.

"Unfortunately, his surge meant everyone lost their position there, so the sprint became pretty hectic. Tomorrow we will be again at the front to help Marcel [Kittel] get the victory, while in the afternoon I'll try to do my best against the clock."