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02.03.2013 @ 18:42 Posted by Jesper Johannesen


With all eyes on Mark Cavendish (OmegaPharma-QuickStep) in the final bunch sprint on the first stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, it was an Italian veteran who took the honours as Danilo Napolitano (Accent Jobs - Wanty) powered to his first victory of the season. He beat young sprinters Tom Van Asbroeck (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) and Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM) in the dash to the finish line.


With the demise of the Acqua & Sapone team at the end of last season, the team's star sprinter Danilo Napolitano was on the outlook for a new job. After strong performances in the Tour of Belgium and the Tour de Wallonie last year, he attracted the interest of Belgian team Accent Jobs - Wanty, and he ended up as an important addition on a team which has always had plenty of focus on the sprints.


With an incredible burst of speed on the last few hundred meters of today's first stage of the Belgian stage race Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, he proved to his new employer that their signing had been a wise one. In a hectic finish, he turned out to be the fastest in a field heavily loaded with sprinters.


After the total domination of the OmegaPharma-QuickStep team in yesterday's prologue where the team placed all of its 8 riders in the top 17, all eyes were on the Belgian super squad to control the peloton in defense of Kristof Vandewalle's yellow leader's jersey. With former world champion Mark Cavendish in its ranks, the team had the further incentive of a possible stage victory to keep the peloton together on the day's 175,4 almost completely flat kilometers between Brugge and Harelbeke.


As expected, the team took its responsibility after a number of unsuccessful attacks from some of the smaller teams was followed by the creation of the day's early break. Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) - who had also been involved in an earlier move - James Vanlandschoot (Accent Jobs -Wanty) and Christoph Pfingsten (Cycling Team de Rijke - Shanks) escaped the clutches of the peloton after 42 km of racing, and they were allowed to build a gap which topped at 3.56 15 km further down the road.


OmegaPharma-QuickStep were in no mood to let the break spoil the party, and they put all of their 8 riders on the front of the peloton in a massive demonstration of their might, and soon after the gap started to tumble. As the break passed the finish line for the start of the last of the two 18 km finishing laps, the break was only 14 seconds ahead, and soon after they were reeled in.


However, Christoph Pfingsten still had something left for a final push, and he went on the attack once again with just 14 km left. He was joined by Axel Domont (Ag2r - La Mondiale) and Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise) in a strong 3-man attempt. With Cofidis lending OmegaPharma-QuickStep a hand in the hope that their sprinter Adrien Petit could triumph on the finish line, the break was doomed, and with 5 km left it was all back together.


A crash involving Cavendish' lead-out man Gert Steegmans and a hectic, dangerous finish compromised the plans of OmegaPharma-QuickStep, and so the Manxman was nowhere to be seen as the peloton hammered towards the finish line. In his absence, Napolitano turned out to be the fastest, and he beat the young sprinters Tom Van Asbroeck - bronze medalist at last year's U23 World Championships - and rising star Barry Markus whose two second places behind Cavendish in stages of the Tour of Qatar has marked him out as a future sprint star.


With Kristof Vandewalle finishing safely in the bunch, he keeps his yellow jersey with a 7 seconds advantage on Tiago Machado (Radioshack-Leopard). After Cavendish failed to get any bonus seconds today, he is still 12 seconds behind his teammate, and with only 10 seconds on the finish line a stage victory tomorrow will not be enough for the former world champion to push Vandewalle down the leader board.


The race finishes tomorrow with its queen stage, a 181,8 km trek from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem with passages of Monteberg and Kemmelberg in classical Gent-Wevelgem terrain. With two additional climbs on the finishing circuit, opportunists stand a chance to foil the sprinters even if another bunch sprint is the most likely outcome.


Result stage 1
1 Danilo Napolitano - Accent.Jobs - Wanty 
2 Tom Van Asbroeck - Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 
3 Barry Markus - Vacansoleil-DCM 
4 Kenny van Hummel - Vacansoleil-DCM 
5 Jarl Salomein Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 
6 Gediminas Bagdonas - AG2R-La Mondiale 
7 Adrien Petit - Cofidis 
8 Kenny De Haes - Lotto Belisol 
9 Dylan Groenewegen - Cyclingteam De Rijke - Shanks 
10 Yves Lampaert - Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise 



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