De Panne crash worries Flanders favourite Boonen

Tom Boonen of Quick Step hopes to recover from the injuries he sustained in the first stage of the T

Tom Boonen of Quick Step hopes to recover from the injuries he sustained in the first stage of the T
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM The opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne on Tuesday produced its fair share of crashes, with Classics men Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and T-Mobile's Steffen Wesemann two of the biggest names to fall. Italian Alessandro Ballan of Lampre-Caffita took the stage win ahead of the Discovery Channel's Belgian one-day specialist Stijn Devolder after the two riders, having escaped from an 11-man breakaway, battled it out for victory. Luis Sanchez (Liberty Seguros) led home the rest of the breakaway group, with the peloton almost five minutes adrift. Boonen, one of the clear favourites for the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, was brought down when around thirty riders hit the deck just before the stage's first section of cobbles 90km into the stage. Despite the resultant injuries to Boonen's thigh, shoulder and hand - which required three stitches - the Belgian was hopeful that he would recover in time for what is one of his main goals for the season. "It's always risky riding a race like the Three Days of De Panne, I know," Boonen, who remounted to finish 66th, said, "but it has its advantages such as its two long stages. "I hope I'll be OK," Boonen continued, as upbeat as ever. "But it's often only the next day that you begin to feel the effects of a crash." Wesemann's injuries were not so severe, and the German will be hoping that his preparations for defending his Tour of Flanders crown will not be adversely affected. T-Mobile team-mate Bram Schmitz was not so fortunate, forced to quit the race after suffering a knee injury and a suspected broken finger. Stage 1, Middelkerke - Zottegem 1 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 196km in 4.43.42 2 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Discovery Channel 3 Luis Sanchez (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.19 4 Nico Mattan (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.25 5 Michael Albasini (Swi) Liquigas-Bianchi 6 Roberto Petito (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 7 Roy Sentjens (Bel) Rabobank 8 Servais Knaven (Hol) Quickstep 9 Christophe Detilloux (Bel) Francaise des Jeux 10 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze
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