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Mar 8, 2015 – Danny van Poppel once again stomped his sprinting authority on the Three Days of West Flanders taking the stage win on the final day after winning the first stage – his first ever professional win – one year ago. Finishing second was Kris Boeckmans (Lotto Soudal) and Michael Van Staeyen (Cofidis) rounded out the top three.
“I am very happy!” exclaimed an elated Danny van Poppel. “Last year I won the first stage, and now this year I win the second. In the beginning [of the race] I did not feel so good. It was a very hard race! In the end I felt better, but then there was a crash on the cobblestones and I was caught behind that and I could not follow when the break went.”
A large 24-man breakaway almost threw a wrench into the plan when 17 riders broke free and joined the original 7-man escape group. It was a long, furious chase that threatened to play out in carbon copy to yesterday, but with Etixx-Quick Step defending a yellow jersey, and Katusha missing the boat, more teams were invested in bringing the escapees back to the fold.
With less than six kilometers to go the catch was finally made, and a 50-strong peloton headed toward a mass sprint.
“It was not easy to bring the break back, and on the local laps we could see [the breakway] the whole time and I said to some of the guys to wait, and not work too much, and just let Stijn [Devolder] pull,” Danny van Poppel continued. “On the last lap the GC teams helped and we got them back. On the finale the guys did a great lead out, especially Boy [van Poppel] at the very end. This is a dream for two brothers! I am very happy!”
Boy van Poppel, the elder of the two brothers, always plays an important role in leading out his younger sibling. Today he was the last wheel in a textbook lead out by the team, an ending, he explained, that was almost thwarted for the second straight day:
“On the long cobblestone section at around 126kms there was a crash and only Jesse [Sergent] was up there. It was in the gutter after this and Jesse was gapped and then we had a bit of a worrisome situation when a large group got away and we had missed it. On the local laps it was very narrow and we tried to close it – it was always 20-30 seconds and we could see them riding all the time but it was so hard to close it.
“With 5k to go we caught them and then we were really motivated to win the stage. I saw that Gianni Meersman was doing a lot of work for the yellow jersey so I was confident and motivated that we could win.
“At 1K to go we told Stijn [Devolder] to go full gas, and Jesse was behind him. Then with less than 200m to go Danny came flying by me – it was a perfect lead out. I am super happy for Danny!”