The final of the Three Days of De Penne will likely be best remembered as the last time trial Bradley Wiggins ever rides for Team Sky. And indeed he won the time trial with a strong 10-second margin: going out in style. Next on his to-do list is to win Paris-Roubaix. And I think he's going to succeed. Bradley Wiggins is almost annually underestimated and he's shown a remarkable learning trajectory at Paris-Roubaix. He obviously need to drop John Degenkolb to do it but he's an exceptionally smart rider and I like his chances.
However, this blog is about the morning road race, a short prelude to the concluding time trial.
I don't want to give away the result but I'm forced to do so. Kristoff just held off a late sprint by Greipel, the latter ideally positioned on Kristoff's wheel coming out of the final corner but delayed in starting his sprint by Guardini, who pinned him in. As soon as Greipel had a shred of a gap, Greipel went past. But it was 5 cm too late.
I blew up the video 8x and took the following photos. First, Kristoff:
And now, Greipel. Please ignore the green dots which are my fault:
The reference line is the same on both plots. You can see the pixels immediately to the left are slightly darker in Kristoff's finish than Greipel's, and that's why Kristoff was declared the stage winner. This isn't a win by a tire width, more like a tire tread. Photo finish cameras measure time on the lateral axis, not position, and the difference here is 3 milliseconds, I saw reported on a forum. But that would be 5 cm at 60 kph: there's no way that gap is more than 5 mm, since a typical tire width/depth is around 25 mm, and this is much less than a tire size. So I'm guessing 300 µsec. That would be 5 mm but that still seems like more than the gap I see there. But maybe.
In any case, it was freakin' close. I sort of like Greipel but the end result is Kristoff wins all of the mass-start stages, then finishes 3rd in the final time trial to dominate the overall. Wiggins by virtue of the final time trial win moved up to third overall, with Stijn Devolder of Trek showing he can still do what it takes by placing second.
It will be an interesting Flanders. My money's on Sagan, so to speak.