It’s a split stage today at KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde 2007, 119 kilometres in the morning, then 11 kilometres contre la montre in the afternoon.

The morning stage means an early start all-round and at 09.05 the bunch rolls out of De Panne, it’s parky but sunny.

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Rambo (Niko Eeckhout) didn’t have the best of days.

We’ve decided to watch the start and finish but miss the race on the road, it’s out and back and hardly worth the bother because it will certainly end in a bunch sprint.

There’s a finishing circuit so we’ll actually see them cross the line twice. The start is the usual organised chaos, but at 09.05 they are off, it’s still nippy at that time and gloves are much in evidence.

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Dan Lloyd.

It’s 119 K today and we enjoy the sun and a stroll around the team hotels as we await the peloton coming through the finish for one lap of that small circuit.

Ace mechanics, Alan Buttler and Craig Geater have plenty of time for us at the Disco bus – good guys and I’ve had interviews before with both of them.

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Koni and Eki have a blether about the good old days.

The bunch rattles over the cobbled main street with QuickStep in control in front of a big crowd, enjoying the sun and at the death Steegmans is well clear, arms high.

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Tom’s black specialized gets spirited away by papa Boonen, before those Scottish lads can get a pic.

It’s all down to the test later, as we have a plate of chips and a beer al fresco.

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Bert Roesems finishes his warm-up.

Millar is the big favourite and his preparation is meticulous – on the turbo; three mechanics attending to the Scott.

As start time approaches he sits on the street furniture, exchanges a few words with Disco’s Steve Cummings, then does a bit of that ‘getting in the zone’ stuff.

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Steve gets his head together before the test…
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…while Dave enjoys a joke with his minute-man.

Cummings is building a good rep at Disco, Alan Buttler was telling us that Contador regards him highly.

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Paolini prepares – to get gubbed.

Millar rolls-out and is into the groove quickly, it’s not to be though – Discovery’s Stijn Devolder, who won De Panne two years ago but still looks about 14 years old, beats him by just eight seconds.

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Ballan prepares – to win.

Paolini blows the test completely, Ballan produces the goods; original stage one break member Poosthuma (Holland & ‘Robobank’ as Russell Williams would have it) does a job, as does big Roesems. That’s the 1-2-3; and it’s good to see the big Belgian on the podium. Ballan is peaking just right, has Tom got it right too?

We’ll find out on Sunday in Flanders.