Brussels (AFP) - Belgian Philippe Gilbert took a solo victory in Tuesday's opening stage of the final warm-up event ahead of Sunday's prestigious Tour of Flanders.
The 34-year-old Quick Step Floors rider finished 17 seconds ahead of Australia's Luke Durbridge with Simone Consonni of Italy another 17 seconds further back in third at the end of the 205km first stage of Three Days of De Panne.
It was the former world champion's first victory of the season and came after recent near misses on a pair of cobbled classics -- Gilbert was second at both E3 Harelbeke and Dwars door Vlaanderen last week.
The Ardennes Classics specialist is targeting the cobbled classics this season as he bids to win the 'Monument' Tour of Flanders for the first time.
A winner of all three Ardennes Classics -- Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege -- Gilbert's best previous finish at Flanders was third in 2009 and 2010.
He made his winning move on the Mur de Grammont climb 16km from the finish and never looked back.
Wednesday's second stage is a hilly 193km ride from Zottegem to Coxyde.