Gerrans Outsprints Sagan to Win Tour de France Stage Three
Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge edged out Cannondale’s Peter Sagan by six inches to win Stage Three of the 100th Tour de France.
Stage Three was just hilly enough to weed out the pure sprinters; most experts expected Cannondale’s 23-year-old superstar Peter Sagan to win the stage.
It turned out that Sagan wasn’t the only rider who could climb with the climbers and sprint with the sprinters.
Sagan, led by Cannondale team mate Alessandro De Marchi, took the lead as expected in the final 500 meters of the stage. On his wheel was Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s Michal Kwiatkowski, followed by two Orica-GreenEdge riders, Daryl Impey and Simon Gerrans.
The two Orica riders let DeMarchi exhaust himself, then swept by on the right. Sagan latched onto Gerrans’ wheel as Impey brought the pair to within 200 meters of the line. Both started sprinting, riding shoulder-to-shoulder through the last fifty meters.
Gerrans edged the Cannondale rider by about six inches at the line.
“I could see Sagan under my shoulder and then I could sense him coming up beside me, so I just threw for the line. It must have been close because neither of us knew who had won,” Gerrans told NBC Sports.
Movistar’s Jose Joaquin Rojas took third, with Kwiatkowski just behind.
The General Classification didn’t change; RadioShack’s Jan Bakelants keeps the yellow jersey, with 71 riders within one second of his time.
Stage Three offered nothing but hills—the only flat road was the final ten kilometers leading to the finish line. The stage contained three categorized claims, a 4 at the start, two threes in the middle, and a Cat 2 in the final 15 kms.
Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil attacked at the start, followed by Simon Clark, (Orica GreenEdge,) Cyril Gautier (Europcar,) Sébastien Minard (Ag2R,) and Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun.) The peloton let the group go; the GC contenders weren’t interested in wasting energy chasing breaks early in a three-week race, and also, no one expected the breakaway to survive up the final Cat 2 climb.
The 145-km stage worked out as expected for the first 144 kms. The break was caught on the final climb; Europcar’s Pierre Rolland, wearing the polka-dot jersey, captured the King of the Mountain points to extend his lead.
Rolland was joined by Lars Petter Nordhaug (Belkin,) Sylvain Chavanel (Omega,) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) on the fast descent from the final climb but the peloton ran them down 3.3 km from the finish.
Tom Dumoulin of Argos-Shimano made a dash for the line in the last two kilometers but only lasted until the final curve, 500 meters from the finish.
Team Time Trial Up Next
Stage Four will be a 25-kilometer team time trial on a mostly flat course. Garmin-Sharp, which specializes in this event, won the last Tour TTT in 2011, while Sky has a powerful lineup. Sky will want to gain every possible second for team leader Chris Froome, to help him in his quest for a GC win in Paris.
A team time trial tests every member of the team individually and as a group rider. The clock stops after the fifth rider crosses the line; the faster riders can’t simply leave the slower behind.
With so many riders within one second of Bakelants, RadioShack is unlikely to keep the yellow jersey. Whoever does take it will be expected to defend it, and Sky probably doesn’t want to spend a lot of energy protecting the Maillot Jaune this early in the race.