Flying Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.Fr) has made it two from two, winning the third stage of the 2013 Tour of Beijing Bouhanni prevailed in a sprint finish on a day where it was expected that a mountain man would take the spoils with seven climbs on the challenging 176km parcours. Australian Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE) was second, just shading Russian Aleksei Tsatevich (Katusha) who finished third.
In an exciting finale to a picturesque stage, on the final climb the Movistar team of world champion Rui Costa attacked, but the attempt was nullified before two-time Tour of Beijing winner Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick-Step) tried his luck. The German opened a 100m lead on the descent, with Costa trailing, but the FDJ.Fr team of Bouhanni closed the gap.
With Martin’s brave challenge over, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step began the lead out heading into the five-hundred metre finishing straight with an eye to setting up Alessandro Petacchi but once again it was Bouhanni burning down the outside, with Elia Vivani (Cannondale), Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and Aleksei Tstatevich (Katusha) left fighting it out for the minor placings. In the end, it was Matthews ahead of Tstatevich with Viviani missing the podium.
“I was behind Viviani with 250 to go and I went on the left and I didn’t hesitate,” Bouhanni said of the run into the finish.
Just as fast as he crossed the finish line, Bouhanni was just as quick to pay tribute to his teammates who spent much of the stage on the front of the peloton, controlling the race.
“It was hard but I had a super team to support me and I didn’t want to disappoint them and I went for it,” he said.
The 23-year old started the day with a one second advantage over his rivals in the battle for the red leader’s jersey and following Sunday’s victory, extended that lead by a further 10 seconds. Thor Hushovd (BMC) was forced to abandon the race on Saturday night, flying home to Norway to be with his daughter who is ill in hospital.
Bouhanni, despite his good fortune on today’s stage, does not expect to still be in red on Monday afternoon, although he did say the same thing after yesterday’s stage.
“The fifth stage, yes, I’d like to win but tomorrow will be a bit too hard,” he said.
After plenty of attacks, the day’s break was finally established following the stage’s first sprint at the 17km mark, won by Matthews ahead of Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff), Rui Costa (Movistar) and Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM). A six-man break consisting of Albert Timmer (Argos-Shimano), Marc Goos (Belkin), Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff), Hayden Roulston (RadioShack Leopard) and Wes Sulzberger (Orica GreenEdge) charging ahead with the first KOM of the day on the horizon.
As would be the case on the next six climbs, it was Caruso and Sulzberger going toe-to-toe in the battle for the polka dot jersey, with the Italian succeeding on all but the cat. 1 Si Hai climb where the Australian got his nose in front.
At the start of the fifth climb, the breakaway reached its maximum advantage of 3:53, but the peloton was charging with new world champion Costa at the head of the chase. The pace of the peloton would prove too much for some, with at least nine riders falling off the back of the group while FDJ.Fr and Omega Pharma-Quick-Step set the tempo.
“We both knew that this stage was important for the KOM jersey so we both wanted to be in a breakaway,” Caruso explained with the lead in the classification secured at day’s end. “We struggled and fought and in the end I won. Tomorrow there’s four categorized climbs so it will be important to be in the breakaway again.”
There was one other prize up for grabs on Si Hai apart from the KOM points, the prize for the first rider to reach the Panda of the Mountain, 100 meters before the summit bringing a distinctively Chinese flavor to the Dutch Corner theme seen in Europe. Roulston, surrounded by around 60 locals in panda attire, took the prize and will celebrate with his teammates following the conclusion of the Tour of Beijing. By the time the peloton hit the POM, it was Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp) who led the charge with Panda in tow, in scenes reminiscent of his ride to the finish at this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The breakaway’s time at the front meantime, was gradually being whittled down.
With one kilometer to the summit of the penultimate climb, Cang Mi Gu Dao, the breakaway’s advantage had been reduced to just over a minute, while the winding descent was the catalyst for bringing the escapees back to the bunch.
With one small, cat. 3 climb remaining, and the peloton regrouped, it was ‘ironman’ Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) who eventually found himself alone off the front of the bunch after a few surges off the front. Wearing his self-proclaimed “lucky shoes” – the ones he won a stage of the Giro d’Italia in earlier this year – the Australian quickly built an advantage over the peloton.
“I didn’t really want to go but we had eight guys before that which was perfect but no one wanted to go so it was a bit strange, I sort of just rode off the front and got a bit of a lead,” he explained. It was an attack that would earn Hansen, whose season began with the Tour Down Under in January, the award for the day’s most aggressive rider. Hopeful that the upcoming climb would grant him a reprieve, Hansen pressed on but would only get out as far as 1:15 before he was reeled in.
“Once GreenEdge and FDJ got in the front it was a bit hard and it’s always hard by yourself downhill so it wasn’t so good,” Hansen explained.
With five kilometers to go, the 32-year-old was caught by the peloton and the sprinters once again had their say.
Tour of Beijing Stage 3
1. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ) 4:08:15
2. Michael Matthews (AUS/OGE) @ s.t.
3. Aleksei Tsatevich (RUS/KAT)
4. Elia Viviani (ITA/CAN)
5. Martin Kohler (SWI/BMC)
General Classification After Stage 3
1. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ) 13:28:18
2. Michael Matthews (AUS/OGE) @ :11
3. Maxime Bouet (FRA/ALM) @ s.t.
4. Aleksei Tsatevich (RUS/KAT) @ :16
5. Nikolas Maes (BEL/OPQ) @ s.t.