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German benefits from perfect lead-out to hold off key rivals Greipel and Cavendish while Wagner defends overall lead

Photo: Argos-Shimano

MARCEL KITTEL

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STER ZLM TOUR

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TEAM SUNWEB

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14.06.2013 @ 17:00 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) got the upper hand over key Tour de France rivals Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by beating the fast duo in the sprint at the end of the third stage of the Ster ZLM Toer. In a crash-marred finish, the German also picked up enough bonus seconds to take over the overall lead ahead of tomorrow's queen stage in the Belgian Ardennes.

 

Prior to the race, the Ster ZLM Toer been highly anticipated by the entire cycling world as the Dutch event had attracted the three fastest sprinters in the world, Marcel Kittel, Marck Cavendish and Andre Greipel, and they were all set to be supported by their entire lead-out trains. The trio was, however, upset by Theo Bos (Blanco) in yesterday's first sprint finish and were eager for revenge in today's third stage.

 

It was Kittel who took the early lead in the internal sprint battle among the three as he held off Greipel and Cavendish in the expected bunch sprint. Delivered perfectly by his Argos-Shimano team, he avoided a crash inside the final kilometers and powered clear of his main rivals to take his 11th win of the season while yesterday's winner Bos had to settle for 4th.

 

The stage took place in the hilly Limburg province and the riders tackled several of the Amstel Gold Race climbs along the way. The final 75km were, however, mostly flat and there was never much doubt that it would end up in a mass sprint.

 

Early on, 8 riders managed to go clear and Martijn Keizer (Vavansoleil), Yves Lampaert (Topsport Vlaanderen), Reinier Honig (Crelan), Jay McCarthy (Saxo-Tinkoff), Adrian Kurek (CCC), Ronan Van Zandbeek (Cyclingteam de Rijke), Sjors Roosen (Cycling Team Jo Piels) and Luc Haagenaars (Metec) were allowed to build up a solid gap while the peloton sped along at a modest pace. Climbing the famous Cauberg, the duo had built up an advantage of 3 minutes as Keizer beat Honig in the sprint at the top.

 

On the next climb, the Bemelerberg, it was Honig who got the better of Keizer, and so the latter decided to go off on his own. On the descent he left his companions behind, and he quickly build up a large gap.

 

Keizer crested the summit of the remaining climbs in first position while Honig made sure to take second on every occasion. In the peloton, Bouke Kuiper (Koga) made a short attack but the Dutchman got nowhere adn was quickle reeled in.

 

Keizer's lead over the peloton reached its maximum of 7.45 just before the penultimate climb when Omega Pharma-Quick Step joined the Blanco team of overall leader Robert Wagner on the front. The gap now started to come down while Keizer had managed to open up an advantage of 2.45 on his chasers.

 

Having crested the summit of the final climb, it was mission accomplished for Keizer who decided to wait for his chasers. With less than 90km to go, he was caught by his former companions and the race was once again led by an 8-rider group.

 

The peloton had now reduced the advantage to only 2.40 but to avoid an early capture, they stepped off the gas. The gap was allowed to grow back up to 3.20 while Jim Van Den Berg (Koga) decided to try his hand. Like teammate Kuiper earlier in the race, he did, however, not get anywhere and was quickly reabsorbed by the bunch.

 

The peloton was once again upped the pace and with 30km to go, the gap was only a minute. Keizer now decided to wait for the main bunch which just left 7 riders in the lead.

 

With 20km to go, the leaders were only 8 seconds ahead of the peloton, thus prompting Lampaert and Hagenaars to try a move. The duo managed to survive a little bit longer, allowing Lampaert to win the second intermediate sprint and take over the lead in the sprint competition but with a little more tahn 10km to go, it was all back together.

 

Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Blanco still had the front positions at that point but with 5km to go, Lotto-Belisol took command. Inside the final 3km, they were, however, challenged by Argos-Shimano and the two best lead-out trains were now involved in a hectic battle for control.

 

The end result was a crash that saw riders from both teams hit the deck but the main sprinters managed to stay upright. Argos-Shimano won the fight and was in front as they passed the flamme rouge to start the final kilometer.

 

The Dutch team delivered Kittel perfectly to the line and he managed to hold off both Greipel and Cavendish. Bonus seconds were enough to move Kittel into the overall lead.

 

That position will be threatened in tomorrow's queen stage in the Belgian Ardennes. The riders are set to tackle the Cote de Rosier and the Col de la Redoute, both known from the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but last year Cavendish managed to survive the tough climbing to finish second on the stage. The stage will offer an interesting gauge of the Manxman's and Greipel's climbing legs while it would be a long shot to expect Kittel to survive the many ascents.

 

Result:

1. Marcel Kittel 4.33.06

2. Andre Greipel

3. Mark Cavendish

4. Theo Bos

5. Kenny Van Hummel

6. Lars Boom

7. Raymond Kreder

8. Tom Van Asbroeck

9. Steele Von Hoff

10. Michael Van Staeyen

 

General classification:

1. Marcel Kittel 8.36.20

2. Robert Wagner +0.06

3. Lars Boom +0.07

4. Andre Greipel

5. Mark Cavendish +0.16

6. Michal Golas +0.17

7. Marcel Sieberg +0.19

8. Maurits Lammertink +0.30

9. Andrew Fenn +0.31

10. Thomas Dekker +0.34

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