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After a windy, selective race, Vanmarcke, Navardauskas and Howard escaped in the finale of stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta; the Belgian went first into the final corner and beat Navarduaskas in the sprint while Dumoulin defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

LEIGH HOWARD

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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

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SEP VANMARCKE

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TEAM VISMA | LEASE A BIKE

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TOUR OF ALBERTA

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05.09.2014 @ 23:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) took his first victory of the season when he won a fight between the strong men on stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta. Having made the selection in the crosswinds, he escaped with Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE) and easily beat the pair in the sprint while Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) survived a dangerous situation to defend his overall lead.

 

Sep Vanmarcke found himself in the perfect terrain in today’s stage 3 of the Tour of Alberta when strong winds on flat, exposed roads created a huge crosswinds drama. The Belgian finished it all off by taking his first win of the season after beating Ramunas Navardauskas and Leigh Howard in a three-rider sprint.

 

The trio had made it into a 25-rider group when Orica-GreenEDGE and Bissell split the peloton in the crosswinds and they all saved their energy while the two teams worked hard to keep the peloton at bay. Inside the final 10km, the attacking started and here they made use of the fatigue after a hard race to get clear.

 

They worked well together to maintain a 15-second advantage over the rest of the group and it all came down to a sprint. Here Vanmarcke showed great technical skills when he went fast through the final turn to get a small gap and easily held off his rivals in the sprint to take the win.

 

After yesterday’s sligthly hilly stage, the Tour of Alberta continued with a much flatter stage that brought the riders over 157.9km from Wetaskiwin to Edmonton. The race was mostly flat and ended with three laps of a flat 5.8km circuit but the roads were very exposed and the wind was expected to play a big role.

 

There were no overnight withdrawals when the riders took off under sunny but windy conditions. Like yesterday the race got off to a frantic start as lots of riders wanted to ride aggressively in a race that generally lends itself to attacks.

 

Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) launched the first attack and managed to gain a 15-secpmd advantage. The young American fought hard to maintain his gap but at the 6.1km mark he was back in the fold.

 

The next rider to get a small gap was Jean-Michel Lachance (Silber) and he also managed to build an advantage of 15 seconds. Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly) set off in pursuit and they joined forces after 14km of racing.

 

At one point, the pair was 55 seconds ahead but as the peloton hit a crosswinds section, Belkin tried to attack. That spelled the end for the break and the peloton split into two groups.

 

The gap was 30 seconds and the front group worked hard to maintain its advantage. As they approached the first intermediate sprint, three riders got clear but they were brought back before the sprint.

 

Here Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) beat Navarduaskas and Ryan Anderson (Optum) to pick up three important bonus seconds. Moments later, a 7-rider group got clear but they were quickly brought back.

 

The two groups merged but the conditions were still windy and so Belkin tried again. A 25-rider group split off the front and managed to build a 25-second advantage over the main group that contained Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano).

 

Near the feeding zone at the 70km mark, the two groups came back together and this allowed 11 riders to take off. They built an advantage of 10 seconds before they were brought back.

 

Ben Perry (Canada) used a lull in the peloton to attack and at the 89km mark, he was 30 seconds ahead. He was joined by Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber) while Eric Marcotte (Smartstop) and Chad Beyer (5-Hour) took off in pursuit.

 

The peloton finally took it easy and allowed the two duos to gain ground. With 55km to go, the first pair were 1.40 ahead while the second group was 25 seconds further back.

 

The two groups merged while Bissell started to chase in the peloton. However, everyone was caught by surprise with 52km to go when Orica-GreenEDGE made a strong attack in the crosswinds.

 

A 40-rider group with most of the riders from the Orica-GreenEDGE and Bissell teams got clear and they quickly swallowed up the four escapees. This time Dumoulin had made the split but he only had his teammate Daan Olivier at his side.

 

With 40km to go, hard work by Orica-GreenEDGE and Bissell had extended the advantage to 50 seconds but the chase in the peloton had now got organized. Belkin who wanted to bring Theo Bos back in contention, Cannondale who only had Cameron Wurf in the front group, Giant-Shimano who wanted to get back to Dumoulin, Smartstop and Canada who had missed the move rode hard and started to get closer to the front.

 

From there, it was a fierce pursuit between the two groups but the peloton had the upper hand. With 22km to go, Dumoulin also started to contribute to the pace-setting in the front group as they again hit a windy section.

 

The wind made the peloton split to pieces and it was a small 20-rider group with lots of Belkin riders that was left to lead the chase. As they crossed the finish line for the first time with 17km to go, they had brought the gap down to 20 seconds.

 

The finishing circuit was very exposed and so several riders from both major groups fell off the pace. However, Orica-GreenEDGE and Bissell were still doing their best to maintain their small advantage.

 

With 9km to go, Navardauskas launched the first attack and he quickly created a small group that also contained Howard, Impey and Dumoulin. Just as that group was about to be brought back, Howard sneaked off the front and quickly gained a gap.

 

Vanmarcke and Alessandro Bazzana (Unitedhealthcare) joined the lone leader and moments later, Navarduaskas also bridged across. The quartet quickly built a 40-second advantage while Dumoulin and Bissell were chasing hard in the second group.

 

With 7km to go, Bazzana was dropped but the front trio worked well together to maintain their advantage. As they approached the flamme rouge, it was clear that they would stay away.

 

Howard led the group for most of the final kilometre but just before they entered the final turn, Vanmarcke made his move. Going fast through the corner, he got a gap and he easily held off Navarduaskas in the sprint.

 

11 seconds later Dumoulin’s group reached the finish, with Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) beating Steele Von Hoff (Garmin) in the sprint. Hence, Dumoulin defended his lead and he goes into tomorrow’s penultimate stage still 9 seconds ahead of Ruben Zepuntke (Bissell).

 

Stage 4 is set to produce the same kind of racing as another almost completely flat course on windy, exposed roads awaits the riders.

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