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After a strong group had been brought back in the final kilometres, Zabel beat Vicioso and Tratnik in the reduced bunch sprint at the end of the third stage of the Tour of Austria; Vicioso took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti






07.07.2015 @ 15:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a hugely disappointing crash yesterday, Rick Zabel (BMC) took the first pro win of his short career when he came out on top in the reduced bunch sprint at the end of the third stage of the Tour of Austria. The German held off Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Jan Tratnik (Tirol) but the Spaniard got a nice consolation prize as he took over the leader’s jersey with a 1-second advantage over Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka).


Rick Zabel described yesterday as the most disappointing day in his professional career. The young German had been perfectly positioned in the technical finale of stage 2 of the Tour of Austria when he went down in a crash in the final turn.


Zabel was convinced that he would have been able to win the stage that was ultimately taken by David Tanner (IAM). Today he was keen to make amends and he couldn’t have done it any better.


Zabel recently finished his first grand tour and that has clearly had a great impact on his strength. He put it all on show as he managed to win the reduced bunch sprint at the end of the third stage.


It was definitely no easy feat to be in contention for the stage win. The peloton had left it a bit late in the chase to catch an early break and so had to ride fast in the finish. Furthermore, there was a small category 4 climb just 10km from the finish where a very strong group with riders from many ProTeams took off.


The peloton had to chase hard to bring it back together for the expected sprint and they accomplished their mission. However, the fast pace had left a depleted peloton to fight it out for the win.


Zabel powered down the middle of the road and went head to head with Angel Vicioso who had benefited from the harder race and a slightly uphill finish. However, the German was clearly the fastest and held off the Spaniard while Jan Tratnik completed the podium.


Race leader Gerald Ciolek could only manage 26th and so he missed out on the bonus seconds. As he had started the day in third just 5 seconds behind the German and picked up 6 seconds on the line, Vicioso takes the lead.


However, he is likely to lose his position tomorrow when the riders will tackle the first mountain stage of the race. After a lumpy first part with a category 2 and a category 3 climb, they will hit flat roads until they get to the bottom of the final category 1 climb that will be the scene of the first mountaintop finish.


A lumpy profile

After two relatively flat stages, things got a bit hillier in stage 3 which brought the riders over 181.1km from Windischgarsten to Judendorf/Strassengel. In the first half, they tackled a category 3 and a category 2 climb before they hit flat roads. However, there was a small category 4 climb with 10km to go which was expected to create a slightly more challenging finale.


For the fourth day in a row, it was a very hot day in Austria when the riders gathered for the start and they got it off to a fast beginning with lots of attacks. As they went up the first category 3 climb, many riders tried to get clear but no one had any success.


The break is formed

However, the elastic snapped relatively quickly when Michael Gogl (Tirol), Johnny Hoogerland (Roompot) and Dominik Hrinkow (Hrinkow) got clear. After 15km of racing, they already had an advantage of 2 minutes and when Gogl won the first intermediate sprint at the 35km mark, it had gone out to 4 minutes.


Hoogerland beat Hrinkow and Gogl in the second sprint at the 71km mark where the gap was 5.30. Moments later, they hit the first category 2 climb of the race where Gogl won the KOM sprint.


Smukulis bridges across

Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) used the climb to attack and did an impressive job to gradually bridge across. He made the junction at the 135km mark where the peloton was still 4 minutes behind.


Smukulis helped the front group extend their advantage to 4.45 before the peloton reacted. The faster pace was too much for Hrinkow who was dropped.


The break is caught

Moments later Hoogerland had bad luck to puncture out of the group and he had to work hard to get back before he won the final intermediate sprint at the first passage of the finish line with 17km to go. At this point, their advantage was just a minute.


In the peloton, Ag2r, Wanty, IAM and Cannondale were working well together after MTN-Qhubeka had done most of the early work. They managed to bring it back together before they hit the final climb where another strong group with riders from BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo and some of the strong teams was formed. However, they were brought back in time for the reduced bunch sprint where Zabel came out on t



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