Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 3: Valgren trumps the peloton in breakaway win

Michael Valgren (@PictaNews)

Who called a breakaway win? Who? ME. Damn right I called a breakaway for this stage. Well I'm sure many others would have guessed something similar it if they were following the race instead of covering the shoes of the peloton. Just Saying. Anyways, enough of my racing genius or lack there of and back to the actual race, which was a shorter but brutal affair.

The day started off fast with the bunch averaging around 50 km/h in the run out from the starting town of Aix-les-Bains. An early attack involving Mike Teunissen (Netherlands), Maxat Ayazbayev (Kazakhstan), Jure Bitenc (Slovenia) and Gabriel Chavanne (Switzerland) but the move lasted a little over 10 kilometers as the road started to tilt uphill. No one was getting much inroads on the uphill to the proper climb to Col du Frène but there were riders popping off the back of the group left and right. Caleb Ewan was among some that lost contact on the climb.

I wish I could say more about the stage but many were holding their load until the climb and then the race blew open. After a break of six including Nick van der Lijke and Simon Yates was pulled in with 35 kilometers left in the race, the Danes went fucking nuts to try and bust up a sprint finish. With Kristian Haugaard keen on defending his KOM jersey, he struck out with teammates Michael Valgren and Magnus Cort along with Gavin Mannion. Haugaard took the maximum points at the top of the Col du Frène and the quarter was rewarded with a 30 second gap as they began their plunge to Albertville.

Gavin and the Danes, which is also an unlikely band name, were quickly joined by Julian Alaphilippe (France) and Stefan Küng and eventually joined by Ever Rivera, Heiner Parra (both Colombia), Kirill Sveshnikov (Russia) and Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria). As an Australia led peloton were bearing down on the breakaway, Mannion, Valgren and Küng went out on their own solo act with approximately 15 kilometers to go. The trio worked well together and held a 40 second gap over a small hill and on the flat finish into Albertville. With 6 kilometers to go, Stefan Küng flatted out of the breakaway and it was down to Valgren and Mannion to get to the finish and fight it out.

While Australia was going at a breakneck pace in the peloton behind, Valgren and Mannion were able to hold a gap and Valgren was the fresher of the two and easily outpaced Mannion to take the stage win. Caleb Ewan sped in for 3rd just a second behind Mannion with Rick Zabel and Liam Bertazzo trailing directly in his wake. While Valgren took the flowers on the stage, overall leader Alexis Gougeard nearly lost his lead to Victor Manakov because the French was among many that was stuck behind a crash with two kilometers to go. Initially reported as Manakov took yellow, the decision was overturned because of the three kilometer rule and with Gougeard not taking chances and getting back up into the front of the peloton.

  1. Michael Valgren (Denmark)
  2. Gavin Mannion (USA)
  3. Caleb Ewan (Australia)
  4. Rick Zabel (Germany)
  5. Liam Bertazzo (Italy)
  6. Davide Martinelli (Italy)
  7. Victor Manakov (Russia)
  8. Jasper Stuyven (Belgium)
  9. Mykhaylo Polikarpov (Ukraine)
  10. Damien Howson (Australia)
Overall: Alexis Gougeard (France)
Points: Caleb Ewan (Australia)
KOM: Kristian Haugaard (Denmark)
Teams: Denmark

The mountains are looming on stage four and it starts off with a doozy at St-Francis-Longchamp.

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