Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 3: Australia hit the deck; McLay sprints to win

On the only day where a sprint finish looked definite, the Australian National Team did not have the greatest of days. Riding for Caleb Ewan, they were looking to add onto Ewan's stage 2 victory with another brilliant sprint win into Paray-le-Monial. Yet as the breakaway was swept up with just under 5 kilometers to go, a crash swept through the peloton. Bodies and bikes hit the deck with the majority of the casualties being Australians. In fact, 5 out of the 6-man Australian team hit the deck and finished behind the peloton including GC favorite Jack Haig. The only Australian who escaped the carnage was youngster Robert Power. Others in the crash included points leader Davide Martinelli, Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Denmark) and Logan Owen (USA), among others.

The show went on without them.

Above: The Australians during the calm before the storm.

The day started with a two-man breakaway featuring double European champion Stefan Kung (Switzerland) and Piotr Brozyna (Poland). The duo were able to get a healthy gap but the peloton were not interested in letting them get too far ahead as this was the only true flat stage in the race. Brozyna took the only KOM on the course ahead of Kung while Kung took the sprint point. The gap never got over 2'30" while the peloton rolled along for the majority of the day.

The gap began to fall dramatically once the race hit 30 kilometers to go and it was just 45 seconds at 15km to go. Heading into the final 10 kilometers, the race was hitting full tilt with the sprinters salivating and others just holding on for dear life (looking at you Oskar Svendsen). When the Kung and Brozyna were picked up with 5 kilometers to go, a grenade was set to detonate. The big crash happened just after they were picked up.

The show went on without them.

Heading into the final sprint, lead-out man turned sprinter Magnus Cort went to lead out the sprint and the only rider that was able to truly challenge him was Brit McLay. Heading through the light bend, McLay drew even with Cort and was able to go past him, his true speed showing. McLay took the win ahead of Cort and Pan-Am RR Champion Fernando Gaviria, who had been in the top 10 in the past 3 stages.

Jack Haig, one of Australia's GC hopes, lost 33 seconds because of the crash. Another GC hope, Norway's Odd Eiking, crashed within 3 kilometers so he did not lose any time but it is still unsure if he will be 100% for tomorrow.

GC stays the same with Asbjorn Kragh leading while Colombian Gaviria takes over the points jersey. Kristoffer Skjerping keeps his KOM leader while the Netherlands still leads the team's classification.

Tomorrow is where the race begins. This was just an appetizer. The next 4 days are packed with mountains and tomorrow includes a summit finish at Plateau de Solaison. Anyone whose form isn't 100%, then you better get ready to have the caravan pass you.

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