Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir Stage 3: No Sprints For You!

Those stupid sprint Nazis always getting in the way of a good time. One of the motifs from the first half of the race is that it has been impossible for the bunch to stay together to sprint for a win. Stage 1 saw a long solo breakaway, Jonas Koch, survive to take a beautiful win just ahead of the bunch. Stage 2 saw the frist echelon of the peloton get close to the breakaway but then backed off the gas and the breakaway took the day with professional Mads Pedersen taking the sprint. Today, the bunch was together with just 15 kilometers to go and without too much difficulty on tap, it seemed like a sprint was emminent. But let's no spoil the story, let's go back to the morning.

Leaving from the Pearl of the Jura, Champagnole, the race saw Ukranian Timur Maleev become the first rider to drop out of the race. The first attack was from Geoffrey Curran (USA) and Daniel Martinez (Colombia) but was brought back fairly quickly before unlikely breakaway Fernando Gaviria (Colombia) went away on his own. The Colombian is known for his sprinter exploits on the road decided to get up the road and his gap stayed fairly modest. He went over the first KOM alone while behind, leader Imanol Estevez consolidated his lead by going 2nd.

The gap went out as Gaviria was solo on the 2nd climb and got up to nearly 4 minutes advantage. While Gaviria got max points again, Estevez went out for the 2nd place points again to keep the jersey for another day. Following the climb, Gaviria's teammate Aldemar Reyes and Patryk Stosz (Poland) went out alone in search of the Colombian.

The bunch, who were gunning for a sprint, took the gap down to just over a minute while Reyes and Stosz were able to join Gaviria with 50km to go. The gap was coming down steadily for the intermediate sprint and the breakaway was scooped up just before Aksel Nommela (Estonia) took the sprint out ahead of Koch and breakaway straggler Stosz. Nommela was able to take the green points jersey from Koch with the sprint.

Small groups tried to get away but once David Per was brought back with 17 kilometers to go, all hell broke loose. With the speed dialed up to 11 and with just a little more than 10 kilometers to go, a move of 5 riders including prologue winner Soren Kragh Andersen (Denmark), Marlen Zmorka (Ukraine), Johannes Weber (Germany), Gasper Katrasnik (Slovenia) and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) snuck away and were able to take time from the peloton. The gap was never over 20 seconds but with a peloton that is heavily climber focused and without motivated teams for the sprinters, no one was able to weld the peloton back together for the final bunch sprint.

Kragh Andersen soaking it in. Notice the hefty bandage on van der Poel's knee while Katrasnik was resigned to turn off his SRM.
Zmorka tried a move within 2 kilometers but was brought back by his breakaway mates, who were still holding off a steaming peloton. In the end, Soren Kragh Andersen emerged victorious with the sprint ahead of van der Poel and Weber while Gaviria, who was in the breakaway for the majority of the day, won the sprint for 6th place just 7 seconds back ahead of Nommela and Simone Consonni (Italy), who won the bunch sprint on stage 1.

Swiss rider Tom Bohli was able to hold onto the overall lead. As stated earlier, Nommela will wear the green jersey and Estevez will hold onto the KOM jersey.

It still seems inexplicable how there were zero bunch sprints in the races three flat stages that suited bunch sprints. With teams focused on the later climbs and many sprinters being left home, teams that had riders that were possible hopefuls were reluctant to waste riders before the mountains. Teams that had nothing to lose including Denmark, Slovenia and Ukraine, who have no major climbers that will be affecting GC, attacked the finale with great results.

Full Results can be found here

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