Kirstin Wild (AA Drink – leontien.nl) won the stage three bunch sprint in Leerdam ahead of Marianne Vos (Rabo Women) and Emma Johannson (Hitec Products – Mistral Home). Judith Ardnt, Loes Gunnewijk, Linda Villumsen and Shara Gillow finished on the same time as the stage winner with Arndt taking one bonus second in the intermediate sprint. The German is 17 seconds down, in fifth place, on race leader Charlotte Becker (Specialized – lululemon).
“Our plan today was to race aggressively and capitalize on any potential fatigue riders suffered after the team time trial yesterday,” said Sports Director Martin Barras. “We hoped to make small gains on the general classification.”
Barras noted that the stage conditions were not ideal for the plan he had laid out for the team.
“There was hardly any wind today, which makes the racing much easier,” he said. “The course was very flat and looked likely to end in a bunch sprint without the winds to help us force a break or selection.”
No major moves went up the road during the first half of the race. In the final hour of racing, Arndt and Vos formed a two-rider break.
“Judith and Marianne stayed away for two laps of the final circuit,” said Barras. “This forced Specialized-lululemon to come to the front and work. They had to chase hard to bring back that move.”
A crash six kilometers from the finish caused a slight split in the field.
“We had riders blocked or slowed down by the crash, but only Alex [Rhodes] lost time,” explained Barras. “We didn’t suffer any mechanicals. It wasn’t an issue for us although other teams were not as fortunate.”
With order restored, Loes Gunnewijk launched a late race attack.
“Loes thought she might take a chance for the stage win, and she attacked with three kilometers left to race,” Barras said. “She was brought back just before the finish, and we saw a bunch sprint in the end.”
After three stages of racing and with three stages left to come, ORICA-AIS maintains three riders in the overall top ten.
“We will use the next two stages to set us up well for the final stage on Sunday,” said Barras. “We believe we have a good chance of running a strong result on the final stage as well as the overall.”