Bunch Sprint on DauphinÃ© Stage ThreeTue 10 Jun 2014
A hot, slow day of racing at the Critérium du Dapuhiné came to a close with a hectic field sprint in La Tiel. Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) narrowly edged out Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Belisol) for glory on stage three whilst ORICA-GreenEDGE’s Jens Keukeleire slotted into sixth place. Adam Yates finished on bunch time to protect his ninth place overall following three days of racing at the eight day French tour.
The quiet start to the day belied the chaotic finale. The first break attempt proved fruitful as three riders slipped clear of the bunch. Natnael Berhane (Europcar), Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Cesare Benedetti (NetApp-Endura) built up a maximum advantage of four minutes. With temperatures hovering around 32 degrees Celsius and a block headwind, neither the escape group nor the peloton seemed inclined to force the pace.
Team Sky controlled the field in the first half of the stage. FDJ.fr began to give chase in the latter half. Twenty three kilometres from the finish, the break was back in the bunch, and a mass finish looked inevitable. Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) took advantage of the nonchalance, launching an attack that forced a sizeable front group off the front of the field. Voigt and company would gain nearly a minute before Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, FDJ.fr, Giant-Shimano and Katusha combined forces to shut down the leaders.
The build-up to the sprint lacked a sense of control as various teams jostled for positioning at the head of affairs. Daryl Impey moved Jens Keukeleire to the front inside the final kilometre, setting him up to unleash his quick kick to the line. First to open the sprint, Keukeleire was overtaken in the closing metres.
COMMENTS FROM SPORT DIRECTOR MATT WILSON
We were pretty sure today was going to end in a bunch sprint. It was the only clear day this week that looked like a sprint, so we thought we would have Daryl there in the finish. During the stage, Daryl told us he wasn’t feeling well, so we made the call to work for Jens Keukeleire instead.
The first break went very easily, and Sky and FDJ had no problems controlling, so we didn’t have to do anything today. It was a slow day with the heat, the headwind and the race situation. The peloton rode slowly, and the break didn’t commit full gas to try to stay away. They saw the writing on the wall, so they never forced it.
Leigh Howard took a spill about 60 kilometres from the finish. He’s okay. He took some skin off and never rejoined the bunch, but he managed to get back on the bike and make it to the finish. He’ll be sore tomorrow but should be able to continue.
We weren’t concerned about the late race move. The guys said that it never got too far away. There were three teams chasing from behind, so we didn’t think they had a chance of staying away.
Jens told me he felt really good in the sprint, but he just wasn’t fast enough to do anything more. Daryl felt poorly all day but came ok again by the finish, so he was able to contribute to the lead-out in the end.
Adam was just chilling in the bunch most of the day. He wasn’t too stressed out at all. There was a bit of fight for position in the finish to make sure he didn’t miss out on any splits that might happen there, but he didn’t have to expand too much energy there. It was a good day for him in that sense.