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Michael Matthews Sprints to Second from Reduced Bunch in Beijing

Mon 14 Oct 2013

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) took his second straight stage win to consolidate his lead in the Tour of Beijing general classification. The race leader edged out Michael Matthews en route to victory on stage three. Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) rounded out the podium.

It was an action-packed stage with a fast start, several late race attacks and a reduced bunch sprint. Wesley Sulzberger was part of a six rider escape group that went clear in the opening hour of racing.

“Michael’s back improved overnight – which was a good sign,” said Sport Director Matt White. “We decided to ride for him today. We obviously put a rider in the break to take pressure off the team in the chase. We didn’t have to do much until the final.”

FDJ.fr kept a close tab on Sulzberger’s breakaway over the undulating terrain. Despite cooperation amongst the riders in the escape, the group was never allowed an advantage beyond 3’30. Ag2r-La Mondiale set a blistering pace leading into the final climb to Huang Tu Liang. Their efforts seemed designed to dispose of Bouhanni over the categorised climb but ultimately only proved effective in shutting down the break.

“Hats off to Bouhanni and his team,” said White. “They were obviously confident from the start. I didn’t expect FDJ to control today’s race until the final. Bouhanni isn’t the guy you’d bank on for a stage like this in Europe, but he has good form at the moment. FDJ committed 100% and reaped the benefits in the end.”

Thirty kilometres from the finish, the break had returned to the bunch. Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) countered the catch and gained 1’20 over a slow-to-react peloton. Despite his best efforts, Hansen was caught on the lower slopes of the final climb. Movistar took up the pace-making following Hansen’s catch. Their turn of speed warded off attacks and reduced the size of the bunch.

Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) attacked on the descent. Luke Durbridge assumed responsibility for the chase, eventually pegging Martin back 5km from the finish. By that time, only 60 riders remained in the front group. Bouhanni made his moves with 100 metres to go and held-off a fast-closing Matthews and Tsatevich to secure the stage win.

“The move by Tony Martin was very dangerous,” said White. “Luke shut him down quite successfully on a hectic descent. From what I understand, Michael drag raced Bouhanni in the finishing straight, and Bouhanni had the upper hand.”

“Tomorrow will be an interesting day,” White added. “The climb will probably be too hard for Michael to challenge for the overall victory, but he’s now within striking distance of the points jersey. We lost some points yesterday with his off day, but we plan to make up for it tomorrow.” 

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