Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank) won the third stage of the 2011 Tour of Britain in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday to take the overall lead in the race.
The former cyclo-cross world champion took the bunch sprint at the twisting, slightly uphill finish from a reduced peloton after the Sky and HTC-Highroad teams wound up the pace to catch an early escape group.
Boom’s Rabobank team-mate Michael Matthews placed second with British overall hope Geraint Thomas (Sky) in third. Stage one winner Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) placed fifth.
Boom takes over the race lead from Cavendish, who now trails Boom by three seconds. Thomas is third overall at six seconds.
“With 200 metres to go I managed to jump over Cummings and Thomas and then the corners started so they couldn’t pass us anymore,” said Boom after the win. “My first aim was to pull for Michael [Matthews] and then I felt good so I am happy to win.
“We knew that you can’t bring HTC and Cavendish or the Sky boys to the finish. We knew we would have to surprise them, and we managed to do that.”
Business as usual
After Monday’s stage two cancellation due to adverse weather conditions, it was back to the plan for stage three in Stoke-on-Trent.
Opening stage escapee Russell Hampton (Sigma Sport-Specialized) again took the reins of the race, forming an early breakaway with Andrew Fenn (An Post) and Boy van Poppel (United Healthcare). The trio worked hard to quickly distance the bunch, expanding their time gap over the bunch to three minutes after 40km.
Behind, Sky advanced to the head of the bunch en masse, and the British squad’s ferocious pace and the stiff cross-winds soon started to put some riders in difficulty. The peloton eventually split, with all six Sky riders up front in a group with Cavendish as they caught the escapees to form a unit of 27 riders.
The leaders maintained the fast pace until Sky’s Dowsett attacked with 18km to go. His team-mates promptly stopped riding at the head of the lead group to let Cavendish’s HTC-Highroad squad do the work.
As Dowsett hit the 10km banner, his lead had reached 20 seconds as HTC continued the chase. The second peloton dropped earlier were around four minutes adrift at this point.
Dowsett continued to time-trial his way solo to the finish, stretching the gap to 25 seconds before his advantage was whittled away by the chasing HTC riders and he was caught in the final kilometre.
The free-for-all to the line saw Rabobank come out on top, with Boom and Matthews taking a one-two.
Barry Markus (Vacansoleil) became the second rider to abandon the race after Jens Voigt (Leopard-Trek) crashed out of the opening stage. Markus abandoned after suffering cuts as a result of a fall.
On Wednesday, the riders face what could prove to be the toughest stage of the race yet – an undulating 183.7km route in Wales from Welshpool to Caerphilly.
Tour of Britain 2011, stage three: Stoke-on-Trent, 140km
1. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank in 3-23-42
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank
3. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky
4. Steve Cummings (GB) Sky
5. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad
6. Ian Bibby (GB) Motorpoint
7. Jonathan Tiernan Locke (GB) Rapha Condor Sharp
8. Jelle Wallays (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen
9. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard Trek
10. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post all same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank in 8-04-35
2. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad at 3 secs
3. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 6 secs
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank at 7 secs
5. Boy Van Poppel (Ned) United Healthcare at 8 secs
6. Andrew Fenn (GB) An Post at same time
7. Ian Bibby (GB) Motorpoint at 13 secs
8. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard-Trek at same time
9. Steve Cummings (GB) Sky at same time
10. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at same time
Prostate Cancer Charity points classification
Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Highroad
Skoda King of the Mountains classification
Russell Hampton (GB) Sigma Sport-Specialized
Yodel sprints classification
Pieter Ghyllebert (Bel) An Post
Stage three action
Andrew Fenn, Russell Hampton and Boy van Poppel in escape group
Lars Boom distances his rivals to take stage three
Lars Boom in the gold leader’s jersey
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Tour of Britain 2011: Stage reports
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Tour of Britain 2011: Photo galleries
By Andy Jones
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Press conference photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Riders warm up photo gallery
Tour of Britain 2011: Start list
Tour of Britain 2011: Provisional start list
Tour of Britain 2011: TV guide
Tour of Britain 2011: ITV4 TV schedule