News: Froome up to 3rd Overall in Beijing

1-2 for Ireland on Stage 3 whilst third for Froome helps him into podium spot on the overall as Dowsett loses time, Cummings fourth

A captivating third stage of the Tour of Beijing today provided a rare moment in world cycling when the final breakaway of the day – Irishmen Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Philip Deignan (Radioshack) and Sky Pro Cycling’s Chris Froome – held off a rapidly closing peloton to fill the podium.

But whilst it was a special moment for them, it made little impact overall on the race as the net effect was that Roche and Deignan alone managed to claw back just a single second on general classification from race leader Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad). And for most observers, and indeed for Martin himself, that seems to be the bike race done and dusted.

“It was the most difficult stage for sure but I expect the next two days to be for the sprinters.” Martin said after receiving the Tour leader’s prized red jersey for the third day in succession. “I am confident that we can now defend the jersey until Sunday.”

But there was still plenty to celebrate for stage-winner Roche. As there would have been for UCI President Pat McQuaid who already had plenty of reasons to be happy about the WorldTour’s expansion into Asia even before two of his own countrymen were able to go one-two in a stage finish. “Definitely I think it is my best win. I am so happy and delighted to be here in China,” Roche said. “To win my first pro tour event is very special. This is the stage win I have been waiting two years for. It is such a great moment – those few seconds when you put your hands in the air.”

“With (Jean Christophe) Peraud our GC man, I could take the risks on the climbs, and it worked out.”

But a humble Roche was far from claiming all the credit for himself, giving praise to both his team and his fellow breakaways. “The team did a great job, just as they have for me all year but until today I couldn’t deliver for them. They played the game for me. Everyone rode for me 100 percent. This is a great way of thanking them. The last 15km went really quick. The three of us just rode. We kept each other motivated. There was not much thinking out there, just riding,” Roche said.

It was a fair assessment of the situation – as each had taken repeated hard turns at the front of the threesome – after Deignan had made a brief solo break with 12km to ride before being joined by the Roche and Froome.

Roche also has some respectful words for the team of the Tour leader. “HTC did a great job to control the race. They let riders go but knew exactly when to bring them back,” Roche said.

The opening category two ascent after just 15 km of the stage provided riders with a test from the beginning, ahead of the first of three category one climbs – to Gao Qin. Adriano Malori (Lampre), Lloyd Mondory (AG2R) and Ion Izzagirre (Euskaltel Euskadi) shared the top three points on the first two climbs. The fast descent from the latter was memorable for several reasons not the least a spectacular short section of switchbacks half way down, that later prompted Roche to light-heartedly suggest would provide a great stage finish in future years.

After some more sympathetic phases through Liucun and across the Ming Tombs Reservoir and on the next climb to XieZishi in the Jundu Mountains, it was one of the stage two escapees, Igor Anton (also Euskaltel), who returned to the fore. He grabbed not only the maximum 12 points on offer, but the king of the mountains polka dot jersey as a result. In the battle for the sprint points crown, Vacansoleil’s Lieuwe Westra and Martijn Keizer joined the early break made by Malori, Mondory and Izagirre, and then dominated all three intermediate sprints – taking the top two places in each between them.

But after his third placing today, to add to his fourth in Wednesday’s time trial in Beijing Olympic Park, it is Froome who takes over the Green jersey, with a lead of eight points over Roche and Steve Cummings is fourth overall. Team Sky’s Sports Director, Marcus Ljungqvist, was full of praise for the work put in by the team to provide a platform for Froome to attack. He said on the Team Sky website: “It was a really good attack from Froomey at the end. We had a plan within the team and the guys really stuck and committed to it. The climbs weren’t that hard but still the guys really tried and they deserve credit for that.”

“At one point Chris had 20 seconds and Tony Martin was isolated on his own. It was just him and Dave Millar chasing so it was close. It would have been better if the climb had been longer and harder. It was still a hard race and it wasn’t just us trying but the guys took it on and it was nice to see. Third in the end is a nice little result. The only little thing maybe is that we lost Alex out of the GC but really his main aim was to do a good TT which he did. Anything beyond that was a bonus so it is nothing to feel sorry about. His days will come, even in the climbs I think. Every race he is getting better and better.”

“I think we will have two bunch sprints now so we will go for those on the final two days and try and protect our GC position.”

Saturday’s fourth stage is the longest of the Tour at 189.5km but will be far kinder to the riders than today’s roller coaster. Again there are three intermediate sprints, whilst the three climbs are assessed at either categories two or three. The day finishes at another of the 2008 Olympic venues – the Shunyi Rowing and Canoeing Centre.

Stage 3
1.     Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale     3:53:15
2.    Philip Deignan (Irl) Team RadioShack
3.     Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling     0:00:01

21.     Tony Martin (Ger) HTC – Highroad
31.     David Millar (Gbr) Team Garmin – Cervelo
38.     Stephen Cummings (Gbr) Sky Procycling

86.     Alex Dowsett (Gbr) Sky Procycling     0:08:07
130.     Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
143.    Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling

1.     Tony Martin (Ger) HTC – Highroad     7:10:19
2.     David Millar (Gbr) Team Garmin – Cervelo     0:00:17
3.     Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling     0:00:26
4.     Stephen Cummings (Gbr) Sky Procycling     0:00:35
5.     Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Lotto     0:00:39
6.     Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:00:41
7.     Jean Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La mondiale     0:00:43
8.     Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Pro Team Astana
9.     Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step Cycling Team
10.     Niki Terpstra (Ned) Quick Step Cycling Team     0:00:46

11.     Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La mondiale     0:00:48
81.     Alex Dowsett (Gbr) Sky Procycling     0:08:30
128.     Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:15:11

1.     Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling     25      pts
2.    Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La mondiale     17
3.     Tony Martin (Ger) HTC – Highroad     15

Teams classification         Result
1.     Sky Procycling     21:32:22

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