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In the easiest stage of America’s toughest stage race, Hofland finished off perfect teamwork from Belkin by holding off Palini and Young in the bunch sprint; Kocjan finished 6th and retained his overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.

ANDREA PALINI

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JURE KOCJAN

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MORENO HOFLAND

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TEAM VISMA | LEASE A BIKE

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TOUR OF UTAH

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07.08.2014 @ 01:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Moreno Hofland (Belkin) continued his impressive comeback from his horrific crash in the Tour of California when he added the win in stage 3 to the victory he took on the opening day of the Tour of Utah. In the bunch sprint at the end of the easiest stage of the race, he held off Andrea Palini (Lampre-Merida) and Eric Young (Optum) while Jure Kocjan (Smartstop) finished 6th and retained his overall lead.

 

Three months ago Moreno Hofland found himself on the ground in the Tour of California with severe injuries that forced him to miss a big part of the season. This week he is making his comeback in the Touf of Utah and the young Dutchman could not have wished for a better return to racing.

 

Two days ago he won the opening stage of the race and after relinquishing the overall lead in yesterday’s hilly stage, he was back on top in stage 3. In the easiest stage of the entire race, all was set for a bunch sprint and here Hofland again proved his superiority.

 

Belkin stayed calm throughout the stage and allowed the Smartstop team of race leader Jure Kocjan to control the early break before the Dutch team stroke in the finale. They gave their sprinter a textbook lead-out and he finished it off in impressive fashion by holding off Andrea Palini and Eric Young.

 

At 190.2km, the stage from Lehi to the Miller Motorsports Park was mostly flat as the riders only had to tackle a category 4 climb at the midpoint of the stage. From there it was a gradual descent to a flat finish on the motor circuit where the riders ended the race by doing a couple of laps.

 

Right from the gun, the early break was established when Daniel Summerhill (UnitedHealthCare) launched the first attack. He was joined by Darren Lapthorne (Drapac), Jacob Rather (Jelly Belly) and Tyler Wren (Jamis) and later Robin Carpenter (Hincapie) and Daniel Eaton (Bissell) also bridged the gap.

 

The six-rider break started to build an advantage and after less than 5km of racing, they were already 45 seconds ahead. SmartStop was already rolling along at the head of the peloton and they made sure that the situation did not get out of control.

 

When Carpenter beat Eaton and Rathe in the first intermediate sprint, the gap was 1.50 and while Lapthorne fought his way back, Flavio De Luna (SmartStop) kept it stable around 2.30. The peloton lost a bit of time on the day’s only climb and when Carpenter beat Wren, Summerhill and Rathe in the KOM sprint, the gap had reached 3.10.

 

Having taken the mountains jersey, Carpenter decided to wait for the peloton but his five companions decided to press on. However, they were kept on a short leash by SmartStop who made sure that the advantage stayed around the 3-minute mark.

 

With 50km to go, SmartStop accelerated and things only got more nervous by the windier conditions that started to create some small echelons. When Summerhill beat Rathe and Eaton in the final intermediate sprint with 25km to go, the advantage was only 1.30.

 

More teams were now contributing to the chase as Optum, Belkin and Trek were lending SmartStop a hand. With 20km to go, the gap was inside a minute and Belkin had now taken complete control.

 

A small crash brought down a Hincapie rider but that didn’t take the momentum out of the chase. Inside the final 10km, the break was about to get caught which prompted Rathe to give it a final desperate try.

 

UnitedHealthCare hit the front and they brought Rathe back with a little less than 8km to go. The American team remained in control until they were passed by Belkin inside the final 3km.

 

The Dutch team dominated the finale and again they delivered Hofland perfectly on the front. The Dutchman had no trouble holding off Palini and Young for his second win of the race.

 

Kocjan had to settle for sixth but retained his 2-second lead over Schär in the overall standings. However, he is likely to lose his jersey in tomorrow’s stage which offers a new summit finish for the race. A mostly flat stage has a nasty sting in its tail as a smaller climb serves as a warm-up for the Powder Mountain which will be the scene of the first big battle between the race favourites.

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