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A few weeks after beating Ewan at the Sun Tour, Murphy came out on top in the bunch sprint on stage 3 of the Tour de Langkawi, holding off Chicchi and Mareczko; Guardini had to settle for fifth but retained the lead











26.02.2016 @ 11:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few weeks after he beat Caleb Ewan at the Herald Sun Tour, John Murphy (Unitedhealthcare) confirmed that he is a serious contender in the bunch sprint as he came out on top in the third consecutive bunch sprint in the Tour de Langkawi. The American benefited from a great lead-out from his Blue Train and easily held off Francesco Chicchi (Androni) and Jakub Mareczko (Southeast). Andrea Guardini (Astana) had to settle for fifth but it was enough to keep the yellow jersey.


For years, the Unitedhealthcare team have been known for their dominance of the American criterium scene where their famous Blue Train has been in a class of its own. However, the Americans have had a harder time on the international scene where they have failed to make much of an impact.


With John Murphy’s emergence that is now set to change. A few weeks ago, the American became the rider to break Caleb Ewan’s sprint dominance in Australia when he beat the youngster in the bunch sprint on the third stage of the Herald Sun Tour and today his Blue Train again did a great job to set him up for another big win on stage 3 of the Tour de Langkawi.


However, it looked like the sprinters were never going to get their chance on the short, flat stage which had bunch sprint written all over it. James Oram (ONE), Gaspar Perira (Funvic) and Donaben Goh (Terengganu) had formed an early breakaway and as Astana didn’t get any help in their chase efforts, the gap was still 2.35 with 37km to go and the escapees clearly started to believe in their chances.


Tinkoff now decided to lend Astana a hand and Pereira won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Oram and Goh at the 72km mark, Erik Baska (Tinkoff) led the peloton across the line 2.30 behind the escapees. That started the real chase and when Oram beat Pereira and Goh in the final sprint with 26km to go, Michael Gogl (Tinkoff) led the peloton just 1.38 later. Unfortunately, yesterday’s winner Andrea Palini (Skydive) suffered a very untimely puncture and it took him almost 10km to rejoin the fast-moving peloton.


Pereira was unable to keep up with his companions but Oram and Goh did a great job to maintain an advantage of 1.05 as they entered the final 15km. However, Goh was now just following Oram’s wheel and was unable to contribute to the work.


Oram and Goh still had 50 seconds with 12km to go after Oram had led his companion to the top of the day’s second climb and did an incredible job to keep the hard-chasing peloton at bay. However, with just 2km to go, it was over for the two attackers and the scene was set for another bunch sprint.


In the huge fight between the lead-out trains, Unitedhealthcare did things perfectly and they managed to deliver Murphy in a great position. The American held off Francsco Chicchi and Jakub Mareczko with a relatively big margin to claim his second win of the year.


Race leader Andrea Guardini had to settle for fifth but as none of the top 3 riders had scored bonus seconds in the previous stages, he maintains his 2-second lead over Palini. He is likely to lose that position tomorrow as Saturday is the day of the queen stage. After a completely flat opening part, the riders face a long, gradual uphill drag of 30km in the finale. A category 1 KOM sprint comes 13.5km from the finish and then a short descent leads to the final HC climb to the finish at the Cameron Highlands. The final 5km average 6.8% and should suit the climbers which are expected to largely decide the final GC in the most important stage of the race


A flat stage

After two days for the sprinters, another bunch sprint was expected in stage 3 which brought the riders over just 107.2km from Kulim to Kuala Kangsar. After an early category 4 climb, the roads were completely flat until the riders hit another small category 4 climb whose summit was located just 14.9km from the flat finish.


Again it was extremely hot when the riders gathered a late start on the Muslim holiday in Malaysia and all riders who finished yesterday were present. Almost straight from the gun, the early break was formed as the peloton didn’t react to the attack from James Oram (ONE), Gaspar Perira (Funvic) and Donaben Goh (Terengganu).


Astana up the pace

The trio had already pushed their advantage out to 1.10 after 10km of racing where they hit the first climb. Pereira won the KOM sprint ahead of Goh and Oram while the peloton rolled slowly to the top.


The gap continued to grow and had gone out to 2.20 at the 16km mark and 2.55 just four kilometres later. Meanwhile, Pereira also won the first intermediate sprint, beating Goh and Oram while Dias Omirzakov who had started the chase for Astana was first from the peloton 3.30 later.


A stable situation

Astana decided that it was time to up the pace and Omirzakov had reduced the advantage to 2.55 at the 45km mark. At this point, Hou Ya Ke left the race after having been left behind due to an early mechanical.


Arman Kamyshev joined forces with his teammate Omirzakov but they were not really chasing yet. It wasn’t until Tinkoff came to the fore to lend them a hand that the trend changed and in the end the escapees had to surrender, setting the scene for another bunch sprint. 



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