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“I think God opened the street for me in the finishing sprint like Moses parted the seas. It was fun and I’m very happy to win here."

Photo: Sirotti

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21.09.2016 @ 23:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) again made use of his excellent bike-handling skills to come out on top in a very dramatic third stage of the Eneco Tour. When the early break was caught just 100m from the line, the Slovakian found his way from far back to pass all his sprint rivals and come around Danny Van Poppel (Sky) to win the stage and pick up 10 valuable bonus seconds, with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) completing the podium. The world champion is now just 3 seconds behind Rohan Dennis (BMC) in the overall standings.

 

We have gathered a few reactions.

 

Sagan: I think God opened the street for me

A win on Sunday, third on Monday and eighth in yesterday’s time trial – Peter Sagan’s stellar week has continued with a superb stage win on day 3 of the Eneco Tour in Ardooie, Belgium. Managing to find the smallest of gaps through the middle of the peloton, Sagan proved the fastest of the bunch on the second sprint showdown of the race.
 
The stage saw a nail-biting finish with the day’s break of five only being caught as the sprint opened up. Initially it looked like Sagan would be too far back to be able to contest the top placings on the stage, but a show of technical skill and nerve saw the World and European champion find an unimaginable gap and pull clear for a convincing win in the final metres. With the win, Sagan moves into second on GC, just three seconds down, and comforts his lead in the red jersey of points leader.
 
“I think God opened the street for me in the finishing sprint like Moses parted the seas,” Sagan joked after the finish, clearly delighted with the stage win. “It was fun and I’m very happy to win here. Thanks again to all my teammates as they did an unbelievable job on the last laps and helped me today. For now, we’re doing very well but we’ll take it day-by-day and see how we are tomorrow and then in the team time trial. Sunday is still some way away but for now we’re doing well and we’ll try to continue like this.”

 

Sagan beat the peloton after a tense finale, with a leading breakaway that was only caught right at the end.

 

"It was very close," Tinkoff's world champion nodded. "On the local course there was no organisation to catch the breakaway. I put two men in front and felt confident we would get them."

 

"It was a tight sprint since we caught the escapees in the end. Then it was a bit like a lottery. I was lucky to find an opening. It was complicated for the sprinters teams to organize themselves in the final because it was constantly changing roads, between broad and narrow. There was not much space for trains. This kind of finish really suited me because it is more technical. I did not think so when I started. I remain very focused and I'm not afraid.”

 

Sagan's impressive dash to the finish included several twists and turns as he made his way through to the front.

 

"It was dangerous, but you don't think about that in the final. Sprints like that are a lottery. Now we'll see after the team time trail [on Friday] if we can win the Eneco Tour." 

 

Would Sagan benefit from a similar bunch sprint at the world championships in Qatar?

 

"I don't know if I'm going," the Slovakian surprised the press room. "I already have a European champion's jersey. I haven't taken a decision yet."

 

On the final finishing circuits, Tinkoff applied pressure on the front of the peloton to help close the gap and to also keep Sagan in position, and the team once again showed a collective display of strength to help deliver Sagan in the right position to be able to contest the stage win. Unfortunately, Michael Valgren was involved in a crash in the sprint and will undergo further tests to asses any damage done. He has a small fracture but will start the stage

Sport Director Tristan Hoffman explained the stage in more detail from the team’s perspective.

 

“Our focus for the stage was to concentrate on the final sprint, as the bunch looked happy to let the break take the bonus seconds. There were five guys in front and with 20km to go it was under control but the peloton took its foot off the gas and the gap went out so it was super close.
 
“When the gap went out we knew we had to help pull and the guys did a good job. I think in the last 15km it was always over 60kmh so it was a hard finish. Then at the end Peter came through like a rocket, it was amazing.”
 
Tomorrow’s stage covers 201.4km over typical Belgium roads, and the race starts to tackle some climbs and other difficulties, as Hoffman explained.

 

“There are a few hills and cobblestones, and the mix of these in the final could lead to some splits so we will be ready and up there.”
 

Van Poppel close to big win at the Eneco Tour

Danny van Poppel put in a fantastic sprint effort to come home second on stage three at the Eneco Tour.

 

The Dutchman bounced back from a crash on Monday, opening up his sprint early in Ardooie and surging for the line. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) arrived late on the scene, squeezing through a gap to take the victory in style, with Van Poppel holding off Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) for third.

 

Team Sky were among the teams who worked hard late on to haul back a motivated five-man breakaway. Lead-out men were forced into action early, with Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and Andy Fenn burying themselves for the cause while Van Poppel positioned himself in the wheels.

 

Van Poppel showed no ill effects from his stage one crash and jinked across the road spectacularly to open up as the breakaway were finally caught inside the final metres.

 

Groenewegen: I think I was the fastest in the sprint

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider Dylan Groenewegen placed fourth in the third stage of the Eneco Tour today. In the streets of Ardooie, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won and with the bonus seconds, moved up to second place overall at the expense of Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo). Rohan Dennis (BMC) remains the overall leader.

 

Five riders managed to escape after the start in Blankenberg. They nearly survived, only falling into the group’s claws in the final 500 metres. Sagan sprinted around with the others trying to keep up.

 

"The sprint was very hectic because the leading group was caught in a full sprint,” Groenewegen explained. “We had to sprint between them and it seemed that only Sagan had no problems with that. It sucks that I only managed fourth. We came here to win bunch sprints, and if you fail, you can’t be happy.

 

“I'm fine and my speed is also good. I think that I was the fastest today, but I had to hold off too much in the sprint."

 

"In the final, it was very exciting because many teams began to play poker,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman added. “There are many interests in the peloton. Some teams ride only for the sprint and others are thinking of the overall. There was little cooperation in the peloton at the start of the stage today.” 

 

The group succeeded, but just, in catching the five riders.

 

"That was not because the peloton rode well, it was more because the riders in the leading group started to look back. Our goal was to get Dylan through the last corner as well as possible. Groenewegen succeeded, but his team-mates lost ground. In the sprint, he showed again that he is good, but unfortunately, he could not open the throttle."

 

Jos van Emden dropped one place to third in the overall standings, but maintaining his position was not the goal today.

 

"We are pleased that we have still three men in the top 10 of the standings,” Zeeman said. “Today, we rode entirely for a bunch sprint. Jos van Emden, too. He made every effort to keep Dylan positioned.“

 

Disappointed McNally: Elmiger destroyed our chances

Mark McNally (Wanty) finished in fifth place as the best rider from the break. He said:

 

"I think I did everything I could in the final. If I went earlier, I would have beaten by the guys in the breakaway. I think the rider of IAM Cycling [Martin Elmiger] made a mistake by attacking with 2 km to go because everyone started gambling. Then I thought I had it 10m from the line but they came too fast. If I did it again, I don't think I would have done anything different.”

 

Nizzolo: Today I had some of the best legs I have had all year

The peloton almost misjudged the five-man breakaway of stage three, only catching the leaders in the final meters after they began looking at each other in a fatal game of cat n' mouse.

 

The hesitation from the leaders allowed the peloton to sprint over them, but it created a messy ending as the sprinters, including Giacomo Nizzolo, tried their best to navigate around the caught riders. 

 

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) showed incredible skill, or luck, by slipping through an opening when all seemed hopeless to win the muddled bunch sprint. Nizzolo settled for sixth after blocked and forced to hesitate momentarily with 100 meters to go.

 

"I could not do a perfect sprint, with the breakaway begin caught in the end," explained Nizzolo while spinning on one of the team's CycleOps trainers after the race. "Today was one of the best feeling of the season for me; I was feeling very, very good with my legs. It's a pity that we caught the breakaway in the final meters. I took the wheel of Kittel thinking he could bring me out of the troubles, but it was not like this as he was also blocked. I was doing a slalom between them, and I couldn't deliver the power I am capable of, and that's why I am disappointed.

 

"But coming into the sprint, we did an excellent job; we were not in stress at all and came to the front in just the right moment. You can do this when you have the confidence, especially from having good condition. I am happy about that, but of course, it could be better."

 

Most of the 182-kilometer stage unfolded in a controlled manner with little excitement until the final kilometers when the breakaway increased the pace and upped the ante. With the gap at 25 seconds and two kilometers to go, it turned into a precarious situation for the sprinters hoping for another chance at glory.

 

The five leaders, who had worked together flawlessly until the last kilometer, became their own undoing when they slowed and began eyeing each other, allowing the peloton to roll over them within spitting distance of the white line. While they were left with nothing to show after a long day out front, they did create an exhilarating ending to a tranquil race.

 

In the team car, Trek-Segafredo was joined by a special guest, who would have also preferred more excitement than just the final kilometers. Fabian Cancellara, perhaps joining the team for a taste of what retirement may be like, talked about his time in the caravan:

 

"I am here to visit and support the team and today's stage also came to Dirk's (Demol, director) hometown. My day in the car was something new; it was the first time I had done it for the whole race from the start to finish. It was totally different to watch the riders that I was fighting and racing against a few weeks ago. Somehow, I was okay to be in the car – like I am already adapted.

 

"In the car, when you watch the last kilometers you wonder 'are they going to catch them or not?' and then, in the end, they almost didn't since they were playing in the front. I have seen this in other races and watched this at home, but now I was there, in the race behind, and it was different, with radio tour, the race radio, the radio from the second car…you have a lot of different information going on!

 

"I think today I saw quite an easy day since there was sun and no wind, and normally there is a lot of wind in this region. One day, I want to see a more 'complicated' race, more action, more up and down. Today was a few bidons, no rain… Of course, that is never nice, and I want the riders to have good weather, but I want to be in the car again with more action," smiled Cancellara.

 

Elmiger: I came very close to the perfect day

The breakaway of five riders that included IAM Cycling’s Martin Elmiger was caught within 100 meters of the finish line after having been in the lead for more than 185 kilometers. Though the stage was won by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Martin Elmiger held on for 7th place, and took 9 bonus seconds away with him to move up the general classification to 5th place overall, just 14 seconds behind leader Rohan Dennis (BMC).


 “I came very close to the perfect day, but hey ... that's cycling, he said.

 

“I managed to get into the right breakaway, and so was able to grab some bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints. I had already reached my objective for the day, but then given the size of the gap that the break had, I really went for it. Unfortunately, in the end, everyone wanted to play his own card. That made it possible for the peloton to catch us before the line. With a clear head now I tell myself that I ought to have tried to go all out in the last two kilometers.”


 

Lionel Marie, directeur sportif for IAM Cycling, added:

 

“Martin Elmiger remains a fighter and an exemplary road captain at 37 year old. He was asked to get into the break this morning in the team meeting, and to take as many bonus seconds as he could in order to move up the GC.  He succeeded in doing that, and then on top, he almost snuck away with the victory on this third stage. I really just want to say congratulations and to take my hat off to him.”

 

Though he suffered a crash early in the stage, the recent winner of the Bretagne Classic in Plouay Oliver Naesen escaped the incident unscathed and even unscratched.

 

Kittel: I made the wrong gamble

Once again, Marcel Kittel couldn't put his fast legs to work, despite being in excellent condition, as he was boxed in, just as on Monday, and finished the stage in 8th place, ahead of fellow countryman Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). Kittel, who won 12 races this year, continues to be Etixx – Quick-Step's best placed rider in the general classification, resting in 10th after three stages, 17 seconds behind the leader.

 

"Going into the last corner, it was a mess in the peloton. I had to move up and this cost me some energy. Then I jumped from wheel to wheel, slotted into a good position and went with around 300 meters left. I gambled on the fact that the breakaway will take the shortest way to the line, but they didn't, so I had to go on the inside, and to start my sprint again with 200 meters before the finish was difficult", said Kittel after this third consecutive top 10 at this year's Eneco Tour.

 

Kristoff: I didn’t have the legs to win

It was a chaotic finish for Wednesday’s stage 3 in the Eneco Tour, with the breakaway being caught within sight of the finish line as the mass sprint overtook them for the final. Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was right in the mix for the big sprint, trying to pick his way through the group, led by teammates Aleksandr Porsev and Marco Haller, and ended up in tenth place behind winner and current world champion Peter Sagan.

 

”It was pretty chaotic in the final. We tried to do a lead out but it was difficult with the chicanes to keep the team together. After the last corner I was on the wheel of Alex Porsev and Marco Haller was also there. We didn’t stay quite together around the corner as Marco was a little bit in front with Porsev and myself behind so Aleksandr did a strong pull to bring me up. I then had to fight to find another wheel and wasn’t really able to do so which left me in the wind. The sprint started with 250 to go, and I wasn’t in such bad position, but I looked up and we were catching the breakaway and I wasn’t sure which way to go, where I could find my way through. In the end I was tenth. Regardless, I don’t think I could have won today, I just didn’t feel I had the legs, but perhaps I could have been four or five positions higher if things had gone differently. It was chaotic and difficult so we did our best today,” said team leader Alexander Kristoff.

 

Orica-BikeExchange: We have to remember how young Ewan is

A long and predominantly flat stage three of the Eneco Tour saw 2016 Tour Down Under stage winner Caleb Ewan finish in 14th after a late surge to the line.

 

ORICA-BikeExchange enjoyed another controlled and straightforward day in the peloton on stage three after a five-man breakaway stayed clear for 170kilometres before being caught only 400metres from the finish.

 

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won the stage from the late sprint and moved into second place in the general classification behind race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) withMichael Matthews the best placed rider overall for ORICA-BikeExchange in 27th.

 

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was pleased with the team and the progress Ewan is making at such a young age.

 

“The team rode intelligently again today,” said Lapage. “We saw from the situation with the breakaway that there was a little gambling taking place from the sprinters teams and the catch came very late on.

 

“It was a nervous finale and to be in a position to contest the top ten you needed to be right on the front line going into the final corner at 150metres, otherwise it wasn’t going to be possible to come around for the sprint.

 

“Caleb (Ewan) is fighting every day, sometimes we forget how young he still is and yet here he is competing against older and more experienced sprinters and lead out men who are all pushing hard and also preparing for the upcoming world championships.

 

“Every race and every sprint is more valuable experience for Caleb, we are all very confident of his ability. He is one of the fastest guys in the peloton and the other sprinters are aware of that.

 

“There is no pressure, we keep trying every day and there are some hard days and lots of aggressive racing still to come."

 

Arashiro close to victory at the Eneco Tour

After the individual time trial, LAMPRE-MERIDA's riders were determinated to make the blue-fuchsia-green colors shine once again already in the 3rd stage of the Eneco Tourand to do it by attacking as they had done in the opening stage (Bono in the main breakaway).

The riders directed by the duo Maini-Scirea achieved this goal thanks to Arashiro, who joined a breakaway which gave some concerns to the peloton. The gap between the breakway and the bunch was 10" in the approach of the final kilometer when Arashiro tried an attack which was not successful for him.

The peloton succeeded in bridging the gap in the final 100 meters. Modolo tried a progression on the left side of the road but he was forced to brake in order to avoid to be packed towards the fences. He launched his sprint again and he obtained the 19th place.

 

Degenkolb: I wasn’t able to start my sprint

John Degenkolb was first over the line for the Giant Alpecin in 22nd place.

 

He said after the stage: “It was a very hectic finale like every year in Ardooie. We actually did a really good job as a team to bring Ramon [Sinkeldam] and me in a good position for the sprint. However, on the last corner, I lost the wheel of Ramon and the breakaway was still in front of us. The moment we caught them it was a big traffic jam in the final straight. The sprint was like a lottery. In the end, I got boxed it and I wasn’t able to start my sprint.

 

“On the positive side, I felt a lot better today compared to the first two stages and that gives me confidence for the upcoming days.”

 

Coach Morten Bennekou added:

 

“It was again a really chaotic finale and the breakaway almost made it the finish line. There were actually interrupting the sprint and the peloton had to overtake them in the final meters. There was no lead-out from any teams, including us. Once again we cannot be satisfied with this result, but John is in a good condition, he just couldn’t find the space to get through and sprint.”

 

No luck for Boasson Hagen in hectic sprint

Dimension Data was to be seen near the very front of the chasing peloton inside the last few race kilometers and played its role in catching the break. Yet in a hectic and somehow technical finale the guys lost each other and were not able to compete in the sprint. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Edvald Boasson Hagen crossed the line just outside the top20.

 

Sports director Roger Hammond said:

 

“It was a normal bunch sprint day. The break went early and was not really a threat at first, but in the end it took quite long to catch them. It looked good for us for most of the stage and we were also up there until the final few kilometers. It was a hectic finale and the guys lost each other somehow. Then it just took too long to regroup. We have not been able to play our cards in the sprint today, but there’re more days to come. Edvald didn’t lose time in the GC, so we still have our options.”

 

Sütterlin remains in fourth at the Eneco Tour

The Eneco Tour didn't lack emotions as the finish of stage three in Ardooie -184km entirely on Belgian roads today, from the start in Blankenberge - was close to seeing a five-man early breakaway - led by Elmiger (IAM) - succeed, caught in the very finishing straight as Peter Sagan (TNK) won to reach 2nd overall. Jasha Sütterlin stays in 4th place (+14") before the first hills and cobbled sections are tackled on Thursday on the way to Sint Pieters-Leeuw (199km). The Alsemberg and the Bruine Put - two passages each - will decide tomorrow's result, located just 19 and 13km from the end, respectively.

 

Lutsenko ready to go on the attack in the Eneco Tour

"I have recovered the best and I hope to do well tomorrow and Friday in the team time trial,” said Alexey Lutsenko.

 

"Tomorrow there will be the first ascents with the classic Flemish walls. We must stay ahead in order to try to win."

 

Dennis: Sagan could take the jersey tomorrow

Rohan Dennis successfully defended his leader’s white jersey on stage 3 of the Eneco Tour which came down to a thrilling sprint finale in Ardooie.

 

Starting the day with five seconds on Jos Van Emden (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) and 13 seconds on Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Dennis and his BMC Racing Team teammates were happy to let a five-rider breakaway go clear after just 3km of racing.

 

Dennis crossed the line in the bunch to hold onto his race lead going into stage 4.

 

Rohan Dennis said:

 

“It wasn’t a super difficult day for us but we just needed to stay calm. Obviously we had to show our presence at the front as we had the leader’s jersey so we couldn’t just sit back and disrespect it. It was a waiting game today and all of a sudden it was stress. It was pretty straightforward until those last circuits. They didn’t make it easy for me [to keep the jersey]. Peter Sagan took the stage which meant a ten second bonus so he’s only three seconds behind me now. That last 10km was quite stressful as there was a lot of fighting to stay out of trouble. That last kilometer was flat out for everyone. We had to make sure there were no splits and time lost through that.

 

"It was supposed to be an easy stage for us We knew there was going to be a sprint, but at a certain moment we were taking them back too quickly and didn't want to sprint for the Golden Kilometre. At the end it seemed like we were easing the pace, but we wanted to take them back as quickly as possible.

 

“We weren’t too worries about a sprint. If Peter didn’t take the stage it was perfect for us but I’ve still got the jersey and we stayed out of trouble today. I’m not sure about tomorrow as I haven’t really looked too far ahead. It could be another sprint and Sagan can sprint and he can climb so he could still take the jersey tomorrow. We have one of the best teams here for the team time trial, we’re world champions for the last two years, and there’s no reason why we can’t that time back then.

 

"We knew he was going to be a big rival or the overall victory. He can sprint and climb. Maybe tomorrow he'll win again and take over the jersey, but we'll still have the team time trial to set things straight."

 

Fabio Baldato added:

 

“Ideally the breakaway would have stayed away today which would have kept Rohan’s lead where it was going into the stage. The most important thing is that we defended the jersey today. Stage 4 could go either way but we are confident that we can put some time into the main GC guys in the team time trial.”

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