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Having positioned himself perfectly on Lampaert’s wheel, Van Poppel was in a class of his own in the reduced bunch sprint on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos; Drucker was 2nd, Meersman 3rd and Gruzdev retained the lead

Photo: Unipublic














04.08.2016 @ 16:29 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Danny Van Poppel (Sky) proved that he is the in-form sprinter for the Vuelta a Espana when he claimed another dominant victory in the reduced bunch sprint on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos. Having used great bike-handling skills to get onto Yves Lampaert’s (Etixx-QuickStep) wheel before the final turn, he immediately gapped his rivals and even had time to look back before he sat up to celebrate his win. Jempy Drucker (BMC) and Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) again completed the podium while Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) retained the lead.


Last year Danny Van Poppel took the biggest win of his career on a stage at the Vuelta a Espana. This year he is set to return to the Spanish grand tour but having joined Team Sky during the winter, he has something to prove if he wants to get any kind of support in a team that is set to be led by Chris Froome.


This week Van Poppel has the chance to prove himself in the traditional warm-up race Vuelta a Burgos where he is up against many of the sprinters that will be his rivals in the grand tour too. Based on his performances in the first two sprints, he could very well be on track to claim another Vuelta stage win as he has turned out to be in a class of his own in the five-day race.


Van Poppel took his first win in convincing fashion on stage 1 where he bounced back from a crash to demolish the opposition. Today he was even more superior when he claimed his second win in a reduced bunch sprint on the third day of the race.


After the team time trial, the sprinters were expected to be back in action for the third stage. The course brought the riders over 198km from Sedano to Villarcayo and was mostly flat. The opening section included just a single climb after 56km of racing and then the riders crossed the finish line for the first time at the 112km mark. In the end, they didone two laps of a 42.5km circuit that included the category 3 climb of Alto Retuerta 22km from the finish. After the descent, the riders headed along flat roads to the finish.


Alexander Rybalkin (Gazprom-RusVelo) was the only non-starter when the peloton left Sedano on a brutally hot day. The other riders started out at a frantic pace before the breakaway finally was established. The hard pace was too much for Blel Kadri (Ag2r) who already abandoned after 14km of racing.


After 29km of racing, Yanto Barker (ONE), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Jesus Del Pino (Burgos), Eneko Lizarralde (Euskadi) and Jochem Hoekstra (Giant-Alpecin) had managed to build an advantage of 2.36, and unsurprisingly it was Astana who took charge for the chase. The Kazakhstani team did not give the break much leeway and so the gap was still 2.32 at the 49km. When Hoekstra beat Berlato, Lizarralde and Del Pino in the first KOM sprint, the peloton crossed the line just 2.17 later.


Despite a general headwind, the riders covered no less than 47km during the first hour before Astana finally slowed down. When Lizarralde beat Del Pino and Hoekstra in the first intermediate sprint, the peloton was 2.52 behind, but this lead had again dropped to 2.23 at the 77km mark. Moments later, Lizarralde also won the second sprint ahead of Berlato and Del Pino while the peloton crossed the line 2.17 later.


The front group covered 43km during the second hour during which Astana kept the gap relatively stable. It was still 2.30 when Lizarralde made a clean sweep by beating Del Pino and Berlato in the final intermediate sprint. At the first passage of the finish line, the gap was as low as 1.58.


The break hit Alto Retuerta for the first time with a lead of 2.30, and when Hoekstra beat Del Pino and Berlato in the KOM sprint, it had gone out to 2.54. The pace was too much for Lizzaralde and Barker who were left behind as they went up the climb.


Davide Malacarne, Daniil Fominykh, Eros Capecchi and Alessandro Vanotti shared the pace-setting for Astana and kept the gap between 2.00 and 2.30 as they headed back to Villarcayo. As they crossed the finish line again, it was down to 1.40 as the Astana team had upped the pace considerably.


Passing through Villarcayo, Del Pino made a solo attack and he briefly got clear before Berlato brought the trio back together. However, when he went again on a small climb with 37km to go, no one could respond and the local rider took off in a solo move.


Hoesktra and Berlato were brought back almost immediately as there was a huge fight for position in the peloton. Astana, Dimension Data, Sky and Movistar were lined out on the front but Astana regained control as they hit the final 33km where Malacarne set the pace.


Del Pino had no chance against the speeding peloton and with 31.4km to go, he was back in the fold as Katusha had now taken control with Vladimir Isaychev. Tinkoff quickly took over with Ivan Rovny and then Malacarne returned to take one final big turn.


Malacarne swung off as they were very close to the bottom of the climb and then Dimension Data took over, trying to set Kristian Sbaragli up for a sprint. Jaco Venter did a massive job as they went up the lower slopes of the climb as he tried to send some of the pure sprinters out the back door. Omar Fraile was next to take over and he strung the group out as they headed up the ascent.


Three kilometres from the top, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) launched the first attack and surprisingly, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) took off in pursuit. The Spaniard quickly bridged the gap and then rode hard on the front to build an advantage of 15 seconds, with Elissonde doing his best just to hang on.


One kilometre from the top, Elissonde came through to take a turn while Dimension Data led the chase, keeping the gap at 15 seconds. However, he soon paid the price and was distance as soon as they hit the steep section near the top.


Suddenly Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) came flying and he sprinted past Contador to solo toward the top of the climb. Just as he crested the summit, Dario Cataldo (Astana), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) and Contador joined him and they started the descent with an advantage of a handful of seconds over the peloton which had been whittled down to around 15 riders.


The front group worked well together to extend their advantage to 10 seconds while a regrouping took place further back. Dimension Data, Sky and BMC were leading the chase, with Daniel Oss, Ian Boswell and Igor Anton doing the work.


Loic Vliegen (BMC) bridged across as they approached the bottom of the descent and he went straight to the front to keep the pace high in the front quintet. However, Sky and Dimension Data kept chasing hard and the gap was only 5 seconds as they entered the final 15km.


Boswell took some huge turns for Sky as did Anton ford Dimension Data and the gap started to come down when Brambilla played the Meersman card and stopped his work in the front group. With 11km to go, it was over for the escapees and a reduced field had gathered in front.


Orica-BikeExchange had Luka Mezgec for the sprint and started to ride hard on the front with Amets Txurruka. Together with Fraile, he set the pace as they entered the final 10km.


Fraile kept riding on the front when Orica-BikeExchange disappeared and instead Sky came to the fore to contribute, with Sebastian Henao taking some huge turns. They set the pace as the peloton hit the final 5km.


Fraile and Henao led until 2.6km remained and then the Sky train took control. BMC briefly passed but with 2km to go, the Brits were back in control.


Sky led the peloton onto the 2k finishing straight and then BMC again took over with Danilo Wyss. Christian Knees then lined Salvatore Puccio and Van Poppel out on the front but they couldn’t stay there as Etixx-QuickStep lined up four riders as they passed under the flamme rouge.


Daniel Oss took over for BMC, leading the Etixx-QuickStep pair of Yves Lampaert and Gianni Meersman towards the final turn with 500m to go. Here Lampaert took over but Van Poppel proved his skills by jumping onto the Belgian’s wheel, with Drucker following suit.


As soon as they exited the turn, Van Poppel launched his sprint and he gapped Drucker immediately. The Luxembourger was no match to the Dutchman who even had time to look back before he sat up to celebrate his win. Drucker again had to settle for second while it was another third place for Meersman.


Dmitriy Gruzdev finished safely in the bunch and so retained the leader’s jersey, sitting in the same time as teammate Michele Scarponi. Things should be more difficult tomorrow in stage 4 whose opening section will lead the riders onto the finishing circuit where they will tackle the key category 3 climb of Alto del Majadal after 55km of racing. From there they will head to the finish before doing one full lap of the 59km circuit. This means that the riders will tackle the climb again with 31km to go before they will head along lumpy roads to the finish where the final 700m are all uphill on a very narrow 3-5m wide road with cobbles. The final 300m average 6% but the road is straight as the final turn comes at the bottom of the climb.



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