Stage 3 of the Eneco Tour was the first in Belgium. The peloton had to cover 182km from Blankenberge to Ardooie. The flat but tricky run-in was always going to be one for the peloton’s fast guys. In the end World Champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) had the best legs and crossed the line in first position.
A break of five riders forged clear early on. Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida), Jesper Asselman (Roompot), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), and Stijn Steels (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) opened up a maximum gap of 6.25min. The peloton seemed happy with the break but began the chase halfway through the stage.
Coming into the final 40 kilometers the gap was brought down to less than 3min. It seemed that the peloton would bring the break back in time to get organized for a bunch sprint. However, the break had other things in mind. Even though the gap steadily came down, the break still held 50sec over the peloton coming into the last 5 kilometers.
Arashiro was the first to attack from the break. He tried to jump away under the Flamme Rouge but couldn’t stick his move. The peloton caught the break with less than 500 meters to go.
Our African team 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.
Sagan went on to win the stage ahead of Danny van Poppel (Sky) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis). Rohan Dennis (BMC) kept his lead in the GC.
Roger Hammond – Sports Director
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.