Edvald Boasson Hagen this afternoon won Stage 3 of the Critérium du Dauphiné in an expected sprint finish in La Clayette, beating Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Gerald Ciolek to the line with Borut Bozic of Astana third. Missing from the finale was John Degonkolb, the young German sprinter who won two stages in last year's race, but who punctured 2 kilometres from the line on a day when his Argos-Shimano team had worked hard to set the pace at the front of the peloton to keep two breakaway riders in check. Boasson Hagen's team mate, Bradley Wiggins, the defending champion, remains in the race lead a second ahead of BMC Racing's Cadel Evans going into tomorrow's individual time trial from Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse.
With less than 2 kilometres to go to the line, and Degenkolb, the favourite to win the stage, already out of contention, Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing attacked from the front of the peloton and still had a slender advantage as he headed under the flamme rouge and into the final kilometre.
However, the sprinters were not to be denied, with today’s 167 kilometre stage from Givors viewed as the only real chance for a sprint finish in this year’s race.
Throughout the stage, the white jerseys of FDJ-BigMat and Argos-Shimano were prominent at the front of the peloton to keep the two riders in the day’s break in check and prevent them from carving out too much of an advantage.
The pair out in front, Luis Angel Maté of Cofidis and Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Egoi Martinez, got away immediately after the start of the stage, which featured three categorised climbs.
None of those was too taxing compared to some of the ascents tackled over the past two days, but behind the front pair, it was Europcar’s Giovanni Bernaudeau who managed to lead the main group over two of those to get back the polka dot jersey he had lost yesterday to Biel Kadri of AG2R-La Mondiale.
The two escapees were caught with 5 killometres still to race, with Omega Pharma-Quick Step, including world time trial champion Tony Martin who had crashed earlier on in the stage without apparent grave consequences, taking over at the front of the peloton ahead of what now looked like being an inevitable sprint finish.
His team mate Ciolek, however, would lose out as Boasson Hagen came with a late charge to take his second stage win in the Dauphiné – the other came during 2010, the Norwegian’s first season with Team Sky, making its debut in the pro peloton that year – and his fourth victory of 2012.
"It was a nice day for the team as we had the yellow jersey but we didn’t really have to work. The team did a good job to keep Bradley up the front and I could just sit behind.
"Yesterday I was riding a lot at the front but today I was able to conserve my energy for the sprint," said Boasson Hagen after his victory. "Degenkolb had a flat tyre late on so there was one less to sprint against and I was able to win which I'm really happy about.
"I knew I had to find my own way to the line and at the finish I was sitting on Ciolek’s wheel and he had a good lead-out; I was just waiting for the last 150m before opening up my sprint and it was great to get the victory."
Speaking of Team Sky's objectives for the week-long race, he said:"The main goal this week is the yellow jersey and I'm here to help Bradley win the race but I got the chance today to try for the sprint.
"I’m really happy to be in a team like this, it’s the best one you can be in. We have a really strong squad and we'll cross our fingers that we can keep the yellow jersey the whole week."
Heading into tomorrow's 53.5-kilometre individual time trial, things remain tight at the top of the GC with just 12 seconds separating the first 20 riders, but Wiggins is aware that the stage gives him an opportunity to put sigificant time into some of his rivals, and also paid tribute to his Team Sky colleagues.
"As they have all season, the team have put me in the perfect position for the time trial tomorrow. Without them I’d be nothing this year - it doesn’t matter how strong you are as an individual, you’re nothing without a team.
"I think it’s really going to sort the men out from the boys tomorrow. It looks a super course which should be ideal for me and it's going to have a massive say in deciding the race - the time gaps will certainly look pretty different afterwards," he added.
Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 3 result 1 HAGEN Edvald Boasson SKY PROCYCLING 4h 22' 13" 2 CIOLEK Gerald OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP All at same time 3 BOZIC Borut ASTANA PRO TEAM 4 KLUGE Roger TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO 5 FISCHER Murilo GARMIN-BARRACUDA 6 GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 7 CIMOLAI Davide LAMPRE-ISD 8 MATTHEWS Michael RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 9 HINAULT Sébastien AG2R LA MONDIALE 10 CANTWELL Jonathan TEAM SAXO BANK 11 BOUHANNI Nacer FDJ-BIGMAT 12 LEMOINE Cyril SAUR-SOJASUN 13 DUQUE Leonardo COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 14 DE HAES Kenny LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 15 GAUTIER Cyril TEAM EUROPCAR 16 RATTO Daniele LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 17 VANENDERT Jelle LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 18 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 19 GRIVKO Andriy ASTANA PRO TEAM 20 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE Overall Standings after Stage 3 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 13h 07' 55" 2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 01" 3 GRIVKO Andriy ASTANA PRO TEAM + 00' 02" 4 BARREDO Carlos RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 02" 5 MARTIN Tony OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 04" 6 MARTENS Paul RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 04" 7 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 05" 8 COPPEL Jérôme SAUR-SOJASUN + 00' 06" 9 AMADOR Andrey MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 06" 10 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 07"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.