June 14/12 19:26 pm - Tour de Beauce Stage 3 report and photos
Posted by Editoress on 06/14/12
As expected, the climb up Mont Megantic at the end of stage three of the Tour de Beauce has pared down the list of contenders for the overall title. Francesco Mancebo (Competitive Cyclist) retained the Yellow Jersey, but only by a slim three second margin, after he finished second on the stage to Matt Cooke (Exergy). Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare) finished third with the same time as Mancebo, while Canadian Under-23 champion Hugo Houle (SpiderTech p/b C10) had an extremely strong ride into fourth. Houle takes over the Red Jersey of Best Young Rider.
Matt Cooke (Exergy) on his way to winning stage 3
"I have good form right now," said Houle, " so the goal was to see if I could stay with Mancebo on Megantic. I'm really pleased with my ride today, and I think the [time trial] course tomorrow is a good one for me."
Stage three, 164 kilometres from St-Georges to Mont Megantic is all about the final climb, with the last five kilometres averaging over 8%, and with sections surpassing 15%. As usual, a break went clear early in the stage, with five riders hoping to have that rare opportunity to open up enough of a gap to stay clear on the climb. In the break this year were Matt Higgins (NODE4 Giordana), Russell Hampton (Raleigh GAC), David Stephens (Garneau-Quebecor-Norton QC), William Blackburn (Team Medique p/b Silber Investments) and Nic Hamilton (Canadian National Team).
Nic Hamilton at the front of the break
The bunch were willing to let them go, and the lead group opened a gap of three minutes within eight kilometres. It continued to grow over the next 30 kilometres and was 5:30 at the top of the first KoM climb of the day. The pace was too much for Blackburn, who was dropped on the climb, but the others were still riding strongly, and the lead went to six minutes by the 90 kilometre mark. That was too much for both Mancebo's team and Sutherland's, who upped their tempo and started reeling in the breakaways.
With a steady crosswind having an impact, the gap was shrinking quickly, and as the leaders crested the second KoM climb with 33 kilometre left to race, it was down to 2:10, and the lead quartet had fractured. Hampton was on his own out front, steadily riding strongly, followed by Hamilton and Hyggins.
With 20 kilometres to go, only Hampton was still out in front, and his lead was down to a minute. It was becoming a race just to see if the Raleigh rider could stay out in front at the start of the climb. The answer was ... barely. He had a gap of less than 200 metres as the road tilted up, and was almost immediately swallowed up by the front of the disintegrating peloton, eventually finishing 8:32 down.
Russell Hampton about to be caught for more photos scroll to bottom of page
The climb become one of attrition, with 20 riders still in the front group at the four kilometre mark. That was cut to eight 1000 metres later, as Sutherland set a strong pace. Remaining at the front were Mancebo, Sutherland, Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare), Cooke, Houle, Sebastien Salas (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Christopher Butler (Champion System) and Christian Meier (Canadian National Team). Cooke, a Colorado native, was the first to test the group, attacking hard with two and half kilometres to go and immediately gaining ten seconds, as everyone else continued to ride tempo.
"It's incredible," said Cooke. "It's the first time I've done the Tour de Beauce, and I've won this stage and I'm having the best season of my career. I'd heard a lot about the Tour and it's really a challenging course with some steep climbs. I'm from Colorado where I have the chance to train in altitude, so I felt good in the mountain. I've been trying to beat Mancebo for two years now; he's one of the best. Francisco is a great guy and an excellent cyclist. It's always a pleasure to ride with him."
de Maar set off in pursuit, which left Sutherland to sit on Mancebo's wheel, and meant the Yellow Jersey had to do the chasing. Meier, Salas and Butler became detached from the chase, which consisted of Mancebo, Sutherland and Houle. They all caught a fading de Maar inside the final kilometre and Sutherland then attacked with Mancebo following, and Houle just coming off by a few seconds. However, Cooke was able to hold on to win by seven seconds, and move into second overall, three seconds down on Mancebo.
Mancebo commented "I didn't have a lot of strength in my legs, but I kept climbing. I'm glad I was able to keep the yellow jersey. I should do well tomorrow in the individual time trial but the cyclist to watch will be Rory Sutherland."
Sutherland moves into third on GC, ten seconds back, with Houle fourth at 13 seconds and Salas fifth at 17 seconds. Meier is seventh at 28 seconds and Ryan Roth (SpiderTech p/b C10) had a strong 12th place to remain ninth overall, 57 seconds behind Mancebo.
The time gaps do not favour Mancebo for tomorrow's 20 kilometre time trial. Sutherland is a strong time trialler, and Houle is the Candian U23 TT champion. de Maar, at 20 seconds is also a threat, as is Meier at 25 seconds and Roth. Others to watch will be Rob Britton (H&R Block) in tenth at 58 seconds, former Beauce champion Ben Day (UnitedHealthcare) at 1:17 and possibly still Svein Tuft (Team Canada), the Canadian national TT champion, at 1:41. There is a very strong chance that the GC will be shaken up again tomorrow.
- The commissaires were busy handing out fines today, for infractions such as feeding outside of regulation areas, riders hanging onto and sheltering behind cars and, one unusual one, to Svein Tuft: "Non-regulation clothing".
Tuft is the national road champion (as well as time trial). When he is riding for his WorldTour GreenEdge-Orica squad he has a national champion's jersey (with sponsor logos), however, here he is riding for Team Canada, in the maple leaf kit, so he can't wear his usual national champion jersey. It doesn't matter, ruled the commissaires, so Tuft started today in the plain red and white jersey he was awarded at Nationals. That didn't stop the assessment of a 30 Swiss Franc fine for the past two days... The question is: what happens tomorrow, when he will want to wear a skinsuit, of course?