Française des Jeux keeps on pouring it on at the Tour Méditerranéen, with the French outfit winning its third stage in a row in the five-day race in southern France.
Yauheni Hutarovich won his second stage in three days and teammate Jussi Veukkanen kept the leader’s jersey after the team held off a breakaway attempt involving Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana).
The short, 115km stage saw better weather than the opening two days marred by wind, cold and snow. Riders were keen from the gun, with some early attacks. Valverde followed a move by Stephane Auger only find to Vinokourov on his wheel.
The pair dropped the Frenchman and rode over some middling climbs to open up a promising gap. Strong headwinds scuttled their chances and Valverde eventually sat up to wait for the group.
“We were leading the race we decided to go on and see what could happen. In the first kilometers, which were rather hard with a second category hill and two second category ones, the gap with the bunch increased and reached one minute and 30 seconds,” he said. “What happened later is that the route of the race changed completely: all flat and with front wind. All in favor of the peloton. In the last hill Vinokourov was no longer able to follow my rhythm and I was alone in the head of the race. I decided to stop my effort and wait for the bunch as I knew that sooner or later they would catch me.”
With the group all together, Hutarovich out-kicked Fabien Bacquet (BigMat) and Mathieu Drujon (Caisse d’Epargne) to claim his second stage in three days.
The race continues Saturday with the 160km fourth stage from La Londe-les-Maures to Biot.
Valverde remains poised for overall victory, sitting sixth just 10 seconds back going into Sunday’s climactic stage finish atop Mont Faron.