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Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) won stage 3 of the Tour de France on Monday.
Gerrans moved up to the second wheel behind teammate Daryl Impey after a sweeping right turn 500 meters from the finish line of the 145.5km route. On Gerrans’ wheel was Peter Sagan (Cannondale). As the meters ticked down, Sagan pulled around to the left and started his final sprint.
Impey then peeled off and it was a two-man duel to the line.
It initially appeared that Sagan had won, but a photo finish revealed that Gerrans was the victor by a fraction of his front wheel.
Finishing third was Jose Joaquim Rojas (Movistar).
Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), who won stage 2 to take the GC lead, remains in the yellow jersey. One second behind him in the overall standings are Julien Simon (Sojasun) and Gerrans.
“I could see him just on my shoulder coming up behind me,” Gerrans said of Sagan’s approach to the finish. “I kept going and threw it to the line.”
Orica sports director Matt White said credit for the victory goes to both Gerrans and Impey.
“Even in the last kilometer, when I saw Sagan on the wheel of Simon, I thought it was going to be tough. But Simon’s a fast little guy,” White said. “Daryl Impey put him in the perfect position.”
Sagan, who won the points title at the 2012 Tour, is now the leader in that classification and will wear the green jersey in tomorrow’s stage.
“I’m happy to put [the green jersey] onto my shoulders,” Sagan said. “We know it’s going to be hard to keep it, but that’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Five riders jumped ahead of the peloton shortly after the race hit kilometer zero. That group — Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), Sebastien Minard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), and Simon Clarke (Orica) — rode together for almost the entire stage from Ajaccio to Calvi before breaking up late in the race.
With 21km remaining and the Category 2 climb of Col de Marsolino approaching, Clarke decided to make a move and attacked his breakaway mates with the peloton less than a minute behind.
Minard quickly followed, leaving the three others in their wake to be swallowed up by the main field.
With 16.5km to go, Clarke shook off Minard and began riding solo up the climb. But he quickly grew tired as his legs started to feel the effects of the 8.1 percent average gradient.
Fireworks on the ascent, descent
With Clarke slowing down, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) — who began the day wearing the polka dot jersey — rode away from the peloton and caught up to, and then passed, Clarke with 14.5km remaining.
Other riders tried to follow but could not match Rolland’s high cadence as the road pointed upward. He crested the climb first and started the descent down to the finish.
Rolland stayed low on his handlebars as he navigated the fast descent, which featured sweeping curves but was not too technical. The peloton, however, was steaming down the mountain at full speed. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) eventually caught up to Rolland 8.5km to the finish.
At that point, a four-man lead group consisting of Rolland, Chavanel, Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi), and Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Belkin) assumed control of the race. The peloton was somewhere around 10 seconds behind and closing.
The group’s lead ended with just over 3km to go when the main field overtook the foursome.
The road then flattened out and the mad dash to the finish was on.
First riders abandon
Two riders, Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), withdrew from the race before the start of stage 3. They were the first to quit this year’s Tour.
Geraint Thomas (Sky), however, did not abandon despite riding with a fractured pelvis. He crashed hard in the first stage and follow-up X-rays Sunday night revealed the break.
He was riding in obvious pain at the rear of the peloton on Monday, and he frequently visited the race doctor’s vehicle for treatment. Television cameras captured medical personnel spraying what was believed to be a numbing agent on Thomas’ injured area to combat the pain.
The race moves to the French mainland for Tuesday’s stage 4, a 25km team time trial in Nice.