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Belkin’s Sep Vanmarcke opened his account at the Tour of Alberta on Friday, winning stage 3 in a full-throttle sprint on a windy circuit around the Edmonton Garrison.
Ramūnas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) took his second second-place finish of the Canadian stage race. Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) finished third.
“We were going full gas,” said Vanmarcke. “The wind played a big factor in the race. This [stage race] is my first time racing in North America — in the United States or Canada — and didn’t know what to expect. It felt a bit like home today.”
To start the race, the peloton took two laps around Wetaskiwin before heading out on the 157.9-kilometer stage.
Once again, Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Sportswear Development) made a breakaway move. This time, however, he was brought back to the field after a few kilometers.
The peloton kept the race together for the first points sprint of the day. Orica GreenEdge’s Daryl Impey won that prize, followed by Robert Forster (UnitedHealthcare) in second and Ryan Anderson (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) in third.
Eventually, a break formed with Chad Beyer (5-Hour Energy), Eric Marcotte (Team SmartStop), Ben Perry (Canadian Cycling), and Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber). Perry initiated the move about 89 kilometers in. Over the course of the next 20 kilometers of racing, the lead group grew as riders bridged across.
However, the break did not last long. The peloton split, and around 41km to go, the fast-charging front group of about 40 riders caught the leaders.
The front group extended its lead in the crosswinds with 30 kilometers left. Race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) was included with the leaders.
In the penultimate circuit around the Edmonton Garrison, Vanmarcke, Navardauskas, and Howard got away.
Navardauskas initiated the move, attacking with 9.4km to go. The front group stretched, but did not snap.
With 8.6km to go, Howard responded with an attack of his own, drawing out Navardauskas and Vanmarcke. With that, the die was cast.
Howard led the group in the final kilometer. Then, he paused at 300 meters to go, taking his right hand off the bars and looking backward at his adversaries. That lapse in attention was enough for Vanmarcke to make his race-winning jump. The Belgian led the trio into the final corner and took the sprint handily. Navardauskas was second, and Howard finished third.
“I knew when Sep [Vanmarcke] got to the corner first, he would win,” Navardauskas said. “He’s a WorldTour rider who does good in the classics. He’s smart. It was difficult to get around him to the finish.”
The Garmin-Sharp rider moved up to third overall with his finish in stage 3.
Dumoulin kept his lead in the overall classification. “Belkin and Orica-GreenEdge did [a lot of] pacemaking today,” he said, adding that it didn’t make the race any easier for him and his teammates. “These races are very fast. It’s been a very competitive race. Everyone wants to win a stage. I’m very glad to remain in the [leader’s] jersey.”
Stage 4 will be the Tour of Alberta’s longest day, 163 kilometers from Edmonton Northlands to Strathcona County. It will include six sections of dirt road that the race organizers have termed “Canadian Pave”