Russian Alexandre Botcharov (Credit Agricole) switched places with teammate Thor Hushovd atop the leader board in the 35th Tour Mediterranean after winning alone atop Mont Faron.
The towering climb above France’s glittering Cote d’Azur turned the leaderboard upside down as the lean climbers took control of the race away from the dominating sprinters.
Botcharov was able to sneak away from a fairly large group that included David Moncoutie (Cofidis) and soloed home to victory 15 seconds clear to win the stage and take the leader’s jersey.
“I had good legs and my team helped me a lot, and that gave me even more confidence,” said Botcharov. “I was worried about Moncoutie gaining ground on the last switchbacks on Mont Faron. I just kept pushing and things turned out OK. This is my first win as a pro, so it even means more to me.”
The short but hilly route of 100km would be decided on Faron, but an early breakaway tried its luck in vain. The favorites surged center-stage on the twisting climb and Botcharov had enough in the tank to snag his first pro win ahead of Montcoutie, looking strong after coming back from injury.
Saturday’s 152km fourth stage runs from Saint-Cannat to Marignane.