Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) extended his race lead at the Tour of Oman after registering a second successive stage win – but Chris Froome (Team Sky) dropped out of the top ten overall after finishing 13th on the day.
Sagan, who opened his 2013 account on stage two on Tuesday, powered away from Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Tony Gallopin (Radioshack-Leopard) on the uphill finish at Wadi Dayqah Dam, where the Slovak also claimed a stage win in the 2012 race.
Sagan now holds a lead of 16-second lead over Gallopin, with Van Avermaet an additional 10 seconds adrift in third overall.
Alberto Contador finished fourth on the stage, ahead of rivals Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in 11th and Froome, and is now the best placed of the general classification contenders going into Thursday’s Queen Stage, which finishes with the 5.5km climb of Green Mountain.
Christian Delle Stelle (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox), Jang Chan Jae (Champion System) and Yusuke Hatanaka (Japan) initially formed the day’s break and were soon joined by Bobbie Traksel (Champion System), who joined the escape group for the third day running.
The group opened up an advantage of nearly ten minutes after less than 40km of the 190km stage but Sagan’s Cannondale team-mates soon took up the chase in defence of the red jersey.
The escapees were reeled in as the rolling finish approached and that left Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE) to have a dig off the front of a peloton, opening up an eight-second gap before being pulled back by Cannondale and Team Sky.
And, with the lead group as one approaching the uphill finish, Sagan jumped from the front of the pack with 800m remaining to register a trademark victory.
Froome’s 13th place finish on the day sees the Team Sky leader drop to 13th overall but directeur sportif Nicolas Portal believes the Tour de France runner-up is still well placed to challenge for overall victory.
“It was a very lumpy last 18km so I positioned everybody towards the front to keep Froomey out of trouble,” said Portal. “It was a very wide road but we controlled things brilliantly as a team and Froomey was well positioned heading into that last climb.
“Cannondale set a brutal pace up there though and it was more like an uphill sprint that anything else. Froomey wasn’t able to follow the likes of Sagan, Gilbert and Bouhanni so he maintained a steady tempo and then emptied the tank on the run in to the line.
“That was the plan and we executed it well. It’s never nice to drop out of the top ten but it’s tomorrow’s stage which is going to prove pivotal and Froomey is in a great position heading into it.”
Tour of Oman 2013 – stage three – result
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
2) Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing
3) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Radioshack-Leopard
4) Alberto Contador (SPA)- SaxoBank-Tinkoff
5) Marco Marcato (ITA) – Vacansoleil-DCM
6) Andrea Pasqualon (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox
7) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
8) Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Peter Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
10) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – 12:59:43 hours
2) Tony Gallopin (FRA) Radioshack-Leopard +16″
3) Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +26″
4) Martin Elmiger (SWI) – IAM Cycling +30″
5) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ +31″
6) Marco Marcato (ITA) – Vacansoleil-DCM +32″
7) Alberto Contador (SPA) – SaxoBank-Tinkoff – same time
8) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +33″
9) Peter Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +35″
10) Andrea Pasqualon (ITA) – Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox – same time
13) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +36″