Tom Jelte Slagter (Blanco Pro Cycling) has begun 2013 in the best possible style by taking his maiden pro victory.
The 23-year-old Dutchman, who ended last season with a series of top 10 finishes at the Tour of Beijing, pipped Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), to claim victory in Stirling.
Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas retained his lead at the head of the general classification and will start stage four in the ochre leader’s jersey. But Slagter, who tops the young rider’s classification, is just five seconds behind.
Stage three was conducted in blistering heat and on a rolling circuit, but was largely controlled by Team Sky.
Thomas finished the well by coming home fourth, and now tops the sprints category as well as the general classification.
He said: “It was pretty tough out there. A lot of guys started attacking us from three laps out so the boys had to ride really hard. They did an incredible job today. They set a fast tempo and I can’t thank them enough.”
An early break of 23 riders went clear, but was gradually whittled down in the searing heat.
Will Clarke (Argos-Shimano) was, almost inevitably, one of the last to be caught after riding bravely with Simon Clarke of Orica-GreenEDGE.
The pair were hauled back largely by the efforts of Team Sky, who were forced to respond again at the 50km from the finish, when a series of attacks launched from the front of the peloton.
Lotto-Belisol joined the fray late in the day and helped the British team to chase down Tiagao Machado (RadioShack-Leopard), but the Belgian squad endured a disapointing day on an unphill finish, with team leader, Andre Greipel, winner of the opening stage finishing in a distant 37th place.
In the final run for the line, however, it was Slagter who triumphed, leaving Team Sky satisfied but exhausted after a day spent controlling the bunch on a brutal stage.
Edvald Boasson Hagen told Sky Sports: “We have to defend the jersey and we’ve done a good job today.
“Hopefully we haven’t expended all of our energy and we’ll have something left, but it was tough for all the riders in the peloton today.”
Stage four features a tough 126.5km run from Modbury to Tanunda, a parcourse that includes the categorised climb of Kersbrook Road.
Santos Tour Down Under 2013 – stage three – result
1) Tom Jelte-Slagter (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – 3.36.46
2) Matt Goss (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
3) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – ST
4) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
5) Gianni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar – ST
6) Javier Moreno (SPA) – Movistar – ST
7) Simone Ponzi (ITA) – Astana – ST
8) Daniele Pietropolli (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – ST
9) Ivan Santaromita (ITA) – BMC Racing – ST
10) Gorka Izagirre (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 9.56.17
2) Tom Jelte-Slagter (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +5”
3) Javier Moreno (SPA) – Movistar +6”
4) Ben Hermans (BEL) – Radioshack-Leopard +8”
5) Daniele Piteropolli (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +15”
6) Ion Izagirre (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
7) Gorka Izagirre (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi – ST
8) George Bennett (NZL) – RadioShack-Leopard – ST
9) Jack Bauer (NZL) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
10) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – ST