Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) has won the third stage of the 2013 Tour of Poland.
The Norwegian champion won a bunch kick ahead of Mark Renshaw (Belkin), former lead-out man to Mark Cavendish.
Britain’s Ben Swift (Team Sky) finished ninth in the scramble for the line at Rzeszów at the end of a 226km stage from Kraków, punctuated by a series of punchy climbs and concluding with three laps of a six-kilometre circuit.
There was joy for the home fans as Poland’s young climbing sensation, Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), enjoyed another day in the yellow jersey of race leader.
The 23-year-old, who contested an almost race-long battle for the white jersey of best young rider at the Giro d’Italia with Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), retains a four-second lead over Team Sky’s Sergio Henao.
Hushovd spoke confidently of the stages ahead, with the serious climbing of the race left behind in Trentino. BMC’s leader for the race suffered in the Dolomites on the first visit of the Polish race to Italian soil.
Those who have fared better in Italy did the lion’s share of the work to position Hushoved today. Team-mates Marco Pinotti, a five-time Italian time trial champion and twice a Giro stage winner joined forces with Taylor Phinney, winner of the opening stage of last year’s corsa rosa, put in mammoth turns to pull back a four-man break.
The Swiss-American squad found allies in Britain’s Team Sky, Cannondale Pro Cycling, Team Colombia, and Garmin Sharp. Left with a lead of just 90 seconds as they started the six kilometre finishing loop, the writing was the on wall for the escapees.
In an impressive display of determination, however, the quartet, comprised of Ricardo Mestre (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vacansoleil-DCM’s Mirko Selvaggi, Aleksandr Dyachenko (Astana), and Bartlomiej Matysiak (CCC Polsat Polkowice) remained clear until just two kilometres to go.
Belkin, perhaps inspired by the success of their colleagues in the Tour de France squad, took up the pace in the closing kilometre, with Renshaw racing again as protected sprinter.
The Dutch squad’s train was high-jacked by Phinney who pulled off the front in sight of the line, leaving Renshaw with little option but to lead out the man on his wheel – Hushovd.
The final 50km of tomorrow’s 231km stage from Tarnow to Katowice has a saw tooth profile of short, punchy climbs and ends with four laps of a 12.3m circuit.
Tour of Poland 2013: stage three – result
1) Thor Hushovd (NOR) – BMC Racing – 5.10.02
2) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Belkin – ST
3) Steele Van Hoff (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp
4) Grega Bole (SLO) – Vacansoleil-DCM
5) Tosh Van Der Sande (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol
6) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
7) Micha Golas (POL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
8) Yauheni Hutarovich (BLR) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
9) Ben Swift (GBR) – Team Sky
10) Luka Mezgec (SLO) – Argos-Shimano
1) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff – 16.14.45
2) Sergio Henao (COL) – Team Sky +4″
3) Christophe Riblon (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +6″
4) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica-GreenEDGE +7″
5) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +9″
6) Chris Anker Sorensen (DEN) – Saxo-Tinkoff +13″
7) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
8) Eros Capecchi (ITA) – Movistar -ST
9) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – RadioShack-Leopard +16″
10) Thomas Rohregger (AUT) – RadioShack-Leopard +18″