Team Sky’s Elia Viviani sprinted to his second stage win in three days on stage three of the Tour of Britain, on a day which saw race leader Petr Vakoc (Etixx-QuickStep) crash out of GC contention.
After Vakoc crashed heavily just outside the 3km to go banner, a messy bunch sprint ensued – Vakoc’s team-mate Mark Cavendish having waited after the crash – with Viviani outsprinting Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar).
Lobato, meanwhile, will ride out in the yellow jersey on stage four, boasting a ten-second lead over former champion Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka).
The day’s break had packed plenty of punch, with Yorkshire favourite Russ Downing (Cult Energy) and Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) lending their considerable experience.
Lithuanian champion Aidis Kruopis (An Post-Chain Reaction), Polish time trial champion and Tour of Poland stage winner Marcin Bialoblocki (One Pro Cycling), Johnny McEvoy (NFTO) and Matt Cronshaw (Madison-Genesis) completed the move.
Between them they worked well together to open up a dangerous-looking lead, which was enough for Etixx-QuickStep to ask for help on the front as they, Team Sky and Lotto-Soudal brought the gap back under control.
At the front, Cronshaw made his intentions clear, working to protect team-mate Tom Stewart’s King of the Mountains lead as Farrar twice snatched the climbing points.
On the second occasion, with only Bialoblocki following them, Farrar and Cronshaw continued to accelerate to open up a second break – and remove McEvoy, who had been virtual leader on the road, from the reckoning.
With the advantage having come down to two minutes, it opened back up to double that with Downing briefly holding fort in between before the peloton swept him up.
Lotto-Soudal, Sky, Cannondale-Garmin and Etixx-QuickStep were all involved in the chase, which saw the three leaders’ advantage cut to less than 50 seconds inside the final ten kilometres.
It was all over with three kilometres to go, but the peloton’s chase had been disrupted by the crash which took out race leader Vakoc.
Lotto-Soudal took charge of the bunch as they crossed the River Tweed and hit the cobbled section which led under the flamme rouge.
Andre Greipel did the work, highlighting clearly that Debusschere was the focus of their attentions, but it was Viviani who led the sprint out.
The Italian followed Sondre Holst Enger (IAM Cycling) and once he accelerated never looked like being overhauled as he celebrated his second win in three days.
Vakoc, in obvious pain, did finish the stage some ten minutes down to a hero’s welcome, but with his luck out it will be Lobato in yellow in Scotland.
Tour of Britain 2015: stage three – result
1) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Team Sky – 5.08.18hrs
2) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar – ST
3) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Etixx-QuickStep
4) Sondre Holste Enger (NOR) – IAM Cycling
5) Jens Debusschere (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
6) Owain Doull (GBR) – Team WIGGINS
7) Alberto Bettiol (ITA) – Cannondale-Garmin
8) Graham Briggs (GBR) – Condor-JLT
9) Alex Peters (GBR) – Great Britain
10) Wouter Poels (NED) – Team Sky
1) Juan Jose Lobato (ESP) – Movistar – 13.37.04hrs
2) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – MTN-Qhubeka +10”
3) Floris Gerts (NED) – BMC Racing +12”
4) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky +13”
5) Dylan van Baarle (NED) – Cannondale-Garmin – ST
6) Owain Doull (GBR) – Team WIGGINS +14”
7) Graham Briggs (GBR) – Condor-JLT – ST
8) Rasmus Guldhammer (DEN) – Cult Energy
9) Matteo Trentin (ITA) – Etixx-QuickStep +18”
10) Serge Pauwels (BEL) – MTN-Qhubeka +20”