Irishman Nicolas Roche of the AG2R-La Mondiale team won the 162km third stage of the Tour of Beijing, the hilliest in the race, as Germany’s Tony Martin held on to the overall lead yesterday.
Roche finished ahead of compatriot Philip Deignan, who had been one of his breakaway companions along with Britain’s Chris Froome, the recent runner-up in the Vuelta a Espana.
The main peloton, including HTC-Highroad’s Martin, came over the finish line just a second behind.
Roche’s victory was a welcome one for his AG2R team, which is on a desperate quest for WorldTour points in a bid to secure a top level license for next season.
After a near two-year victory famine, the Irishman was also happy to step back on to the top step of the podium.
“I haven’t won a race since the Irish national title in 2009,” said Roche, who handed his French outfit only their sixth win of the season. “It gets frustrating finishing second and third. Only winning matters.”
AG2R were determined to get something out of the stage, being held in the hilly region close to the Great Wall of China, and played their cards to perfection in the finale.
Lloyd Mondory had given them options by making it into an earlier breakaway and when that came to an end Sebastien Hinault and Julien Berard helped toughen the chase by accelerating at the foot of the day’s penultimate climb.
At the foot of the last climb another teammate, Mickael Cherel, helped set the pace for Roche, who then set off to counter attack Deignan.
Roche waited for Froome to catch up and the trio came over the summit with a 20 second advantage on the chasing peloton with 12km to the finish.
Roche, whose father Stephen famously won the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and world championship triple in the same year, 1987, added: “The three of us worked well together. Philip also had his eye on the win.”
“We know each other pretty well, but I think it’s the first time we’ve been in a position to challenge for victory,” Roche said.
“I started to sprint for the line pretty far out, with about 300m to go, and thankfully I had favorable wind conditions” Roche added.
Martin takes a 17 second overall lead over David Millar (Garmin) into today’s fourth and penultimate stage, a 189.5km ride from Yanqing to Shunyi.
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