Tour de San Luis Stage 3: Boonen on the Podium in Bunch Sprint
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team took advantage of the parcours of 175.8km Tour de San Luis on Wednesday. The profile was undulating, with a slight uphill for the final three kilometers. Still, with only one categorized climb, it was quite possible the stage would be decided by a sprint.
There was a slight chance of chaos earlier in the stage, as temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius and high winds helped establish echelons after the race came back together with about 55km remaining in the stage. However, it was clear the stage was heading for the predicted bunch sprint as the peloton was back together inside the final 30km of racing.
In the final kilometer OPQS rider Mark Cavendish played the rare role of leadout man, guiding Tom Boonen toward the line. Boonen jumped first among the riders in front, but was unable to hold his power as he finished 3rd to Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Jose Francisco Ventoso (Movistar Team).
"Obviously we're a man down, we're without Petacchi," Cavendish said. "Guillaume is also not really feeling well, so we're down to four of us. We had to use two guys near the finish to bring back a small group, and Stijn also had a flat at 15km and he struggled to come back, so that left it up to me and Tom. We went for Tom today, I was leading Tom out so I tried to stay with the Lampre train and go at 300 and drop Tom off at 150 meters. But the wind was weird and the road curved to the left, so we had to leave it open. Nizzolo is just fast too though, so we can't be too bothered. Things went well. It was nice, me and Tom working together. Tom's form is going really good. It's possible for him to get a win really and it would be good for his head and he's really strong right now. You can see it when he's pulling. It's fine to do and we're working quite well."
"We were planning on the first stage to give it a go and today we wanted to give it a go as well," Boonen said. "I'm already in good condition, but these weather circumstances are really hard. It was the hottest day of my career. I was really suffering. Everybody was really suffering. Going into the sprint I think everything went perfectly, but I think I wanted it too much. I think I went a bit too early. Cavendish gave me a good leadout and he still wasn't finished, but I saw the sign and I thought it was a headwind with a 3 to 4 percent uphill. I had the sensation that we weren't going fast enough so I just went. So when I came into the wind I felt I was going to lose by the last 30 meters. My legs just blew in the last five seconds. I'm already happy to be there, but if you're doing all those big efforts you want to do something more than 3rd place. But still it's a good sign. With four guys it's very hard for us, even with two fast guys everybody is always waiting for us. But we're doing our best despite that and think we did well considering the circumstances."
OPQS looks next to a 166.3km Stage 4 on Thursday. The stage features the second summit finish of stages so far, on Cat. 1 Cerro El Amago (10.5km, 7.2% average gradient).