After sustaining a head injury in yesterday’s stage and riding easy to the finish, Jure Kocjan wanted to see if he could make something of the stage. But despite his best efforts, Jure finished just out of the top five in sixth place.
The stage was a typical non-eventful day of racing, once the early break had 45 seconds on the peloton, the yellow jersey called a nature break and that was it for the stage. The peloton gave the breakaway a maximum advantage of 2 minutes 30 but that was as far as they would get.
“The guys stayed out of all of the moves to ensure we were fresh to set up Jure for the finish. There were some strong cross winds during the stage and as we approached the Strait of Taiwan, Baku Project Team tried to split the group, but it all came back together,” said Sporting Director, Michael Roecklein “the break started easily after that and the peloton slowed up to let it establish itself, rather than keeping a tight leash like in previous stages”
The five Team SmartStop riders sat comfortably in the peloton for the entirety of the 148km stage as the finish was to be very similar to Manayunk Wall seen in the Philadelphia Cycling Classic, the guys were setting up for Jure at the finish, unsure of how his body would react after hitting the deck the previous day.
Jure was lucky to come away with no injuries after the crash, which saw Drapac’s, Adam Phelan needing medical treatment (he has since left hospital and is returning to Australia), having broken his Giro helmet in four places as he came down.
“I was very lucky yesterday, there was a massive crash about 20km to go on a slippery road, I broke my helmet in four places and broke glasses,” Jure explained of the crash, “this morning I had a headache and pain in my neck but after 50km I felt ok.”
So it was up to the other teammates to keep Jure fresh and in a good position for the 500m climb to the finish.
“Julian [Kyer] kept the boys refreshed by fetching bottles and putting his nose in the wind to make sure we were in a good position at all times. With Drapac [Professional Cycling] and Avanti [Racing Team] both having strong chances at the stage win, we let them handle the chase work and sat back,” said Michael
Feeling ready to tackle the sprint finish and with the bunch altogether, Team SmartStop rode a textbook lead out but it was just not meant to be. “The last 5km went as we planned,” said Jure, “Julian worked until 2km to go and then Zach [Bell] and Eric [Marcotte]. We saved Rob [Britton] for the general classification. It was important to be in the front at the last sharp corner at 800m to go before the last climb started.”
“I had a perfect position but not the legs. It is the first race and I am realistic, I know I need a few races to get the right form. The Aussie and Asian teams started the season a long time ago.”
“My goals and bigger races are coming later.”
“Jure gave it a go, but yesterday’s stage and his crash sapped his legs a little as he came across the line in 6th,” said Roecklein, “Rob knew there was a possibility of splits due to riders sitting up after a lead out, so he followed wheels in the sprint to make sure he conceded as little time as possible. The five guys couldn’t have worked better together, I’m very proud to be here supporting them.”
Wouter Wippert (Drapac Professional Cycling) was the eventual winner of the stage, with Paddy Bevin (Avanti Racing Team) retaining the yellow jersey.
The Queen Stage tomorrow will sure see a General Classification shake up as the race heads to the skies in the penultimate stage. Roecklein said: “we will work 100% to make sure Rob is safe for the finish, I think we have the right plan and tools to move him up on GC on the Queen stage.”
1. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Drapac Professional Cycling 3:01:45
2. Ioannis Tamouridis (Gre) Synergy Baku Cycling Project
3. Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhour (Iri) Tabriz Petrochemical Team
4. Patrick Bevin (Nzl) Avanti Racing Team
5. Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Team Ukyo 0:03
6. Jure Kocjan (Slo) Team SmartStop
7. Hideto Nakane (Jpn) Japan National Team
8. Marco Zanotti (Ita) Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team
9. Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slo) Team Vorarlberg
10. Keonwoo Park (Kor) Korea National Team
42. Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 0:11
72. Zach Bell (Can) Team SmartStop 0:46
GC after Stage 3
1. Patrick Bevin (Nzl) Avanti Racing Team 6:56:58
2. Hossein Askari (Iri) Pishgaman-Giant Team 0:12
3. Mirsamad Pourseyedi Golakhour (Iri) Tabriz Petrochemical Team 0:17
4. Marco Zanotti (Ita) Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team 0:43
5. Víctor De La Parte (Esp) Team Vorarlberg 0:44
6. Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Team Ukyo 0:46
7. Alexandr Shushemoin (Kaz) Vino 4ever
8. Travis Meyer (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling
9. Jasper Ockeloen (Ned) Parkhotel Valkenburg Continental Team
10. Darren Lapthorne (Aus) Drapac Professional Cycling 0:54
13. Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 1:01
82. Zach Bell (Can) Team SmartStop 12:50