After two podium finishes this week, Thor Hushovd of the Cervelo Test Team finally got the better of Mark Cavendish of the Columbia-HTC team to take the win in a chaotic sprint in Rolla and claimed the yellow leader’s jersey after stage 3 at the Tour of Missouri. Once again, Saxo Bank’s JJ Haedo made it to the podium and finished second with Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) in third spot. Winner of the first two stages, Cavendish, finished in fifth spot.
Hushovd and Cavendish are tied on time for the general classification with the finish placings on this stage being the tie breaker, putting Hushovd in yellow.
“It’s always good to be in yellow and first of all I’m more happy to win a stage because of course it’s confusing to get beaten by Cavendish every time, so I’m really happy to win.” said Hushovd. “Cervelo Test Team had one goal, to get a stage win, and now it’s done. So I think maybe we just close out suitcases and go home,” he added with a laugh.
Putting the hammer down. After two days of finishing on the podium but missing the top step, the Cervelo Team Team changed its strategy – no more leadout trains for Cavendish to take advantage of as he did in stage 2, where he hopped on behind Hushovd only to pass him in the final hundred meters.
“We didn’t want to make a proper leadout because Columbia had been riding so they don’t have that many guys to do leadout. If we did a proper leadout maybe Cavendish would sit on my wheel and making it easy for him. We just want to make it hard, we attacked, we went really fast in the climbs and I think that’s how we mixed up the whole leadout for the sprint and in the end, it suits me perfect.” explained Hushovd.
Going into the final kilometers of the 183.9 km (114.3 mi) stage from Farmington to Rolla, it looked to be a repeat of the first two stages with a battle of trains, but then chaos ensued. With a tailwind driving the pack into rollers to a downhill finish, attacks flew from OUCH-Maxxis, Kelly Benefit Strategies and the Cervelo Test Team.
“We were pulling for a while and then we had a couple of attacks, most from our team, we wanted to set pressure on Columbia. We know when it’s hard like this, I think it suits me more than Cavendish and also Brett Lancaster attacked with 800 meters to go, or maybe one kilometer, so then George Hincapie closed this gap and I think that’s where they got stuck in front too early and that’s when we went on the other side. I think it ended perfect for us, and I had the legs to do a good sprint in the last couple of hundred meters.” said Hushovd.
And then, it was every man for himself.
“In the end, I think I went on the wheel of a Quick Step guy because I had nobody, they did all the work before and I never saw Hincapie, I just found my wheel and just did my job.” finished Hushovd.
Hushovd and his team will now defend as best they can the yellow jersey and go for another stage win too.
“Of course we have to take responsibility. Columbia did a good job in the first few days, we’ll really try to do everything we can to keep the jersey. ” said Hushovd. “I like it in the end when it’s hard like today, maybe the same tomorrow with the uphill finish that suits me well, of course we’re going to try again tomorrow.”
The break. Before the final dash to the line, in what was the longest and most hilly stage in this year’s Tour of Missouri, two riders from the Garmin-Slipstream squad, Will Frischkorn and Mike Friedman, attacked with no more than kilometers done. Team Type 1’s Matt Wilson bridged up to the duo just before the first Michelob Ultra KOM climb, a five kilometer ascent with numerous switchbacks on Missouri Highway 32.
Wilson was there to protect his teammate Moises Aldape‘s fragile hold on the KOM jersey and also rack up points if needed for himself. The Garmin-Slipstream duo was more interested in the time bonus seconds awarded at the Sprint points, so the three riders shared a common interest over the leg sapping rollers.
“We all worked pretty well, Friedman took it easy sort of through the middle one hundred kilometers.” said Wilson who was awarded the Most Aggressive Rider jersey.
The Columbia-HTC team rode tempo at the front of the pack, keeping the gap at around three minutes while the rest of the teams seemed content to wait for the inevitable bunch sprint.
“Columbia certainly know what they are doing so I said to the guys out there ‘let’s just think it easy and try to keep it to around four minutes’ so that Columbia wouldn’t panic and bring us back too quickly. We just tried to roll tempo but they really didn’t give us four minutes, the gap was about two minutes which wasn’t really a lot.” commented Wilson.
With 30 kilometers to go, the trio stepped up the pace, hoping that maybe this time, the break would make it to the line, but Frischkorm was dropped and the remaining to riders were caught with 8 kilometers to go in the picturesque Meramec Valley Region.
“Towards the end [with 30 K to go], I said to Mike and Will, we really need to start kicking it in now if we have any chance of staying away and we dropped Will straightaway and then Mike started working pretty hard. I thought probably 5 to 10 K there, it’s a downhill finish, we have a shot but as it was, it was rolling, a really tough finish didn’t help our chances at all.” explained Wilson.
While Wilson was gobbling up all the top points in the KOM, his teammate Aldape grabbed some more points to increase his lead to 29 points, with Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen in second at 6 points back. Wilson moved up to third at 11 points behind.
“My team helped me, I win more points.” said Aldape. “I’m definitely defending the jersey to the Kansas City stage.”
Huschovd is also the new leader in the Edward Jones Sprint classification with 37 points, one more than Cavendish. Cavendish retained his lead in the 180 Energy/Icelandic Glacial Water Best Young Rider classification.
What’s next? Thursday is the the only repeat stage from 2008, the challenging 175.7 km (109.2 mi) Stage Four is back to test the best. It’s gently rolling start hides the sting that awaits the riders on Jefferson City’s famously-challenging finish circuits. Watch for the domestic teams to try and disrupt the final bunch kick with solo flyers and pure chaos. (See cheat sheet for more info)