Team Sky gave a good fight in the Etoile de Bessèges stage to Alès, France, today. The British ProTour placed John-Lee Augustyn in the main escape group of the mountainous stage, but it could not hold off an eventual sprint finish.
“It was the hardest day so far, but it didn’t happen in the end,” said Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist. “But they [Sky’s riders] were active, we were in the group we needed to be in.”
Augustyn’s move followed a brief escape attempt by team-mate Peter Kennaugh. Heading towards the day’s first climb, the category one Col de la Baraque, Augustyn and his escape companions built a lead of nearly four minutes. But, by the top, the now 14-man group had only 35 seconds on a chase group.
The lead group grew to 41 on the descent, with Augustyn joined by team-mates Canadian Michael Barry and Frenchman Nicolas Portal (pictured above). The new group survived over the second category one climb, Col de Trélis, but it could not make it to the end. The majority of the riders arrived from behind and the day ended in a bunch sprint.
“It would have been easier to have a result with a sprinter [in the team] as the race turned out,” Ljungqvist admitted. “It wasn’t the intention to bring a sprint team here, instead, it was to get some race kilometres in the legs and have a good race. You always hope for a result, but we’ve had a good week. We are a part of the race, we are there on the climbs and willing to attacking.”
Though previous race leader Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil) did not make the front group, Frenchman Arnaud Molmy (Roubaix – Lille Metropole) did. Molmy finished third and second in the first two days, going one better today – a win after judges regulated Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) for not sprinting in a straight line.
Molmy not only gained the stage win, but also the race overall. To win the race he only has to defend on tomorrow’s final day, a 145-kilometre stage to Bessèges.
Brit Daniel Lloyd (Cervélo TestTeam) was part of the main group today, continuing to race despite pains from a crash at the end of stage one. After tomorrow’s stage to Bessèges, he travels to the Tour of Oman.
Tomorrow also marks the start of the Tour of Qatar, where Team Sky will start with a team that includes Bradley Wiggins.
Leader at the start of the day, Borut Bozic
Arnaud Molmy: stage winner and new overall leader