Roger Hammond (Cervélo) got his closest yet to a stage win in the Circuit Franco-Belge race with a second place on stage three taken Tom Boonen (Quick Step). Up-and-coming American sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Slipstream) was third.
Eighth on the first day's bunch sprint, on stage three from Antoing to Ichtegem Hammond formed part of a seven-rider group that crossed the line six seconds ahead of the main bunch.
The seven had formed part of a slightly larger move that went clear on a highly tehnical finishing circuit. Eight kilometres from the finish the break still had around 30 seconds on the bunch and the attacks started, with race leader Farrar and last year's winner Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) both trying to get clear.
However, none of these moves worked out and it came down to a small group sprint. Hammond was unable to get ahead of Belgian national champion Boonen, but still managed to outpower Farrar for second.
The 178 kilometre stage was buffeted by very strong winds all day, with numerous riders either abandoning exhausted or crashing out. One group was left so far behind they were told to stop by the commissaires. Jeremy Hunt (Cervélo) was amongst those who packed.
With one stage of the four-day Franco Belge race remaining, overall Hammond is now lying in third place, 18 seconds down on Farrar. Boonen is in second place, 10 seconds down.
Hammond is having a strong finish to the end of the season. Having finished the Vuelta - the first ever major stage race he has taken part in - the Cervélo rider was one of just two British riders to finish the World Championships men's road-race last Sunday. After the Circuit Franco-Belge Hammond will be racing Paris-Tours next weekend.
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