Brit Mark McNally (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and his four breakaway companions suffered a breakdown in communications in the final kilometre to give up a golden opportunity to win stage three of the Eneco Tour, allowing Peter Sagan to triumph in a bunch sprint.
The five man break enjoyed a 30 second lead going under the final kilometre flag, but when the mind games began the peloton roared on to catch them just before the line.
Few teams were prepared to commit to the chase of the day’s breakaway riders as the escapees took a 57 second lead into the final nine kilometres.
Words were exchanged between Katusha and the other sprint teams in the peloton as the chances of seeing a bunch finish were diminishing metre by metre.
Two-time winner Tim Wellens was used by Lotto-Soudal on the front to try and bring back the break, as was time trial specialist Tony Martin for Etixx-Quick Step, winner back in 2010, but the three-time world champion was visibly annoyed at being expected to do all of the work.
The breakaway looked to have the stage in the bag as they took a healthy lead into the final kilometre, but the five riders came almost to a standstill as the games of cat and mouse began.
Unfortunately for the break, the peloton was no longer messing about, eliminating a 30-second advantage in a matter of seconds to storm past most of the five riders within sight of the line.
Sagan was the fastest on the elongated sprint to seal his ninth WorldTour win of the season.
Eneco Tour stage three, Blankenberghe – Ardooie (182km)
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, 4-10-36
2. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Team Sky
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
4. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
5. Mark McNally (GBr) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
6. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7. Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling
8. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step
9. Andre Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
10. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha, all same time
Overall standings after stage three
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC, 8-35-24
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff, at 3s
3. Jos van Emden (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 5s
4. Jasha Sutterlin (Ger) Movistar, at 14s
5. Martin Elmiger (Sui) IAM Cycling, st
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 15s
7. Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling, st
8. Primos Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 16s
9. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC, st
10. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step, at 17s