Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) won the third stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Tuesday.
Arndt claimed victory in a furious sprint to the finish line in Le Teil ahead of Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Belisol) and Arndt’s teammate Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.
Chris Froome (Sky) stayed in the race lead and will wear the yellow jersey for another day, as he holds a 12-second advantage over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) following Tuesday’s 194-kilometer stage that begin in Ambert. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) is 21 seconds behind in third.
With 1.5km left to race, it was anyone’s stage to win. Several of the sprinters’ teams were charging at top speed at or near the front of the field, trying to position the speedsters for the victory. The final kilometer featured several technical turns and roundabouts, which did nothing to slow down the pack.
As the peloton swung around the final turn and hit the finishing stretch, which measured about 400 meters, the sprinters were lined out across the road, putting in one final effort. Riders from Giant, Lotto, Orica-GreenEdge, and Europcar were all there.
It first appeared that Boeckmans won the stage, and there was a delay of several minutes as officials viewed finish line photos to determine the winner. The cameras proved Arndt — a young rider more used to working for the team’s lead riders John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittle in the sprint — seized his chance in the final straight, edging Boeckmans by a fraction of a wheel.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Arndt. “We don’t have a real leader on the Dauphine but the team showed that we can achieve things if we work together. I was between eighth and tenth place on the final bend. I launched the sprint and continued the effort while I felt good. That’s the way I won. It’s the biggest victory of my career.”
A three-man breakaway was caught with about 24km left, but a new break formed a short time later after Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) decided to make a run for it. He was immediately joined by a handful of others.
At first, the peloton was content to let the escapees stay in front and tire themselves out. With 10km to go, however, a heightened sense of urgency took over the field and the pace ramped up considerably. Katusha, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Astana, and Lampre-Merida were all at the sharp end leading the chase.
With 7km to go, all but two of the riders in the break were caught, and the field came back together just after that.
With Astana driving the field just before the 4km mark, Lieuwe Westra decided it was time to try and go solo the rest of the way. He broke free of his teammates and the rest of the peloton and immediately opened up a gap. It was clear, however, that Westra would fail in his attempt. He was caught with 1.5km remaining.
The Dauphine picks up with Wednesday’s stage 4, a 168km route from Montélimar to Gap.