Boonen triumphs on Trentside

Tom Boonen takes the Tour of Britain's third stage into Nottingham where Mauricio Ardila finds the p

Tom Boonen takes the Tour of Britain's third stage into Nottingham where Mauricio Ardila finds the p
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Tom Boonen won Friday's third stage of the Tour of Britain after sterling work by his Quick Step team in the final few kilometres caught the last rider of a three-man breakaway with just two kilometres to go. Overall, Mauricio Ardila still leads the race after winning Thursday's second stage, but is now on the same time as Frenchman Eric Leblacher of Crdit Agricole. Despite the finale being a bunch sprint, there was in fact a five-second gap between the riders who finished in 18th and 19th place. With Ardila in the second group, Leblacher has now closed the gap in the overall classification, putting extra pressure on the Colombian and his Chocolade Jacques team for Saturday's penultimate stage. Four riders escaped from the peloton soon after the start of the 192km stage, but quickly became three after Crdit Agricole's Andrei Kashechkin experienced mechanical problems and was forced to drop back to the peloton with 27 kilometres covered. Philip Deignan of the Irish national team was next to go, just before the feed station at 80 kilometres. But rather than being as a result of mechanical problems or, more likely, tired legs, the Irishman sat up and soft-pedalled until the peloton caught him up. Deignan confirmed at the finish that breakaway companions Bejamin Noval (US Postal) and Navigators' Viktor Rapinski had told him that, as he was just 20 seconds down on the overall classification, he shouldn't be there. "They asked me what I was doing in the break; that my presence there would lead the bunch to chase. They told me that they wanted me to go back to the bunch, and I said I would do so after the bonus sprint," Deignan said. "It was pretty frustrating, but hopefully I can move into the top 10 before the race ends on Sunday." The 20 year old has ridden a good race so far and picked up two bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint, ending the day in 15th place overall - by far the highest-placed amateur. But Deignan should get used to such company. Having been at VC La Pomme - compatriot Mark Scanlon's former amateur team in Marseille - for the past two seasons, Deignan will turn professional in 2005 and join Scanlon at the French Ag2r squad. The pace told on Rapinski, and Noval, who rode for Lance Armstrong in the nine-man US Postal squad at the Tour de France in July, left him behind on the second to last climb at Ab Kettleby with 25 kilometres left to race. The Spaniard pushed on alone, riding hard over the final third-category climb out of Upper Broughton, and held a lead over the peloton, led by Ardila's Chocolade Jacques team, of just 30 seconds as he passed through the 10km-to-go banner. As Quick Step came to the front, it was game over for Noval as the bunch came into the final 2,000 metres. Boonen came from a long way back, but forced himself to the front to win by a bike length from Panaria's Paride Grillo and Crdit Agricole's Julian Dean. Boonen smiled when asked how winning at Nottingham compared to winning the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs Elyses this year. "It's a little bit different, but it was also nice to win here," the Belgian said, diplomatically. "I've enjoyed England - it's a nice country. And there are a lot of people along the roads and at the finishes - far more than I thought there would be." Saturday's stage takes the race on a tough circuit around Newport, with two ascents of the third-category climb just after Celtic Manor, which is also where the stage finishes. Whoever ends the day in the yellow jersey should be able to defend their lead in the final stage criterium in Westminster, London, on Sunday. Stage three: Bakewell-Nottingham 1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 192km in 4.30.55 (42.52kph) 2 Paride Grillo (Ita) Panaria 3 Julian Dean (NZ) Crdit Agricole 4 Roger Hammond (GB) 5 Jeremy Hunt (GB) 6 Kirk Obee (USA) Navigators 7 Alejandro Borrajo (Arg) Panaria 8 Ciaran Power (Ire) Navigators 9 James Vanlandschoot (Bel) Relax-Bodysol 10 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Lotto-Domo Overall standings 1 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Chocolade Jacques 13.58.39 2 Eric Leblacher (Fra) Crdit Agricole 3 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Quick Step 0.05 4 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) T-Mobile 0.07 5 Julian Dean (NZ) Crdit Agricole 0.09 6 Kevin Van Impe (Bel) Lotto-Domo 7 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Navigators 8 Alejandro Borrajo (Arg) Panaria 0.11 9 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) US Postal 10 Nicki Sorensen (Den) CSC
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