19 year-old German takes copycat victory
By Anthony Tan
Just as he did at the German national championships two years ago, 19 year-old sprint sensation Gerald Ciolek once again upstaged his bigger-named rivals in a fiercely-contested bunch gallop, coming home triumphant on the third stage of the Tour of Germany.
Entering the finishing straight in the town of Schweinfurt, located in the heart of central Germany, all eyes were on Lampre-Fondital's Danilo Napolitano and Milram man Erik Zabel. The pressure was on both to notch a win, which may have caused the Italian to go too early - but just when the latter appeared poised for victory, Wiesenhof Akud's Gerald Ciolek blasted out of the bunch with head bobbing and pedals stomping, powering past Zabel and T-Mobile's André Greipel, who finished third.
As a result of Zabel's four second places on the day, which included three intermediate sprints out on the road, the race almost saw a change of lead, but not quite. Discovery Channel's Vladimir Gusev is now on equal time with the evergreen German, while the rest of yesterday's top ten slipped down a notch.
Rounding out the top five were a pair of young Australians, Luke Roberts (Team CSC) and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole). Together with Ciolek and stage one victor Assan Bazayev from Kazakhstan, the Deutschland Tour has shown there's a wealth of new sprinting talent ready to emerge.
The mostly-flat stage from Witzenhausen to Schweinfurt featured a day-long escape by Saunier Duval-Prodir's Marco Pinotti, who escaped shortly before the 40 kilometre mark. The Italian soon built a sizeable lead of nine-minutes plus, but the length of the stage and up-and-down parcours eventually put paid to his chances, and it was peloton groupé with 20 kilometres to go, leading to the inevitable bunch sprint.
Stage four from Heidenheim to Bad Tölz doesn't pose any major obstacles, and is tipped to be another one for the fast-men. Provided Team CSC's Jens Voigt doesn't have anything to say about it, of course.
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