Belgian champion sprints to stage win and overall lead

Belgian champion Jürgen Roelandt (Silence-Lotto)

Belgian champion Jürgen Roelandt (Silence-Lotto) (Image credit: Stijn Vercaemer)

Jürgen Roelandts (Silence - Lotto) won stage three ahead of fellow Belgians Wouter Weylandt (Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) in stage three of the 68th Circuit Franco-Belge on Saturday. They were part of a group of that escaped near the end of the race.

For much of the race, Lars Bak (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) and Mickael Delage (Française des Jeux) were off the front in a break together. They broke away at 46km and built a maximum lead of eight minutes, but were caught with 12km remaining.

The final escape group included Gilbert, Nick Nuyens (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank), Weylandt, Bram Tankink (Rabobank), Gabriel Rasch (Credit Agricole), Steve Houannard (Skil-Shimano) and Jan Bakelants (Topsport Vlaanderen), who won recently The Tour de l'Avenir. The leader at the beginning of the stage, Tyler Farrar (Garmin Chipotle) made a strong bid to defend his jersey, but could not reel in the leaders. He finished 12th and lost 18 seconds and the race lead.

Thanks to his win, Roelandts took over the top spot in the overall classification with one stage remaining.

"I knew I was one the fastest in this group, with Weylandt," said Roelandts. "In the last kilometre, Nick Nuyens put in a strong attack. But, fortunately for me, Gilbert reacted. I was in third position, the best place for the sprint. I'm so happy to win here. It's only the second time that I won with my Belgian champion's jersey.

"I didn't feel good during the first stage, but my condition is increasing, and I am confident for the last stage. I will do my best to keep this yellow jersey even if, with riders as Gilbert or Devolder, it won't be easy."

Due to bad weather expected Sunday, the stage between Havré and Tournai will be shortened to 35 kilometers.

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