The finale was a fast one with a lot of attacks, including a late effort from Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) but Bouhanni held tough on the final climb and finished with a clear gap over his fellow sprinters.
The Frenchman waited until the perfect moment to pounce, after sitting on Alessandro Petacchi’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep lead-out train in the closing kilometres.
“I was behind Petacchi with 250 metres to go,” Bouhanni said after the stage. “I went to the left, I didn’t hesitate and I went for it.”
Bouhanni held off Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) to take the victory, his eleventh of the season. In recent weeks, he has won the Tour de Vendee, GP Fourmies and hat-trick of stages at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes.
After two flat stages in the opening two days, stage three was a tougher prospect for the sprinters, who had to contend with seven climbs in order to stay in contention for the win. Now in his third year as a professional, Bouhanni has built up the resistance necessary to survive a succession of climbs, and the sprinter found his way into the reduced lead group at the finish.
“It was hard,” said Bouhanni. “But the team worked really hard and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Normally I’m good on a two or three kilometre climb and today I was fine.”
On Monday, the riders take on the Tour of Beijing’s first-ever summit finish, to Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain. Bouhanni holds an 11-second lead after stage 3, but he dismissed any notion that he might keep the lead into the final day of racing.
“The fifth stage, with the sprint, I want to win, but tomorrow will be too hard for me,” said Bouhanni, who is already looking ahead to the final stage in Beijing, which features a pan flat start in the city centre, before a finishing circuit around the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the centrepiece of the 2008 Olympic Games.