Stefan Kung's second stint in a WorldTour leader's jersey proved a stressful affair at the BinckBank Tour on Wednesday but the BMC rider retained the green and black jersey. Kung wore the yellow jersey at the Tour de Suisse but was unable to defend the lead for more than a day.
Having taken the leader's jersey after his stage 2 time trial win, Kung successful navigated a challenging stage 3 and continues to lead Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) by four seconds, and Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) by five seconds. The 23-year-old finished 42nd in Ardooie in the peloton at the same time as stage winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Sagan is now fourth overall, also at five seconds.
"It was a pretty stressful and nervous day. There was a little bit of wind but not that much. Everyone was nervous and you could also tell that everyone was in good shape because they started panicking early," Kung reflected.
"I need to say a big thanks to my team. They did a really good job today. First pulling at the front and then protecting me and keeping me out of trouble when it was a little chaotic and overall today went quite well for us. Jempy Drucker tried something and Loïc Vliegen was up there in the sprint so it was a good day for the team and I am happy to still be in the leader's jersey."
Having taken a 10-second time bonus for his stage win, Sagan cut the deficit back to five seconds on the GC with Kung naming the world champion as a genuine threat to his overall lead.
"It is nice to keep the jersey, and we will try to continue to hold on to it but Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) looked in strong form, and now he is within five seconds of the overall lead," he said. "You never know what will happen so we will keep fighting."
It wasn't just Kung who found the day a stressful affair with sports director Valerio Piva explaining he was pleased to have made it safely through after a tumultuous finale.
"Unfortunately the rain started around four kilometres from the finish and from then it was really dangerous and chaotic," said Piva.
"We controlled the race from the beginning and then heading into the second half of the race the sprinters' teams came up to help. The race was under control, but because of the shower, the race was chaos at the end and with the late crash, the time was neutralized."
Piva added that having seen his team commit to defending Kung's jersey, he is confident of success but wary of the challenge poised by Sagan.
"Jempy Drucker made a good move by attacking and was just caught in the closing meters. Loïc Vliegen was also good in the finish and took fifth. Our plan was to do the sprint with Jempy, and we saw him try to win the stage in the final," said Piva.
"We also were able to defend the jersey, and although Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was able to take ten bonus seconds today, everyone is still motivated to work hard and fight for Stefan Küng's position at the top of the GC. Tomorrow will be a similar day to today I think, but then the next few stages are very difficult, so we will see what happens."