Bonneu claims Tour of Britain stage 3 from breakaway

Kamiel Bonneu of Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise took a nail-biting win from the breakaway of stage 3 of the Tour of Britain through torrential rain in Sunderland, beating Ben Perry (WiV SunGod) into second place and Alex Richardson (Saint Piran) in third.

Perry originally was given the race lead over Corbin Strong (Israel Premier-Tech), but the jury reversed its decision, deeming the advantage to Strong's group wasn't large enough to give a gap to Perry's group.

The decision was controversial, however, as there seemed to be a gap between each of the breakaway riders at the line, and an even more substantial one between them and the peloton, and officials later reversed the decision, putting Perry in the race lead.

A four-man breakaway containing Bonneu, Richardson, Perry and Mathijs Paaschens (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB) had barely over 2 minutes remaining at the 20km mark, after the final climb of High Moorsley, but managed to hold off the chasing peloton approaching the race final - holding a one-minute margin entering the final kilometre.

Bonneau made an early sprint attack just outside of the final 500m, in the shadow of a chasing peloton, and held the three other breakaway riders by several bike lengths, with Perry managing to snatch second ahead of Richardson and Paaschens.

The victory was a tactical triumph for the breakaway, who paced themselves perfectly to outsmart the peloton.

"There was only four in the breakaway", said Bonneu at the finish, "so we said to each other at the beginning to just go really slow and see how much the peloton gives us. Eventually, they gave us quite a nice gap, and then at the top of the second climb [at Billy Lane, about halfway into the stage], we said to each other: OK, from now on we'll push a little bit harder and keep up the pace. The gap kept growing and growing until we had almost five minutes, and then we started to believe that it's possible to go for the win, and we kept it until the finish line."

There was nevertheless some disharmony, as Richardson attacked multiple times as the finish approached having begun to refuse to take his turns.

"We discussed at the beginning of the stage that Mathijs [Paaschens] and the guy from SunGod [Perry] that they would go back after the third sprint," explained Bonneu, "because they were really close on the GC. But then we had such a big gap that they said: we're not going to go back. I completely understood them, because we could go for the win. But then Richardson said: as you promised, I just won't work with you. It's his decision, but I don't mind because I won!"

Commenting on the peloton's failure to bring the break back, Strong complimented the break for riding "a really good race", but also lamented the information they were given during the stage.

"The time gaps we were being given were a bit unreliable, and all over the show. We were hearing two and half minutes, which we thought was a good gap, but then all of a sudden we heard close to five minutes. That's when a few other teams started to panic and really brought down the gap."

Such confusion contributed to a dramatic, messy day of racing, during which a thunderstorm occurred and torrential rain caused standing water to feature on some of the roads.

"There were moments when you're riding through those deep puddles and you're hoping that there's a small rode underneath because there was lots of standing water there", said Strong. "And it was hard to see as well, just the wheel in front of you. It was pretty wet conditions, but I'm glad everyone made it through safe."

How it unfolded

The third stage of the Tour of Britain saw the riders cross the border from Scotland into England for the first time, for a 163.6km stage starting in Durham and finishing in Sunderland.

Conditions were dry and calm to begin with, but before long the heavens opened for what was a horrible, rain-soaked day in the saddle.

Bonneu, Perry, Richardson and Paaschens had already escaped up the road prior to the weather's turn, and set about gaining the maximum points at the intermediate points. Perry was first over the line at the intermediate sprint, while Bonneu claimed maximum points in the mountains classification over the Chapel Fell and Billy Lane climbs.

Panic set in in the peloton inside the final 45km when they were informed that the gap was up to five minutes, having previously believed it to have about half of that.

At this point, the break was also encouraged by a favourable tailwind, which helped them hold off the bunch, even as the sprinter teams gave it their all at the front of the peloton.

With 10km to go, the gap was still almost at two minutes, which Richardson believed was enough for him to attempt multiple attacks out of the group.

Each time he was shut down, however, and the peloton refused to give up, but ultimately fell just a few seconds short as Bonneu attacked out of the break inside the final kilometre to win the stage.

From Strong's perspective, he did at least manage to defend his jersey, but he's expecting to come under attack tomorrow.

"I think this can be a really hard stage tomorrow, and I really think we're going to see other teams take it to use. But I'm confident, and guys like [teammates] Dylan [Teuns] and Mike [Woods] are riding really well this week also, so we've got a few cards to play these next few days." 

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