The rays of sun beaming down from the heavens still could not evaporate the mist of forthcoming devastation that enshrouded the peloton. Based on the same stage last year, some riders must have known their fate well before clipping in for the 148 kilometer contest of heart versus ability.
Images: Sonoko Tanaka
22.5%. This was the percentage of riders that started this stage last year, but failed to finish – and a figure that was surpassed today. Team Nippo – De Rosa, who tore the field apart last year, did not conjure up a new strategy; instead, they demonstrated an almost audacious conviction, ceteris paribus, that their combined strength would be superior. Indeed, today’s morale-crushing display of raw power by Nippo fractured the peloton, but not to the extent team manager Hiroshi Daimon would have liked.
So, Arredondo and Baliani now find themselves once again in pole position with three stages remaining, but here’s a fact: after last year’s fourth stage – and remember the 2013 parcours is an exact copy of 2012 – the Nippo pair did not take any significant further time out of their rivals. Considering the proximity of their rivals – though small in number – victory is anything but assured, unless a further margin is yielded in Friday’s Mount Fuji stage. Expect fireworks.
Individual General Classification (Green jersey): Julián David Arredondo (Team Nippo – De Rosa)
Points Classification (Blue jersey): Pierpaolo De Negri (Vini Fantini – Selle Italia)
King of the Mountains Classification (Red jersey): Davide Viganò (Lampre-Merida)
Best Young Rider Classification (White Jersey): Robbie Hucker (Drapac Cycling)
Teams General Classification: Team Nippo – De Rosa
INSIGHT FROM THE PELOTON
Ryota Nishizono (Champion System) | 7th in today’s stage; 4th on GC at 0’24″
“Today, the real battle for GC began. The battlefield was a hilly circuit in Iida, Nagano prefecture, which is located about 100 kilometers from the Winter Olympic grounds. On the whole, I focused only on GC, not on the stage win; perhaps they appear alike, but they are actually totally different. After examining other team’s playing cards, I would need to gamble to win the stage. I did not gamble; instead, I took a conservative route.
From the beginning, the race was very intense; especially on the second and fourth hills where my power meter hit almost 400W over five minutes. It seemed every rider, especially those who had no opportunity if they stayed in the peloton, tried to get in a break. On this course, their chances of surviving were good, too. The peloton changed its pace – on the fifth climb, my average was only 270W – often and riders who could not bear it dropped off. However, once you get in a break, you can ride at an even pace.
In the middle of the race, the Nippo guys gathered at the front, evidently to attack on the next hill. We noticed, but they set a fast pace, which made positioning not so easy. My great teammate (Mart) Ojavee took me to the front so I could prepare well. As expected, the next hill was a mess and I hit over 420W. I got through this hard time and the peloton got together again. One important thing; the Italians of Nippo lost their assistance, so they had difficulty to be more aggressive. I was strongly assisted by Craig (Butler) and Adiq (Othman), so I could save my precious energy.
After that, Bridgestone took the lead of the race until 2 laps to go; they had five riders in the peloton. They exhausted themselves on the hill and Thomas (Lebas, from Bridgestone Anchor team), my former teammate, attacked. Only about 10 riders survived after this attack. Bridgestone was the only team which competed with the Nippo guys in an organized way.
With one lap remaining, we dashed into the last climb. Arredondo attacked and a Vini Fantini rider (Cristiano Monguzzi) followed him. Baliani also flew away. Thomas, Lapthorn (Drapac), and I made a chase group. Cresting the hill, we were able to see the escapees in front. It was a bit different from last year, when the Nippo guys had been just too strong. We managed to keep the loss to a minimum: 20 seconds. Not bad.
Today, I think Nippo became aggressive too early; they thought the same tactic as last year was possible, but other riders had prepared well with this in mind. The next stop is Mt. Fuji. Only uphill. Only 11km, but deadly hard.”
STAGE 3 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE