Tim Wellens attacked with 16 kilometres to go and held off his pursuers to win the third stage of Etoile de Besseges by 16 seconds on Friday and grab the overall lead.
The Belgian escaped a strong breakaway group on a descent on the hilly 154.81 circuit that began and ended in Besseges, in the south of France.
He went on to finish 37 seconds ahead of a small group, led home by his compatriot Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) ahead of Mads Wuertz Schmidt (Israel Start-Up Nation).
“Before the stage, I had already decided to go into the breakaway,” said Wellens. “We had a look at the course in the bus beforehand and noticed that the beginning of the stage was marked by hilly terrain, including several technical and wet descents. So, quite a tough stage. The level in this peloton is really high. A lot of riders would be interested in being part of the breakaway. So, I was really attentive to absolutely be up there. However, it took a long time before the right breakaway formed. A lot of good riders were in it, so it was immediately clear that we were going to battle it out for the win.”
“I saw my chance in the descent. I took some advantage and teammate Oldani played it perfectly. Then, it was just a time trial to the finish. I also did the descent on the limit, I saw some oil on the road and the motorbike in front of me had a hard time keeping his line. Luckily, I was able to stay upright and I could further increase my lead.”
With two stages to go, Wellens took the leader jersey off Christophe Laporte (Cofidis). Theuns is second overall, 44 seconds back.