Chris Froome took third place on stage three at the Tour of Beijing after launching a brave attack over the final climb.
The Brit infiltrated a three-man which broke clear over the top of the Eurpuliang summit and held off a depleted peloton on the 12-kilometre descent into Yong Ning.
The group of Froome, Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) and Philip Deignan (RadioShack) held a slender advantage as they rounded the final corner onto the finishing straight but were still able to claim the top three spots on the day.
Froome drove hard towards the line in a bid to put time into race leader Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) and held on for third while Roche nipped past fellow Irishman Deignan to take the win.
Fractions later a group of 50 riders crossed the line to be handed the same time as Froome, among them red jersey holder Martin who maintained his 17-second lead over David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo) at the top of the standings.
Froome moved up to third on the day nine seconds further back and claimed the points jersey while Steve Cummings held firm to move up to fourth, Team Sky extending their advantage in the teams classification to 59 seconds in the process.
Two first category climbs inside the final 30 kilometres saw the peloton split to pieces leaving Michael Barry as the team’s other representative in the group to finish a strong ninth. Alex Dowsett slipped out of an overnight third in the mountains after a strong start to the race.
The queen stage of the race began in Men Tou Gou ahead of a 158km test which included four categorised climbs.
Gorka Izagirre (Euskaltel), Lloyd Mondory (Ag2r), Adriano Malori (Lampre), and Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) were joined by Vacansoleil duo Martijn Keizer and Lieuwe Westra to form a six-man move in the early going.
Garmin-Cervelo and HTC-Highroad took to the front to set the pace as the peloton rolled across the famous Ming Tombs Reservoir.
Team Sky arrived at the front en masse to string out the bunch on the climb up to Xiezishi as the race kicked up a gear on the approach to the finish.
Things began to split up in the peloton with a dangerous group of nine forming over the top of the climb, yet a brief moment of indecision saw the group fracture and things came back together ahead of the final peak.
The 4km first category ascent at Erpuliang proved to be kinder than expected but still sparked an attack as Deignan, Roche and Froome slipped away over the top.
The 12km time trial down to the finish always looked like a tough ask and despite the trio opening out a gap on the descent the move was slowly clawed back on the fast run into Yong Ning.
An under strength peloton were just unable to pull back the move who held on by a single second with Roche taking his first win in two years.
Plan of attack
After the stage Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was full of praise for the work put in by the team to provide a platform for Froome to attack.
He said: “It was a really good attack from Froomey at the end. We had a plan within the team and the guys really stuck and committed to it. The climbs weren’t that hard but still the guys really tried and they deserve credit for that.
“At one point Chris had 20 seconds and Tony Martin was isolated on his own. It was just him and Dave Millar chasing so it was close.
“It would have been better if the climb had been longer and harder but that it how it is. It was still a hard race and it wasn’t just us trying but the guys took it on and it was nice to see. Third in the end is a nice little result.
“The only little thing maybe is that we lost Alex out of the GC but really his main aim was to do a good TT which he did. Anything beyond that was a bonus so it is nothing to feel sorry about. His days will come, even in the climbs I think. Every race he is getting better and better.
“I think we will have two bunch sprints now so we will go for those on the final two days and try and protect our GC position.”
Original article by Richard Simpson: http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,23107_7228868,00.html