The Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team focused on protecting the general classification contention of Levi Leipheimer and Sylvain Chavanel on Tuesday, for Stage 3 of Paris-Nice from Vierzon to Le Lac de Vassiviere. The team chased down a three man breakaway with 5.9km to go, led by Tom Boonen in the green sprinter's jersey. The break had as much as a 4'35" gap, attacking a little more than a dozen kilometers into the 194km race.
Tony Martin, 2011 Paris-Nice winner, was also helping with the chase of the break. Once the break was caught, Boonen and Martin both dropped off the back of the peloton for the ascension of a category 3 climb to the finish.
"Today we can't complain," Sports Director Brian Holm said. "First of all, Levi and Chavanel stayed out of trouble and the stage went like we saw it. A bit of a crosswind and then an early break because five or six teams didn't have anybody in the first group yesterday. So we knew somebody would be punished. Right away we did what we had to do to control the race. Boonen we tried to control for, not sure how difficult the climax of the race really was, so Tom he would try and see how his legs were. If they were OK he would try and go for the win but, he realized quickly it was too difficult for him, so he pulled off and saved his legs a bit for tomorrow."
Nikolas Maes accompanied Boonen to protect him for the remainder of the race.
"Dries Devenyns, Maes, Stijn Vandenbergh, everybody is riding very good," Holm said. "They took care of Levi, worked hard all day to keep him out of the wind. Those guys, you may not see the results but they worked the whole day, from kilometer zero to the end giving shelter for Levi and Chavanel. They're doing very well. The team spirit here — everybody is motivated and happy."
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won the sprint, narrowly beating out a surging Simon Gerrans (Green Edge). Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) was third. No Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team riders were in the top 10, as they did not contest the finish.
"The big favorite was Valverde today, and he took the final," Holm said. "We tried to push from kilometer 15 to kilometer 10, but we realized quite fast we were serving the peloton more than ourselves, so we stopped. Overall it was a good day. Chavanel was fine, no problem, Levi had very good legs. Chapeau for him and this team."
Levi Leipheimer retained 2nd place on the GC, trailing currently yellow jersey holder Bradley Wiggins (Sky Pro Cycling) by six seconds. Sylvain Chavanel moved up a place to 4th, 14 seconds back. Boonen, who helped chase instead on today's stage, fell outside the top 10 in GC after being third yesterday following his 100th victory.
"It was a good final but I couldn't make the last kilometer as I wanted," Chavanel said. "I was in good position I think around 8th, 10th place. I had Levi as point of reference but I lost him in the last 800 meters. At that point I only paid attention to not losing time. The team was super today. The guys did a great job in the stretch just before the last climb, putting the group in a line. Then on the climb Tony and Kevin de Weert did a great tempo for me and Levi. It was a good day even if we didn't win the race."