Theuns fastest of the 13 riders behind solo winner Tim Wellens in Stage 3 of the Etoile de Bessèges
Edward Theuns sprinted ahead of his breakaway companions in Stage 3 at the Etoile de Bessèges, crossing the line for second place after a hard, fast race.
The Trek-Segafredo Belgian hoped to be sprinting for the win but Tim Wellens’ (Lotto Soudal) thwarted that with a bold solo effort in the final kilometers. Still, it was a solid result that gave Theuns pleasant feedback after a full gas stage from start to end.
“I am a little bit disappointed,” said Theuns about his second place. “I was really looking forward to today’s stage, I know my form is well, I had a really good winter, and I felt already in the past two days that I was strong.
“I focused on the sprint for second as I knew I should be the fastest of the group. I did a good sprint. In the end, it’s a pity because I think I had the legs to win. Sometimes you also need a bit of luck. But overall, a very good day, and it was actually quite a hard race, so good to test the form. I can say I am happy with my test!”
The hills peppered the third day in Bessèges and Trek-Segafredo’s tactics were clear with Vincenzo Nibali and Bauke Mollema active on the early climbs.
But nothing was going away easy.
The continuous efforts from Trek-Segafredo paid off, and Edward Theuns – who had eyed Stage 3 – jumped into a sizeable 17-man break that would prove to be the winning move of the day.
Theuns, targeting the stage victory, had a relatively comfortable back seat in the dangerous escape group that contained pre-race favorites. The teams who missed the move chased feverishly, but the firepower out front proved too much.
“It was a hard start to the stage, which I was hoping for, and I could find myself in the front group,” explained Theuns. “I did not have teammates there, so I could do the minimum of work and sit on as much as possible in the back.”
A climb 15 kilometers from the end was the final obstacle before a downhill and flat local loop in Bessèges. Feeling good, Theuns tried on the short uphill and Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos) countered, stretching the group, but it was on the descent where the elastic snapped.
“I knew it was going to be hard in the finale as there were a lot of teams with two or three guys. I waited until the last climb, and then I tried in one moment to go. Maybe it was a bit optimistic, but I knew it was not far to the top, so I wanted to try,” said Theuns.
“In the downhill, Wellens went hard, and there was some oil on the road and Kwiatkowski crashed. We all slipped there a bit, and Wellens got a good gap. Behind, he also had two teammates who were doing their best to slow the group down. It was hard to come back, and he was also strong in the front,” Theuns added.
Wellens finished 37 seconds ahead of the breakaway group led home by Theuns. “I am happy with the form and looking forward to what’s coming,” he ended.
Wellens now leads the 5-day race, 44 seconds ahead of Theuns, heading into the queen stage Saturday.