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Cevélo’s Hammond 7th in Chaotic Sprint

Cervélo TestTeam’s Roger Hammond sprinted to seventh in the 189.7km third stage from Zutphen to Venlo.

A day after sprinting to third, Hammond made the most of another chaotic sprint finale, notching his second straight top 10 at the Spanish tour. New Zealand’s Greg Henderson won while Fabian Cancellara retained the overall leader’s jersey.

Hammond was in ideal position, slotted in behind two-time world champion Tom Boonen, when the sprint got messy coming through the final corner. There were no crashes, but Hammond had to fight to close down a gap in the final meters of the high-speed charge to the line.

“Until the round-about with 1.5km to go, it was absolutely perfect, with Greipel on the wheel of the High Road train, Boonen, then me,” Hammond said. “On that last corner, Bozic and Marcato came through. Bozic made it, but Marcato was absolutely useless, he chopped, couldn’t hold the wheel, then Boonen and I had to close the gap with 800 meters to go. We had already done our sprint with 500 meters, and then everyone else started.”

A three-man breakaway pulled clear in the opening kilometers as fine summer-like weather welcomed the peloton for the Vuelta’s third stage.

The break opened up a gap of nearly 10 minutes before the sprinter teams collaborated to neutralize the escape with less than 10 kilometers to go to set up the mass arrival.

Canadian sprinter Dominique Rollin punctured in the final 5km, so it was up to Hammond once again to carry the team colors.

“I wasn’t really thinking about today’s stage, because yesterday’s stage was quite hard in the final 40km and that strings it out a little bit more and it’s selective before the final sprint. Today there was a lot of headwind, so everybody thinks they can be a winner. With a headwind like that, everyone keeps coming past, so you use so much energy in the final 20 kilometers just passing climbers who are trying not to lose GC time,” said Hammond, who said at least today he could tell where the finish line was. “Today was no problem seeing the finish line. There were no bridges over the road today. I saw it far away, but it was coming too fast, that was the problem.”

There were no major shakeups in the overall standings, with Cancellara retaining a six-second lead to Henderson, who slots into second based on time bonuses.

The 64th Vuelta continues Tuesday with the fourth and final stage of the race’s Benelux adventure. The hilly, 224km stage starts in Venlo and enters Belgium, tracing some of the same climbs used during the Amstel Gold Race and Li?ge-Bastogne-Li?ge.

Cerv?lo’s Simon Gerrans, who finished in the top 10 in all three of the so-called Ardennes spring classics earlier this year, thinks it will still come down to a mass sprint.

“The day into Liege is quite hard, but the last climb is still 20km from the finish, so I think it will still be a sprint,” Gerrans said. “We’re seeing guys like Tyler Farrar and Tom Boonen, those guys are going really well right now, so I think those guys will be there in the end to make the sprint.”

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