CALVI, Corsica — Australian sprinter Simon Gerrans held off a late charge by Peter Sagan to win Monday’s hilly third stage of the Tour de France by less than half a wheel.
Belgian rider Jan Bakelants did enough in the sweltering heat to keep the race leader’s yellow jersey.
Gerrans looked to have the finish line in sight with about 100 meters to go, though the Slovakian rider put on a late sprint and almost caught him.
But Gerrans dug deep to clinch his second career Tour stage win. Spaniard Jose Joaquin Rojas finished third.
“Sagan is a guy who can often climb with the best climbers and sprint with the best sprinter, so I’m really thrilled to be able to beat such a classy rider,” Gerrans said. “I surprised quite a few people a little bit (Monday), including myself.”
Gerrans shouldn’t be too surprised, though, as he had prepared well.
“This is a stage that I’ve been targeting for quite some time,” he said. “We were down here in Corsica last weekend doing a recon and scouting the finishes and it all paid off (Monday).”
Although Gerrans has clinched a stage win on all three Grand Tours, his previous stage win on “Le Tour” was five years ago — when it actually finished in the northern Italian ski resort of Prato Nevoso.
He was slowing up but just managed one last effort to throw his bike forward the way a 100-meter runner would dip for the line.