Wellens escapes to take Etoile de Besseges lead

Bessèges (France) (AFP) –


Tim Wellens attacked with 16 kilometres to go and held off his pursuers to win the third stage of season-opening Etoile de Besseges by 16 seconds on Friday and grab the overall lead.

The Belgian who rides for Lotto-Soudal escaped a strong breakaway group on a descent on the hilly 154.81 circuit that began and ended in Besseges, in the south of France.

He went on to finish 37 seconds ahead of a small group, led home by his compatriot Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) ahead of Dane Mads Wuertz Schmidt (Israel Start Up Nation).

With two stages to go, Wellens took the pink jersey off Frenchman Christophe Laporte (Cofidis). Theuns is second overall, 44 seconds back.

The race has attracted a strong field and several of the big names were part of the 17-man breakaway group that formed with 94 kilometres to go.

It included Colombian Ineos rider Egan Bernal, the 2019 Tour de France winner, his Polish team-mate Michal Kwiatkowski, a former world champion, Belgian former world champion Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal) and Belgian Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R-Citroen).