Quick-Step Floors’ Julian Alaphilippe issued a warning shot to his rivals by sprinting to victory at the end of a breathless third stage of the OVO Energy Tour of Britain in Bristol on Tuesday.

The Frenchman, who won the King of the Mountains prize at this summer’s Tour de France, outsprinted Patrick Bevin (BMC Racing) and ONE Pro Cycling’s Emils Liepins to win a reduced bunch sprint on Ladies Mile, Clifton Down.

Kiwi Bevin moves into the OVO Energy Green Jersey, level on time with Stage Two winner Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-SCOTT), with Alaphilippe just two seconds in arrears.

“I’m happy to win, especially today as it’s my first race after a good break,” said Alaphilippe. “My team did a really good job today – Bob [Jungels] and I have tried since the start of the Tour to win, so I’m happy to take the victory today. In the end I was in a really good position – Bob did a really good job and voila!

“This is my first time in the race, and I’m really happy to be part of this race. I’m surprised to be active in the race, especially in the final kilometres – maybe it’s because I’m fresh. I really like the parcours here.”

The Bristol Stage combined spectacular man-made wonders – a double crossing of Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge – with the local area’s best natural features as the race wound its way through Cheddar Gorge and across the Mendip Hills.

Julian Alaphilippe

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An energetic start to proceedings had seen a break struggle to stick, and when it eventually did it contained a former winner in Bristol – Tony Martin (Team KATUSHA ALEPCIN) – as well as Frenchman Angelo Tulik (Direct Energie) and British pairing Ben Swift (Great Britain) and Jon Mould (JLT Condor).

Their advantage never went far above the minute margin, and their hopes were finally extinguished on the fast run to the day’s final SKODA King of the Mountains climb of Providence Lane on the outskirts of Bristol.

An initial attack from Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) sparked off a charge up the steep slopes, with British youngster Tom Pidcock (Team WIGGINS) leading the much-reduced peloton over the top.

BMC Racing then hit the front, leading the charge up the unclassified Rownham Hill climb to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, with Bevin’s overall challenge at the forefront of their minds.

Coming onto the long, 900-metre finish straight Quick-Step Floors’ Bob Jungels took over from BMC, lifting the pace and setting up perfectly for Alaphilippe, who headed home Bevin and the fast-finishing Emils Liepins, with Great Britain youngster Ethan Hayter a highly creditable fourth.

Speaking after the stage, Bevin said: “It was hard all day – I’m not sure if the TV pictures did it justice, but the pace never really came off. It was a classic Tour of Britain day. Every kilometre today was tough – the guys did a great job, we got it right over the final climb, I had team-mates around me until the end. The stage win would have been really nice, but we’re still in the hunt for the overall.

“It was frantic. The first big break that went worried too many teams – Sky and Bardiani-CSF chased that down hard. We had about three or four kilometres where it was relaxed, and then we went back to race mode!”

Looking ahead to subsequent stages, Bevin identified the upcoming Stage Five team time trial in Cumbria as key to success in the race.

“The aim of the team was to keep guys up there on GC until the team time trial; you can’t get better than leading the race. If we can hold it tomorrow, we’ll see how things shake out.

“I always love coming to Britain to race. The organisation put on a really great race – I look forward to coming here every year.”

Overnight leader Alessandro Tonelli finished 43rd, losing almost a minute to relinquish the OVO Energy Green Jersey, slipping to 25th overall.

Alaphilippe also took over the Wahoo Points Jersey following Stage Three, while the Eisberg Sprints and SKODA King of the Mountains jerseys remain with Matthew Teggart (Team WIGGINS) and Scott Davies (Team Dimension Data) respectively.

For full results and standings, please click here.

Highlights of Stage Three are on ITV4 at 20:00 on Tuesday 4 September with a repeat at 09:05 on Wednesday 5 September on the same channel, and available on demand via the ITV Hub.  Brief highlights can be viewed on YouTube here.

Stage Four sees the OVO Energy Tour of Britain visit Warwickshire, following in the successful wheel tracks of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, which has visited the county for the past three years. The 183.5-kilometre leg takes the riders from Nuneaton to Royal Leamington Spa, passing the likes of Kenilworth Castle and Warwick Castle.

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