Koning denies the stars in San Luis

Peter Koning (Drapac) created a massive surprise when he completed a fantastic solo ride to win stage 3 of the Tour de San Luis. After joining a 4-rider breakaway, he dropped his companions with 40km to go and managed to hold off a small 15-rider group that was formed on the final climb. Race leader Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep) beat Eric Marcotte (Holowesko) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff9 in the sprint for second but it was not enough to defend his lead as Koning moves into the green leader’s jersey with a 6-second advantage.

In a field that includes stars like Peter Sagan, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali, the name of Peter Koning had gone completely unnoticed when the riders gathered for the Tour de San Luis. After all, the 25-year.old Dutchman has just turned professional with the Drapac team after spending three years with the small Metec team.

Until today, Koning’s biggest achievement was a second place in the 2013 edition of the Olympia’s Tour but after his performance in today’s third stage of the Argentinean race, everybody will be keeping a much closer eye on the talented Dutchman. After joining what looked like a futile early breakaway attempt, Koning did a fantastic solo ride and managed to hold off all the stars and take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey.

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the first serious climbing was on the menu in stage 3 which brought the riders over 131.9km from El Potrero de lo Funes. After a mostly flat first part with just two small category 3 climb, the riders faced the category 2 Miradol del Sol climb which averaged 4.42% over 5.2km. The summit was located 11.4km from the finish and from there it was a downhill run to a flat finish.

It was another extremely hot day in Argentina when the riders rolled through the neutral zone, ready for the first hard climbing test of the race. However, they weren’t too concerned with the flat opening part and so it didn’t take long for an early break to be formed.

Emanuel Guevara (San Luis), Elias Tello (Chile) and Peter Koning (Drapac) took off after some early attacking and they were quickly joined by Gonzalo Najar (San Juan) to form a quartet. The peloton were content with the composition but Cesar Rojas (Costa Rica) tried to bridge the gap.

Tello beat Najar and Guevara in the first KOM sprint after which the escapees worked well together to extend their advantage. As they entered the final 75km, it had gone out to 6 minutes while Rojas found himself with 3 minutes to make up.

Guevara beat Tello and Koning in the first intermediate sprint where the gap had gone out to 6.35. Rojas hadn’t given up yet and had reduced his deficit to 2.40. A little later Guevara beat Najar and Tello in the second sprint

In the peloton, Etixx-QuickStep and Tinkoff combined forces to keep the gap at 6.35 by the time Tello beat Najar and Guevara in the second KOM sprint. Rojas was now losing ground and was trailing the leaders by 3.05.

Entering the final 50km, the gap had been reduced to 5.30 as Tinkoff and Etixx-QuickStep were slowly upping the pace. However, Koning soon realized that he was the strongest rider in the break and with 40km to go, he took off in a solo move. Najar was dropped due to a mechanical while Tello and Guevara tried to make it back to the lone Dutchman.

Tinkoff, Etixx-QuickStep and Movistar accelerated as the fight for position for the key climb intensified. A small crash split the peloton but it had no major consequences.

Koning still had a solid advantage when he hit the climb where Tello and Guevara were soon caught. Astana upped the pace and the slopes immediately took its toll on the peloton which splintered to pieces. There were a few attacks along the way but none of them stuck and it was a small group of less than 10 riders that reached the finish.

A second group made it back on the descent and so a 15-rider group gathered behind the lone Koning. Peter Sagan had initially been dropped but was one of the riders to make it back to the first chase group that also included overall leader Fernando Gaviria and the likes of Quintana and Nibali. A third group was not far behind but as there was no cooperation, it was a question of riders single-handedly trying to bridge across.

Gaviria had survived the climb and was doing a lot of work in the chasing group from which there were constant attacks, with Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida), Rodrigo Contreras (Etixx-QuickStep) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) all giving it a go. However, no one was successful and it was Sagan who led the chase as they entered the final 2km.

Koning dug deep and maintained his speed all the way to the finish where he had plenty of time to celebrate a maiden and hugely surprising first pro win. Meanwhile, the San Luis team tried to organize a lead-out for Mauro Abel Richeze who launched a long sprint. However, he was no match to Gaviria who easily won the sprint for second, followed by Travis McCabe and Sagan. The group contained most of the pre-race favourites who all kept their GC options alive.

The chase group arrived at the finish with a time loss of 1.37 and that was enough for Koning to take the overall lead. The Dutchman now leads Gaviria by 6 seconds while former leader Maximilano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep) is 16 seconds further adrift in third.

However, things are likely to change tomorrow when the riders tackle the first mountain stage of the race after a flat first part, the riders will face a category 3 climb as a warm-up and then it is onto the category 1 climb of Alto del Amago. The summit is located just 1.9km from the finish, meaning that it offers the climbers the first chance to make a difference.