(Reuters) - Canadian Matteo Dal-Cin of Rally Cycling won stage three of the virtual Tour de France on Saturday, pipping Briton Jake Stewart of Groupama-FDJ to the line in a closely-fought sprint to the finish.
The virtual race is being held on the popular Zwift training platform after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the annual July race to the end of August.
The 48 km stage was a flatter course compared to the opening weekend but Zwift designed a new course with competitors cycling past simulated real world elements such as the Pont du Gard, the ancient aqueduct bridge in southern France.
Dal-Cin, 29, won with a time of 59 minutes and 24 seconds — virtual inches ahead of Stewart — as the pair pushed through the field on the final sprint while Callum Scotson of Mitchelton-Scott came in third.
“I’m beyond stoked,” Dal-Cin said. “We definitely pulled out all the stops as far as setup went to give us a fighting chance. I’m beyond thrilled with being able to pull out a result for the team.
“Our coach told us that in the twisty section the draft comes and goes, so just stay up front and I did so until 200 metres to go and used my power-up and sprinted with everything I had.”
NTT Pro Cycling’s Ryan Gibbons was in the running too when he initiated the sprint but the South African, who currently dons the yellow jersey, dropped back and finished fifth behind Team Ineos’ Ethan Hayter.
NTT lead the points classification with 161 points followed by Mitchelton-Scott with 85 while CCC Team are third a further 20 points behind.
In the women’s race, Canyon-SRAM’s Tanja Erath won the third stage with a time of one hour, six minutes and 24 seconds.
The former Zwift Academy winner sprinted to the finish to beat time trial world champion Chloe Dygert of Twenty20 and April Tacey of the Drops team.
“A stage win is always something special,” Erath, 30, said. “Zwift is kind of my thing, so I should win a stage and it worked out so I’m super happy.”
Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christina Fincher