|Harrif proves he's the best today|
|All top 3 today winners hails from Terengganu|
|The jersey leaders after stage 3|
KOTA KINABALU, Tuesday 20 August 2013 - Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) sprinter Harrif Saleh took victory in Stage Three of the Tour of Borneo 2013 from Penampang to Kota Kinabalu today, while Tabriz Petrochemical's Mehdi Sohrabi successfully retained the yellow jersey although he finished fourth.
It was a much awaited victory for Harrif and his team after missing out on bunch sprints at the finishes of the opening two stages.
Harrif and his elder brother Zamri, who finished third, worked well together to deny Synergy-Baku's Anuar Manan right on the finish line to finish the 132.6km stage ahead of the peloton in 3 hours 20 minutes and 39 seconds.
Anuar, who continued to display improvements after finishing second in the stage, was still smiling after managing to consolidate his lead in the points classification after adding another 16 points for a 44 points total, 16 points ahead of Sohrabi in that classification.
The red jersey for the king of the mountains switched to Indonesia's Endra Wijaya of CCC after he collected 4 points at the sole categorised climb in Tamparuli to equal LBC's Junrey Navarra, OCBC Singapore's Loh Sea Keong and his own teammate Agung Ali Shahbana atop the mountains classification.
The short and flat stage was undeniably ideal for the TSG gameplan and they executed a successful tactical move to dominate the bunch sprint through Harrif.
"In the first two stages our plans didn't work out because of the hills and some breakaways, which made it difficult for us. I was also unlucky yesterday because I had a mechanical problem and had to use a spare bike," said Harrif.
"But today we rode well. Eventhough Mehdi made an early move, we had my teammate Saiful Anuar Abdul Aziz follow him. I didn't panic as I knew Mehdi would run out of energy. Then I followed Anuar and managed to overtake him at the finish line," added Harrif, who added his second win of the season after winning a stage in the Jelajah Malaysia.
As soon as the stage began at the Dewan Majlis Daerah Penampang, three riders Wijata, Mohd Rauf Nor Misbah (Malaysia) and Chang Wei Kei (RTS) made a breakaway attempt and conquered the first intermediate sprint in Sepangar and the climb at Tamparuli.
Although they were 4 minutes ahead, they were caught by the peloton before Rustom Lim (LBC) made a solo attack on the descent from the hills and was almost two minutes ahead before he was caught by a peloton led by Tabriz with 15km to go.
Tabriz worked hard to catch a group of 8 riders who made a last ditch attempt at a breakaway, before Mehdi tried his move, similar to when he won Stage Two in Papar yesterday, by launching a late attack inside the final 10 kilometres.
However, Mehdi's move didn't work this time as the peloton surged ahead and caught him in the final 50 metres.
"That's cycling. Sometimes our tactics work, sometimes they don't," said Mehdi, before adding that Tabriz will now focus on the mountain stage up to Kundasang at the foot of Mount Kinabalu tomorrow, where either Ghader Mizbani or Hossein Askari are expected to go for the overall victory.
Meanwhile, Anuar said he did not get help from his teammates in the final kilometres and had to make his move on his own, before being overtaken by Harrif at the finish line.
"Without the help of my teammate, I had to work on the sprint alone and was forced to launch my sprint early and I failed because TSG had many riders in the front, giving them an advantage.
"I am still satisfied because I managed to consolidate my position in the points classification with more points and I will try to add to that tomorrow," said Anuar, who is just coming back from a lengthy lay-off due to a back injury.
Three riders failed to finish today's stage, leaving 98 starters for the penultimate stage tomorrow.
Stage 4 of the Tour of Borneo 2013 from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang is the decider which includes a catrgory 1 climb at Gunusg Emas and an intermediate sprint at Tambunan, before the finish line in Kundasang.