Pretoria – Argentine Mauro Richeze held off German Lucas Liss in a heated sprint finish to win the third stage of the Mzansi Tour on Friday.

The Team Nippo-De Rosa rider finished the relatively flat 149km ride from Witbank to Mamelodi in three hours, 19 minutes, 51

seconds (3:19:51).

Liss, of team Rad-Net Rose, held on for second, while South African Nolan Hoffman (Tasol GT) placed third.

Three South African riders, Myles van Musschenbroek (Tasol GT), Waylon Woolcock (Team Bonitas) and Shaun-Nick Bester (Westvaal BMC), were part of a 14-man early breakaway 26 kilomteres into the stage, opening a 52-second lead on the pack.

The leaders were caught by the peloton after 46km before Richeze's teammate, Shinichi Fukushima, attempted a solo break but was caught by Michael Cuming, Jose Goncalves, and Neil MacDonald.

Goncalves hit the pedals as they approached the first King of the Mountain (KOM) point and was the first to cross the line at the 53km mark.

With 80km done, Fukushima launched another attack and was joined by Goncalves, forming a two-man breakaway that was just over two minutes ahead of the pack.

The gap remained fairly constant as the riders made their way through Cullinan, but the heat turned up as riders from the chasing pack started closing in, gearing up for the final sprint in Mamelodi.

With only one kilometre to go, the entire peloton contested the downhill sprint to the finish line, with Richeze sprinting to victory.

Saturday’s fourth stage is a 145km ride from Hartebeespoort to Pretoria. – Sapa