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After an all-day escape and a late attack to ditch his breakaway companions, Thomas De Gendt won stage 3 at Volta a Catalunya Wednesday and assumed the overall lead.
The stage was originally slated to finish atop the Vallter 2000 climb, near Setcases, Spain. Strong winds, snow, and the threat of avalanches at the finish compelled the organizers to shorten the stage to 153.2km. The new route finished in Camprodon, about 13km after a Cat. 2 ascent of Port de Collabos.
Lotto-Soudal’s tireless attacker tried a solo move on the 1,117-meter Coll de Bracons, leaving his breakaway companions behind to take the king of the mountains points. This gave him the lead in that classification.
However, his move with 50km remaining in the stage was not the coup de grace. Enric Mas (Quick-Step) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias) chased down the Belgian with about 36km remaining, on the gradual descent to Olot.
De Gendt attacked again on the Port de Collabos, with less than 20 kilometers remaining, and this move stuck.
“I went really full for the last 30 kilometers, I didn’t think I could make it,” De Gendt said afterward.
“But I had some seconds so I wanted to stay ahead and in the first group if they caught me. It was incredible, to stay ahead, of course, I didn’t expect it.”
Behind, a few GC favorites, such as Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) tested the peloton with a few attacks. Those accelerations eventually brought back the rest of the day’s breakaway, except for de Gendt. He came home 20 seconds ahead of Yates, who won the sprint for second. Silvio Herklotz (Burgos-BH) was third on the day.
Provided the weather cooperates, De Gendt will be tested on Thursday in stage 4 with a summit finish on La Molina. That Cat. 1 climb comes immediately after an hors categorie ascent of Col de la Creueta, which averages 5.1 percent over 21km.
Top 10, stage 3
1. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), in 4:13:48
2. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), at :20
3. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), s.t.
4. Mathias Frank (Ag2r La Mondiale), s.t.
5. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), s.t.
6. Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida), s.t.
7. Maximilian Schachmann (Quick-Step Floors), s.t.
8. Egan Bernal (Team Sky), s.t.
9. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), s.t.
10. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), s.t.
1. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), in 12:34:54
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), at :23
3. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), at :29
4. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), s.t.
5. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), at :31
6. Jay McCarthy (Bora-Hansgrohe), at :33
7. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at :35
8. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida), s.t.
9. Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), s.t.
10. Eduard Prades (Euskadi-Murias), s.t.