Up against a trio of top Colombian climbers and a feisty Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) came away with a win in stage 3 of Volta a Catalunya atop the climb to the Valter 2000 ski station on Wednesday.
Egan Bernal (Team Sky) was second to the Brit, right ahead of Martin, who was third.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who won stage 1 with a solo breakaway, kept his overall lead by 23 seconds, though he had expected to lose it in the 179km race that culminated with an 11.4km hors categorie climb.
“I had the best legs in the final section,” said Yates, who suffered a gut-wrenching one-second defeat at the Tirreno Adriatico last week. “There’ll be more of the same tomorrow. There’s plenty of time to get the overall lead here.”
Bernal kicked off the action halfway up that final climb. Only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) could follow.
Gauging his effort carefully, Yates gradually bridged up to the duo of Colombian climbers.
“Bernal and Quintana were really strong,” Yates said. “When they first attacked, I held back a little to pace my effort, just slowly came back to them. Then it was a bit of game — no one wanted to work.”
Due to that ebb in the pace, a third Colombian, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) bridged up to the leaders, along with Martin.
Into the final three kilometers, Yates and Bernal both tested the front group with accelerations. These attacks put Lopez and Martin on the limit. However, the pace was never consistently hard. By the last five kilometers, all five leaders were together to contest the sprint.
Perhaps surprising the other climbers, Martin made a hard attack and led into the last 300 meters.
Yates was right on his wheel and swept past on the Irishman’s left side as the road gradually swung to the right and into the finish.
Bernal responded to Yates’s acceleration. While the Colombian couldn’t come past for the win, he did take second place on the day.
“Yates is really strong, we’ll need to keep an eye on him,” Bernal said. “We are more than happy with that [result], it was a tough stage today. Tomorrow will be the same and we’ll go for it again.”
Thursday’s 150-kilometer stage 4 should provoke similar action with four categorized climbs and a summit finish at La Molina.
“Tomorrow is another possibility for a stage win, but so far so good,” Adam Yates added.