Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) climbed with the race’s top GC riders and then attacked in the finale to win stage 3 of Volta a Catalunya in Girona, Spain on Wednesday.
The Italian followed accelerations from GC favorite Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the final category one climb.
After a sinuous descent, Pozzovivo put in a bold attack in the closing, flat kilometers and was able to ride alone to win and vault into fourth-place overall on GC after 156.6km of racing. It was the diminutive 32-year-old’s first win since 2012.
“I was feeling quite good, very good going uphill,” said the winner. “It’s going to be a really good fight.”
Europcar’s Pierre Rolland snatched the race lead after riding home with the main chase group.
In the early kilometers, the race was animated by a breakaway that included Tom Danielson (Cannondale-Garmin), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), and three others. However, with a significant climb in the final 20 kilometers of racing, the GC contenders and their teams were sure to bring the race back together in the end.
Tuesday’s winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), fell victim to a crash at the base of the penultimate climb, which relegated him to a secondary chase group.
The main peloton drove hard into the final climb, a category one ascent of Alt dels Angels. Tinkoff-Saxo was a major presence at the front, cueing up Contador, its leader.
Indeed, Contador made his move with 15km left, attacking viciously with two kilometers from the summit of the climb. He was followed by four others, Fabio Aru (Astana), Richie Porte (Sky), Pozzovivo, and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick-Step).
After a brief lull in the action, Contador went again. At first, only Porte could follow, but then the five regrouped. Sky’s Chris Froome was dropped, setting Porte free to follow the move.
The lead five crested the climb and plunged toward the finish in Girona. Cannondale-Garmin’s Andrew Talansky caught back on to the tail-end of the group, thanks to some fearless riding on the winding descent.
The group’s advantage was 50 seconds over the chasers.
With nine kilometers left, Dan Martin returned to the front, joining teammate Talansky and the group.
With two kilometers left, Pozzovivo launched an attack on a slight rise. He soon had a sizeable gap over the chase. Porte then attacked, trying to bridge to the lone leader.
The Cannondale-Garmin duo were forced to chase at the front of the group. Porte was soon caught, but Pozzovivo survived to win alone, ahead of Uran and Martin, who finished second and third, respectively. Contador was fourth, and Aru finished fifth.
“Today we finished with seven riders, but to be honest I was aiming for the victory,” Uran said. “I was positioning myself in preparation to win the stage, but when Pozzovivo attacked, no one wanted to react. After Martin and Talansky, two teammates, came back to the group we were focused on the tactics. Everyone was there looking at each other and Pozzovivo took advantage to win the race.”
The next group crossed the line 22 seconds in arrears, giving Rolland the overall race lead, 1:08 ahead of Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), who lost the overall lead on Wednesday. Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) now sits in third overall, 1:16 behind.
Behind, Pozzovivo is fourth overall, 2:14 in arrears, and Uran rounds out the top five, 2:21 back.
“I’m happy. I feel quite good. It’s the last race before the Giro, and it’s good that my legs are responding. Now I need to recover and tomorrow will be another day,” Contador told AFP after the race. He is now seventh overall.
On Thursday, the race’s fourth stage will run 188.4km from Tona to La Molina with a mountaintop finish on a category one climb.