Valenciana stage 3: Van Avermaet opens account with CCC

The Olympic champion Van Avermaet follows Sanchez's canny move through a technical finale to win his first race of the season.

Sprinting through the narrow streets of Chera, Spain on a hilltop finish, Greg Van Avermaet won his first race of 2019 in the fresh orange livery of Team CCC. He got the better of Mitchelton-Scott’s Matteo Trentin after 191 kilometers on Friday. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) was third in Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 3.

“It’s always great to start the season off with a win,” said Van Avermaet. “The team (CCC) did a really good effort on the climb before so it was down to me to do a good result.”

Stage 1 winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) kept his overall lead, finishing on same time in 14th place.

What had once been a 10-rider breakaway had dwindled to just four leaders by the time the race reached the last two of six categorized climbs in stage 3.

Throughout the day, Astana worked tirelessly to keep the breakaway in check. At one point, the escape was more than four minutes up the road.

As the race stair-stepped to the finish, the leaders were caught inside the final 10 kilometers.

Ben Hermans (Israel Cycling Academy) made a cheeky attack with a few kilometers to go, but the pace was high in the peloton and he was brought back as the gradient eased toward the top.

Mitchelton-Scott mustered several riders to control the race into the final kilometers on behalf of its sprinter Matteo Trentin, who won stage 2. Jack Haig set the pace going into the final kilometer.

Then, on the final straight stretch of road, Sanchez crept up the right side of the peloton.

His timing was perfect. The Spaniard reached the front just before a technical chicane through town. Van Avermaet was right on his wheel with Trentin behind. Sky’s Ben Swift had lost the wheel in the corners and led the next group in fourth.

On the short finish straight, Van Avermaet jumped past Sanchez.

“I was in a really good position on the last switchback, it was perfect and I started my sprint and hoped nobody came round me,” Van Avermaet added.

Trentin held the Belgian’s wheel, but he could not come past to take the win and ended the day second.

Although a bit shorter than Friday’s stage, Saturday’s stage 4 should be decisive in the overall. The 188km race runs from Vila-Real to Alcala-Alcocebre over three categorized climbs with a Cat. 1 finish.

Astana’s Ion Izagirre is breathing down Boasson Hagen’s neck in second overall, just five seconds back. Several other top climbers are within striking distance as well. World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sits sixth, 14 seconds down, right ahead of Dan Martin (UAE) who is 19 seconds behind.