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Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck–Quick-Step) spoiled Roger Adrià’s (Kern Pharma) hopes of a successful day-long break, attacking 2 kilometers from the summit finish, taking the stage win and the overall race lead.
Evenepoel passed the Spaniard on 17 percent ramps inside of 2 kilometers from the finish.
“It was incredibly hard, especially the last few k’s with the open field with the winds. As you can feel there is a lot of wind. Going into the last kilometer was really hard because I was already going all out and then I had full headwind, and it was really hard, but the wind is for everybody so I kept pushing. And I heard my gap was always increasing, so that was really good. I kept it to the line which was really nice. Without the team I could not achieve this victory because they kept me out of the wind, they asked me how I felt, they brought me bottles. A big thanks to the team. We did a big preparation of this stage and it was my job to finish it off and as a thank you to the team I did it,” said Evenepoel.
He continued, “I opened my eyes on the [final] climb and I see how everybody climbed, surprisingly I felt OK and pretty good. It’s a big honor to race with those guys. Landa, Valverde, big grand tour riders, superstars, it’s a big dream to race with them, and then winning is like a dream from a little boy.”
From the gun, a nine-man group including Adrià, Nikita Stalnov (Astana), Francisco Galván (Kern Pharma), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Juan Felipe Osorio (Burgos-BH), Gotzon Martín (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Márton Dina (Kometa Xstra), Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural), and Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) formed.
This break was at an advantage of nearly four minutes when Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Ineos put the hammer down, in a section of road blasted by crosswinds, 55km from the finish.
The penultimate climb, the Alto de Retuerta — a cat 3 climb at 3.8km at an average of 7.5 percent — allowed the chasers to bring back all but Adrià from the nine-man break, and further split the peloton.
At the base of the final ascent, world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) was popped off the main bunch, while at the front, Ben Hermans (Israel Start-Up Nation) went after Adrià, and was closely followed by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
2019 Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos) took over chase duties, and was followed by Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
By the halfway mark of the climb, Adrià’s advantage was down to just 2:39.
Adrià hit the 19 percent sections with 4,500m of course left, as Mitchelton-Scott took control of the chase.
General Classification leader Felix Großschartner trailed the peloton, trying to hang with climbers.
Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma), and Evenepoel shed Richard Carapaz when they went up the road after Adrià at 3km to go.
The race exploded when Evenepoel dropped his fellow chasers, and surged past Adrià inside of 2km.
Recounting his attack, Evenepoel said, “The pace was very high, I can tell you. the really big names got dropped at that pace. When I saw Nieve going to the front he speeded up a bit more. I knew, OK, Chaves was going to go. Surprisingly Carapaz needed to drop a bit. I decided to jump with [Chaves] because I knew everybody was on the limit. I thought my attack was perfectly placed because Chaves went and we came closer on the flat part. If they could have followed they would have jumped with me. You see I took 30 seconds on less than 2k so perfect day today. The team did a perfect job on the road. We never panicked on the echelons.”
Bennett and Chavez were caught off guard by Evenepoel’s attack. Bennett managed to drop Chavez, who was passed by Landa in the final 100m, for the third podium position.
“The first goal was not to drop and not to lose time and in my ear I heard the DS told me to try something because he saw that I was pretty fresh on camera and the others were suffering. I was also on the limit but if you don’t try you don’t win and I tried and I won today. It was a risk, but without risking you never win. It’s a dream. To have a stage win and the jersey, now we try to keep it to the end. Tomorrow is again a sprint stage and the day after will finish on top. It’s not in the pocket yet with two days to go. But I have confidence in the team and the team has confidence in me,” Evenepoel said.
Friday’s stage 4 will be a relatively flat affair and will be welcomed by the sprinters, as it travels 163km from Gumel de Izan to Roa de Duero.
Stage 3 results
1. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck–Quick-Step), 3:59:09
2. George Bennett (Team Jumbo-Visma), at :18
3. Mikel Landa Meana (Bahrain McLaren), at :32
4. Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), at :35
5. João Almeida (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), at :45
6. Ben Hermans (Israel Start-Up Nation), at :52
7. Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos), at s.t.
8. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), at 0:01:03
9. Joel Nicolau Beltran (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), at :20
10. Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Mitchelton-Scott), at s.t.