Luca Paolini looking very relaxed at the start in Sorrento this morning.
Stage 3 followed the beautiful Amalfi coast road from Sorrento south to Marina di Ascea with a little detour inland to take in the climbs of San Mauro Cilento (Cat 2 at 551 metres) after 153 kilometres and Sella de Catonia (Cat 3 at 587 metres) after 202 kilometres. Once the race topped the Sella de Catonia there were 20 kilometres of downhill roads to the finish. A stage of many possibilities.
Stage 3 Fly Through from globalcyclingnetwork.
The Early Break
As is normal on just about any Grand Tour stage some hopeful riders made their move early, and today they went away in the first 10 kilometres. Seven riders soon had a good gap, they were: Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Bert De Backer (Argos-Shimano), Dirk Bellemakers (Lotto Belisol) and Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venzuela). Within a handful of kilometres their lead was 3 minutes and by the feed zone after 100 kilometres, it was 6, the lead had been near 7 minutes at one point. Sky were in control of the peloton, not chasing, but keeping things together.
The early break about 50km in.
The weather was overcast, but with no rain for the finish.
The Sky team were happy to leave this group out front and so was Argos-Shimano’s Bert De Backer who swept up the special sprint prizes along the way.
With just over 80 kilometres to go Omega Pharma – Quick-Step came to the front to speed the chase a little as the gap was still holding at 6 minutes. The finish has been likened to Milan-Sanremo and Mark Cavendish has won that, but it all depended on the last 70 odd kilometres of the stage if Cav would still be there at the line.
In the break; Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) was the best placed rider on GC in 28th place at 22 seconds, so his claim to fame will be that he led the Giro d’Italia at one time.
The First Climb of the Day
The race hit the climb of the San Mauro Cilento after a sharp left hand bend; De Backer was in trouble from the escape group and was distanced on the way up. In the bunch many riders were taken by surprise by the sudden steepness, Cavendish was suffering at the back with a team mate to shepherd him back before the last climb which was said to be easier.
The San Mauro Cilento is a twisty steep climb of 12 kilometres length, but is fairly wide, Rodriguez was first to attack, he was passed by Pantano who was joined by Boaro, but the six came together. Boaro tried again, but it was the crafty Willem Wauters, who had been watching the others and had the better jump and he took the KOM points.
The lead was cut to 3:42 as Sky had put the pressure on; the Cavendish group came over the top more than 5 minutes after the break with Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and BMC’s Steve Cummings.
The descent was narrower than the ascent and just as twisty, Lampre-Merida’s Daniele Pietropolli hit the ground ripping his shorts to shreds as the bunch split as it stretched into one long thin line.
Back down to the coast and there was no sign of De Backer getting back to the leaders. Taborre (the virtual GC leader) decided that it was time for him to go it alone and with 50 kilometres to go he had 20 seconds on his ex-escape colleges and 4:20 on the peloton.
The Vini Fantini rider; Fabio Taborre put his head down and built up a lead of a minute with 42 kilometres left to race as the course headed inland again for the next climb; the Sella de Catonia. Sky and Katusha were on the front of the peloton which had regrouped, although where the point’s competition leader Mark Cavendish was at this point was unknown.
35 kilometres to go and Taborre had 1:08 on the chasers and 2:50 on the bunch and it was not looking good enough for him to take stage or overall at this point as the calculation had been done by the peloton and his chances of seeing a victory today was getting slimmer. The chase group was losing time on Taborre and the Maglia Rosa peloton and had started to attack each other. As to Cavendish; he was in a group of around 10 riders just behind the peloton.
30K’s to go!
As the race passed under the 30 K banner: Taborre had 1:13 on the five chasers, the bunch was at 1:27 and the crucial climb was underway. Garmin-Sharp put three men on the front to rip things up on the foothills with Astana and Sky watching the action.
The Garmin move split eight riders off the front; Ryder Hesjedal, Vincenzo Nibbali and Michele Scarponi were amongst them. Hesjedal must have thought he was back in Liege as he attacked the group to go alone and pass the near stationary Fabio Taborre.
As the tall Canadian pushed on; Astana had three in the chase and the bunch closed up a little, but there was maybe now only around 30 riders in contention, notably the pink jersey of Salvatore Puccio was slowly slipping off the back.
Astana put Tanel Kangert to the fore, setting a torrid pace to the summit of the Sella de Catonia, altough iders were managing to catch onto the back of the bunch which had grown to nearly 50. Over the top and the KOM leader Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) was there to protect his lead, but it was still Astana in control for the 20 kilometre descent to the finish.
Another attack came on the drop from Sella de Catonia, this time from Valerio Agnoli (Astana), he was joined by Hesjedal, but again the others were not going to give the Canadian too much fresh air. Hesjedal was in full attack mode and came to the front again putting all the not so confident descender’s (Colombians) in all sorts of trouble. Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Climbers; Betancur and Pozzovivo struggled to stay with the pace, the little Italian lost it on one corner and took to the grass bank.
The leading group had shrunk again to around 25 riders, next to attack was Luca Paolini (Katusha), Sky’s Rigoberto Uran was at the front to chase, the Blanco team also had Gesink in the front group, so they put riders on the front to pull back the Italian. This worked well until two Blanco riders wiped out on a tight corner taking Lampre-Merida’s Michele Scarponi with them. Scarponi was in big trouble as his bike was broken and his team car was well behind.
Hesjedal again was pushing the peloton hard as Paolini buried himself to keep himself clear to the line. The chasers could see him in the distance, but it was too late for the stage win, but the overall was possibly in the ballance.
Paolini had enough time to freewheel over the line, which he may regret as he was only 19 seconds off the overall lead this morning and as this is only stage 3 those precious seconds could be very important.
Cadel Evans had got himself into that chase group and used his experience to take second, of the other GC hopefuls; Wiggins, Nibali, Hesjedal and Samu Sanchez were all safe to fight another day. Luca Paolini moved into the overall lead 17 seconds ahead of Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans pulled a few second back on Wiggins, as did most of the other GC hopefuls, but it early days yet.
Keep it PEZ for all the Giro happenings and don’t forget the NEWSWIRE section for all the up-dates as they come in.
Giro d’Italia Stage 3 Result:
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha in 5:43:50
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 0:16
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
5. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
6. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha
7. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky
9. Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco.
Giro d’Italia Overall After Stage 3:
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha in 9:04:32
2. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at 0:17
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky
4. Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar at 0:26
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 0:31
6. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Astana
7. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 0:34
8. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 0:36
9. Yury Trofimov (Rus) Katusha
10. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky at 0:37.