Just like we saw yesterday, the peloton kept the breakaway on a relatively short leash throughout the first half of today’s 191.4-kilometer long race from Sarriguren to Estibaliz, keeping the advantage of the eight leaders within four minutes.
CCC Team stuck together in the main bunch on the slopes of the second and final categorized climb, the Puerto de Opakua, with the gap between the two groups down to less than one minutes 40 seconds going over the top inside 60 kilometers to go.
The orange and black train made a move up to the front of the peloton in the final 25 kilometers of the day as teams started to anticipate the fight for position going onto the gradual drag up to the finish line.
The now five-rider front group was holding onto a 30-second advantage with 10 kilometers to go and as a result, the chase intensified further before, with the growing nerves in the bunch, a large crash split the field.
Jonas Koch, Riccardo Zoidl, and Alessandro De Marchi were all caught up but they escaped without injury and were able to get back on their bikes quickly to ride to the finish.
Meanwhile, up ahead the first part of the peloton, including Pauwels, de la Parte, and Amaro Antunes, swept up the leaders on its way to the uphill sprint, won by race leader Maximilian Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe).
Pauwels was CCC Team’s first rider across the line, finishing in the front group alongside Víctor de la Parte, who moved up into 17th overall on the General Classification, 1 minute 30 seconds back and with everything still to play for as just two minutes separates the top 30 riders.
Due to a lingering medical issue, the precautionary decision was made for Patrick Bevin to stop racing during today’s stage. The New Zealander is not suffering from anything too serious and he is expected to make a full recovery in time for Amstel Gold Race.
Race Reaction From Inside the Team Car with Gabriele Missaglia, Sports Director:
“When the decision was made that it was in Bevin’s best interests to stop racing, we decided to try to go for Koch in the sprint as he had good feelings today. All of the guys were riding well and we saw that when they started to move up to the front ahead of some key sections. However, unfortunately, Jonas was caught up in the crash inside the final eight kilometers and after that, it was impossible to come back to the front group. Zoidl and De Marchi were also caught up in that crash but luckily for us, all three riders were able to finish the stage.”
“The good thing for us today was that de la Parte was able to stay with the front group, finishing with Pauwels, and that was good for the General Classification as he was able to move up the leaderboard a little heading into the hardest stages of the race.”
“De la Parte is in good shape here and we will look to keep him in position to fight for a good result on the GC as it’s still quite close for those riders looking for a top ten finish. We will also look to start racing more aggressively with the rest of our riders and see what we can do over the next three days.”
Itzulia Basque Country
Stage 3: Sarriguren > Estibaliz (191.4km)
Top 3: 1. Maximilian Schachmann (BORA-hansgrohe) 2. Diego Ulissi (UAE-Team Emirates) 3. Enrico Battaglin (Team Katusha – Alpecin)
CCC Team Top 3: 36. Serge Pauwels 40. Víctor de la Parte 46. Alessandro De Marchi