After an aggressive start to the 217-kilometer race from Follonica to Saturnia, which took the Tirreno-Adriatico peloton onto lumpier terrain, Van Hooydonck was able to force a move and form the day’s eight-rider breakaway, which was able to extend its advantage out to around eight minutes in the first half of the day.
The group continued to work well together throughout the day, and despite gaps opening up as they tackled the toughest challenge of the stage for the first time, the Poggio Murella climb, the group came back together to push on at the front of the race and hold of the peloton for as long as possible.
In the end, the pace being set behind the Van Hooydonck and what was left of the breakaway proved too much with the group swept by a heavily reduced bunch on the early slopes of the second ascent of the ‘Wall’, which had gradients of 21 percent in places, with just over ten kilometers to go.
The steep slopes of the punchy 3.4-kilometer climb provided the perfect backdrop for an exciting and explosive finale with riders spread out all across the road as Michael Woods (EF Education First), who would go on to win the two-man sprint for the line, and Rafal Majka (BORA – hansgrohe) opened up a narrow advantage.
CCC Team’s de la Parte battled hard at the front of the bunch and was still in a strong position as the favorites neared the summit but he eventually lost contact when the decisive final attack was first launched, going on to cross the line in the second chasing group around 30 seconds back.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Nathan Van Hooydonck
“It was the team’s plan to have someone in the breakaway today and there was a huge split with around 35 riders in front after the first two climbs at the beginning of the stage. I knew the breakaway was going to go after that because everybody was a bit tired and already on the limit. That’s when I made my move and three guys followed me immediately, two guys jumped across and then we waited for one other guy. It was actually a really good group to be with because nobody was afraid to pull and that always makes a day like this nicer. I was feeling good and it was a really hard stage, the longest of the race, so I think I can be satisfied with today and I definitely don’t have any complaints.”
Víctor de la Parte:
“It was a hard stage today, in fact, there was never really an ‘easy’ moment even when the breakaway with Nathan went clear. It was good to have him up there for us and I think he did a good job for the team. When we reached the Poggio Murella for the first time, the group was already down to around 40 or so riders and from there the pace only got higher really. The second ascent was really explosive and with gradients of around 21 percent, it didn’t really suit me and my style but I was happy I could stick with the first riders for as long as I did so, in the end, I’m quite pleased with how my legs felt on a stage like this.”
Stage 3: Follonica > Saturnia (217km)
Top 3: 1. Michael Woods (EF Education First) 2. Rafal Majka (BORA – hansgrohe) 3. Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)
CCC Team Top 3: 28. Víctor de la Parte 47. Pavel Kochetkov 49. Will Barta