AG2R's pint-sized climber Domenico Pozzovivo hammered away from a leading group of Giro d'Italia hopefuls on the flats approaching Girona to win today's third stage of the Volta a Catalunya. Pozzovivo struck out alone inside the final two kilometers after assisting an elite escape of climbers, led by Tinkoff's Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru of Astana, Richie Porte of Sky, Rigoberto Uran of Etixx-Quick Step, and Cannondale riders Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky.
Behind this select group, a bit of chaos reigned, but it wasn't enough to shake Pierre Rolland of Europcar from a dominant position regarding the overall lead. As widely expected, Rolland was the most competent climber from Monday's three-man escape, as his colleagues Maciej Paterski of CCC Sprandi-Polkowice, the overnight GC leader, and Bart De Clercq each lost 1:34 to Pozzovivo, while Rolland stayed with the chasing peloton that finished a mere 22 seconds back. That left Rolland alone atop the general classification, and with 2:14 (over Pozzovivo) or more of his original race lead still in hand.
Pozzovivo, one of the most educated men in cycling, showed his brilliance in the timing of his late-stage attack, a mad dash up the left side of the road on a flat, open space nearly 2km from the line, which nobody on Earth could have expected outside "Dr. Pozzovivo" himself. But more than cunning, he had enough strength left in his legs to hold off his former break-mates, as they mounted a semi-organized counter in the final KM, too late to bring him back. The victory was his first since 2012, and an excellent sign of his fitness heading into the last month of pre-Giro preparations. So too did Contador, Uran, Aru and Porte look ready for battle. Less so was Chris Froome, who fell off the pace and lost 22 seconds to the winner and 19 to teammate Porte, probably ceding team captaincy to the Australian.
Tomorrow, though, is the Queen Stage, and it was only a month ago that we last saw Froome dog it one day and soar like an eagle the next. Then, it was Contador seemingly putting him away to take over the Vuelta a Andalucia, only for Froome to return the favor (and then some) to take a two second overall advantage... all the way to the final day. So, reports of Froome's demise may yet again prove premature. But it won't mean anything as long as Rolland can stay close, and last year's time gaps on the same course were largely in the 30-60 seconds range for the top climbers. In other words, it'll be a tall task to knock off the Frenchman. Don't miss tomorrow's stage, regardless.
- Domenico Pozzovivo, AG2R
- Rigoberto Uran, Etixx, at 0.03
- Dan Martin, Cannondale, s.t.
- Pierre Rolland, Europcar
- Maciej Paterski, CCC Sprandi, at 1.08
- Bart De Clercq, Lotto, at 1.16
- Pozzovivo, at 2.14
- Uran, at 2.21
Girona - Girona 156.6 km
Another day for sprinting among the non-sprinters.
Crema Catalana of the day: JJ Rojas
They have to let the dude win something sometime right?