All the talking points as the Giro d'Italia's brief stay in Israel reaches its conclusion
Just like yesterday, Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) left all the other sprinters in his wake to win a second successive stage.
On this evidence, it’s difficult to see how any of his rivals can stop the Italian. Bora-Hansgrohe again delivered a strong lead out for Sam Bennett, who led from the front in the sprint, but there was simply nothing the Irishman could do when Viviani made his move.
Viviani even managed to overcome some aggressive tactics in the sprint. In a move that might have caught the attention of the commissaires, Bennett swerved across the road during his sprint to force the Italian into the barrier, but Viviani used his shoulders to squeeze through and win the stage.
Having previously ridden four Giri to be rewarded with just one stage, on his fifth appearance Viviani has added two in just three days. At this rate, that number could be much higher come Rome.
Quick-Step take control of lead-out
After yesterday’s messy finale, Quick-Step stamped their authority in the peloton by taking control several kilometres from the finish.
Their duo of Zdenek Stybar and Maxi Schachmann took to the front ahead of a series of twisting, technical roundabouts, stretching the bunch out in one long line. Unusually, they did not do one big turn each before dropping off, but alternated at the front, while still managing to set a quick enough pace so that no-one could challenge them.
They were caught out a little when a surge from Bora-Hansgrohe saw Viviani distanced from his lead-out man. But the Italian was still in a decent enough position, and managed to grab the wheel of Bennett to work his way into another win.
It was the kind of dominant display that suggests that Quick-Step Floors are uniformly united around their leaders, and, as they have been all season, a brilliantly cohesive unit that will be hard for any team to overcome in the sprints.
A uneventful day for spectators…
If you’re a fan of endless kilometres of barren desert, then today was the day for you. For everyone else, it’s fair to say that stage three was a bit of a bore.
With only one category four climb on the menu, there was nothing in the parcours to spice things up before the inevitable bunch sprint. Some interesting scenery might have helped, but this route in the desert turned out to be a lot less picturesque than the previous two days.
One factor that could have livened up the race were crosswinds – we’ve seen before in races such as the Tour of Qatar how the exposed landscape of desert roads can wreak havoc if the wind blows. But they never materialised today, with conditions that were hot rather than blustery,
On the basis of this, it’s good timing that the race is packing its bags back to Italy on Monday’s rest day.
…but still stressful for the riders
Despite the lack of action, it was far from a comfortable day for the peloton.
For one thing, few will have enjoyed the searing heat, which was recorded as being as high as 35 degrees out in the desert.
Worse still, it was also a very long day in the saddle. In fact, at 229km it is the second longest in the entire race, and the riders had to spend just over five hours out exposed to the heat.
There was also a proliferation of mechanicals, with the rough roads contributing to multiple punctures. Viviani was one rider to suffer, and, although he was never in danger of not making it back, the incident was still the kind of nuisance a rider will want to avoid on a day like today.
Victor Campenaerts pays for yesterday’s efforts
Despite the lack of action, there was one notable change in the GC. Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-FixAll), third overnight at three seconds behind Rohan Dennis (BMC), fell out of the top ten entirely.
The Belgian was seen clinging on at the back of the bunch early on during an upping of the pace, and was later dropped altogether, arriving at the finish in a group of stragglers 31 seconds behind the peloton.
Although the fate of time trial specialist on a non-descript flat stage might not usually be deemed worthy of much comment, Campenaerts has been one of the most eye-catching riders in this race.
First he put in a very impressive time trial on stage one, then attempted to take pink yesterday, first by trying to get into multiple breakaways, and then going head-to-head with Dennis at the intermediate sprint.
Depending on your point of view, those moves were either foolhardy or laudably ambitious, but either way he seemed to pay for his effort today. Now 34 seconds down in 15th place, his dream of wearing pink this Giro appears to be over.