Aleksandr Vlasov crushed his rivals on the steep climb to Antenas del Maigmó on stage three of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana to take control of the general classification.
The Russian powered away on the gravel section of the climb with 1.5km to take Bora-Hansgrohe's first win of the season.
His chasers could not follow on the steepest parts of the Alto Antenas del Maigmó, and he put 41 seconds into Remco Evenepoel of Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, who had previously held the race lead. Add on the 10 bonus seconds he received for being first to cross the line, and he is now secure in the yellow leader's jersey.
Behind, Carlos Rodriguez of Ineos Grenadiers came in second, 14 seconds behind Vlasov, with Enric Mas of Movistar following in seven seconds after that.
It meant that Quick-Step failed to keep up their 100 per cent rate at the Spanish stage race, and have possibly lost the chance to secure the GC, with two relatively flat stages to follow.
The gravel section of the stage, which some had raised concerns about ahead of the day, did not seem to affect the riders negatively, with Vlasov putting his attack in the final part of the sterrato.
How it happened
The peloton rolled north out of Alicante up towards Benidorm along the coast on Friday afternoon, but it wasn’t until the race turned inwards that a breakaway formed.
Riders from two French WorldTour teams, Lars van den Berg of Groupama-FDJ and Nicolas Prodhomme of AG2R Citröen were the first successful escapees, and were soon joined by Sven Erik Bystrøm of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and Kenny Molly of Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB.
The race went over the Coll des Rates, the famous training climb that many cyclists will have trained up. In this race, it was a category two climb, with Van den Berg taking the points at the top.
The break swelled to 11 at its peak, with the quartet being joined by Valentin Paret-Peintre of AG2R Citroën, Jan Tratnik of Bahrain Victorious, Attila Valter of Groupama-FDJ, Dimitri Claeys of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Jan Polanc of UAE Team Emirates, Dani Navarro of Burgos-BH and Fernando Barceló of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.
Tratnik was the first over the crest of the category three Sa Creueta, and Polanc took the honours on Fageca, another third cat. Bystrøm took the points on the second category Benifallim climb.
At its peak, the breakaway had 2-42 over the peloton, where Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were controlling things.
The break was distanced by Tratnik and Valter on the climb of Tibi. Tratnik soloed across the peak with a lead of 2-18 over the bunch.
Movistar led the peloton into the bottom of the final climb, the Alto Antenas del Maigmó, with Tratnik still two minutes ahead.
With 6km to go, the race swung off the main road onto a much narrower track up to the top of the climb.
Movistar's Alejandro Valverde was the first to attack from the peloton, with 4.7km to go. The 41-year old was chased by Juan Ayuso of UAE Team Emirates, 22 years his junior, and the rest of the bunch. Valter was finally caught with 3.4km to go, with Tratnik swallowed up by the chasers soon after.
The riders moved from tarmac to gravel with 2.9km to go, off-road at 10 per cent. Evenepoel was briefly distanced as Jakob Fuglsang of Israel-Premier Tech put the power down at the front, before joining the leaders again.
Vlasov attacked on the final metres of the gravel section, distancing the four others behind, which included Evenepoel. Rodriguez left the race leader behind, who was accompanied by Fuglsang.
The Russian conquered the over 12 per cent gradients of the final kilometre, putting time into his rivals, and claiming only the seventh victory of his career, and his first for Bora-Hansgrohe.
Behind Evenepoel was distanced, and slipped down the general classification, as he came in 41 seconds behind Vlasov. Rodriguez's six bonus seconds for finishing second means the young Spaniard remains third on GC, just four seconds behind Evenepoel.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2022, stage three: Alicante to Antenas del Maigmó (155.1km)
1. Aleksandre Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-02-17
2. Carlos Rodriguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 14s
3. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 21s
4. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 29s
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, same time
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier, Tech at 32
7. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 35s
8. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 41s
9. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Bahrain-Victorious, same time
10. David De La Cruz (Esp) Astana Qazaqstan, at 50s
General classification after stage three
1. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 12-28-39
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 32s
3. Carlos Rodriguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at 36s
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 50s
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-02
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier Tech, at 1-05
7. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 1-14
8. Giuliu Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-00
9. Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-05
10. David De La Cruz (Esp) Astana-Qazaqstan, at 2-28
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