A huge win for Taco van der Hoorn
Stage three of the 2021 Giro d’Italia was taken by an unexpected winner, as Taco van der Hoorn from Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux took victory from the breakaway.
Van der Hoorn, the 27-year-old Dutchman from Rotterdam, escaped into the day’s likely-doomed breakaway at the start of the stage, eventually riding clear inside the final 8km to secure by far the biggest win of his career.
An unlikely contender for stage victory in the first week, Van der Hoorn is riding his maiden Grand Tour in Italy, despite racing his third season at WorldTour level.
Before his unforgettable stage win in the Giro, Van der Hoorn had just three victories to his name, the last of which came in the 2018 Primus Classic when still racing at Pro Continental level with Roompot.
But this victory will be a huge boost at a pivotal moment in his career, as Van der Hoorn is currently riding on a one-year contract with Intermarché, who only joined the WorldTour this year after taking over CCC Team’s licence, and a Giro d’Italia stage win can’t hurt your chances of a new contract... just ask Alex Dowsett after last year’s race.
The breakaway takes the day on only stage three
The Giro d’Italia is traditionally a prime hunting ground for opportunistic attackers to take stage victories from the breakaway, owing to the brutal climbing courses and the willingness of bigger teams to let stage victories pass by in pursuit of the general classification.
But the breakaway chances normally fall in the second half of the race as the enthusiasm and energy levels start to dwindle after some tough racing.
In this year’s Giro however, the break only had to wait until day three to take their first victory.
It was an eight-rider group that escaped the peloton early in the stage to set the pace, with Vincenzo Albanese (EOLO-Kometa) going clear for the second consecutive day to chase mountain points, while Van der Hoorn also joined stage hunter Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-Citroën) in the move.
The breakaway survived until inside the final 10km, with Van der Hoorn launching his last-ditch effort 8km from the line as the peloton surged behind.
Van der Hoorn’s hopes diminished further as he was being chased by a highly motivated Guilio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Tony Gallopin (Ag2r-Citroën), who offered a further target for the peloton to chase.
But into the final kilometre, it became clear the the sprint teams had mistimed their pursuit, as Van der Hoorn hit the final straight with just enough of an advantage.
By the finish, Van der Hoorn had just four seconds over the sprinters, but it was enough to take a huge underdog victory.
Intermarché finally deliver at WorldTour level
Since joining the WorldTour at the start of the season, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux have been almost anonymous in the biggest races.
The Belgian squad, who previously raced at ProTeam level, took over the WorldTour licence from the folding CCC Team at the end of 2020.
While the team has a few recognisable names, including former Team Sky sprinter Danny van Poppel and GC contender Louis Meintjes, the team hadn’t taken a single victory before stage three of the Giro.
Intermarché were in desperate need of victory, both to keep the sponsors happy but also for the riders themselves, who must have been feeling the motivation falter after five months without making a ripple amongst the WorldTour teams.
This first victory couldn’t have been bigger, winning a Grand Tour stage in their first three-week race since stepping up, and thanks to Van der Hoorn’s breakaway antics it’s a win that will live on in the memory.
Sprinters survive the climbs but denied the stage
The challenging parcours on stage three looked to favour the versatile sprinters, with Peter Sagan at the forefront of the favourites before the start.
But there was also a chance for the sprinters, if they could make it over the tough climbs in the second half of the stage.
With the final climb finished, a bunch sprint looked to be inevitable as the likes of Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) all holding onto the peloton after struggling earlier in the day.
The final result will have been hugely frustrating to the sprinters, particularly those most desperate for a win.
Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation) has most reason to be disappointed, as he won the bunch sprint for second place, just four seconds away from the first Grand Tour victory of his career, in front of home crowds.
In his post-race interview, Elia Viviani also made no secret of his frustration, as he seems determined to win in the Giro and get back to his former glories, only settling for fourth place on stage three.
Fernando Gaviria was once again out of position and couldn’t do any better than seventh place, while Sagan can take hope from his third-place finish as he eyes a potential points classification jersey in Milan.
No change in the classifications as climbs continue on stage four
There were no changes in the jersey wearers in any of the classifications, as Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) finished in the bunch to hold onto the general classification lead, while Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) maintains his points lead and Albanese extended his mountain classification advantage thanks to his day in the breakaway.
But further down the rankings there was some movement, as Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) moves up into third overall after Jumbo-Visma’s Edoardo Affini (Jumbo-Visma) dropped out of the GC race.
Meanwhile in the points classification, Elia Viviani moves up into second just 12 points behind Merlier, while Sagan’s third place also bumps him up into fourth, 21 points behind current leader Merlier.
We could see more changes to the classifications after stage fourth, with another day filled with punchy climbs that could catch out some of the GC contenders.
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