Enric Mas took the stage win and the overall lead of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2021 with a win on the queen stage up to the summit of Alto de la Reina.
Mas had his Movistar team working hard for him all day with the race being split to pieces on the penultimate climb of the day with former yellow jersey Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) being dropped. Mas’ team-mate, Nelson Oliveira was the last man to work for his leader and he lasted until 4km to go.
The Spanish climber, Mas kicked on with Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Élie Gesbert (Arkéa-Samsic) and Luis Ángel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) with just over 3km to go. The group attacked and counter-attacked each other, dropping Maté.
Gesbert tried to leave his fellow break partners in the final kilometre but was dropped when Lafay and Mas kicked in the sprint for the line.
The win means Mas goes into the overall lead ahead of Lafay and Gesbert with European time trial champion Stefan Küng (Grouapam-FDJ) just over 40 seconds down going into the flat individual time trial tomorrow.
How it happened
The stage started in Torrent with a hilly profile with multiple climbs across the 165km route that finished atop of the Alto de la Reina.
A three-man break went up the road early on with Alex Molenaar (Burgos-BH) along with Txomin Juaristi (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alejandro Osorio (Caja-Rural) but they were caught with around 30km to go by a Movistar led peloton.
The overall leader, Miles Scotson (Groupama-FDJ) was dropped on the penultimate climb of the day, the Otonel which peaked with 25km to go. The peloton was led over the top by Mas.
Scotson started the final climb a minute down on the leading group as he faded. His team-mate, Küng was in that group though as he looks to keep himself in a good position before the time trial.
Oliveira was the last man to set the pace in the leading group for Mas who sat close to the back of the peloton with 5km to go.
The first attack was launched by Gotzon Martin (Euskaltel-Euskadi) which came to nothing. Lafay was the next to kick, followed easily by Mas. Küng brought them back so Oliveira attacked.
That was quickly pulled back. Mas went again with Lafay, Gesbert and Maté with 2km to go. Küng was forced to chase by the others in the second group.
Mas attacked the leaders as they went into the final kilometre but Gesbert and Lafay could follow easily. Maté had to give a little bit more to return to the wheel.
Maté was then dropped as Gesbert upped the pace going into the final 600 metres but Mas and Lafay were sat on the Frenchman’s wheel. Lafay was the first to open up his sprint which saw Gesbert get dropped very quickly.
Mas then kicked around the Cofidis rider to take victory by two seconds ahead of Lafay. Mas now leads the overall standings by eight seconds over the Frenchman, Lafay going into the individual time trial tomorrow.
The stage four time trial starts in Xilxes and takes on a largely flat course of 14.3km all the way to Playa Almenara. There is one short climb that peaks at around four kilometres to go that may have an effect on the result. Küng is expected to take the win but he has over 40 seconds to pull back for the overall title.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2021 stage three, Torrent to Alto de la Reina (165km)
1. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, in 4-11-47
2. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis, at 2 seconds
3. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkéa-Samsic, at 8
4. Luis Ángel Maté (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 29s
5. Gotzon Martín (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 31s
6. Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-Wallonie Bruxelles, at same time
7. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team, at 35s
8. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis, at 38s
9. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
10. Mikel Iturria (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1-33.
General classification after stage three
1. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, in 12-36-22
2. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis, at 8s
3. Élie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkéa-Samsic, at 17s
4. Luis Ángel Maté (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 42s
5. Remy Mertz (Bel) Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-Wallonie Bruxelles, at 44s
6. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team, at 46s
7. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, at 51s
8. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis, at same time
9. Jonathan Lastra (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA, at 1-48
10. Gotzon Martín (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 1-55.