Quick-Step Floors lit up the third stage of the Giro d’Italia in a final 10km full of crosswinds to deliver Fernando Gaviria his debut Grand Tour victory and put the Colombian into the race leader’s jersey.
The Belgian team’s GC hope, Bob Jungels, was the main instigator along with Iljo Keisse in pulling six Quick-Step riders in total away from the main peloton as they hit the crosswinds on the Sardinia coast with 10km to go.
The stage had been building up slowly to the possibility of strong winds in the final, with the peloton compacted together just after 20km to go with strong headwinds.
As they turned to have the coast on their right hand side, things suddenly began to hot up, with Quick-Step pulling things apart.
Gaviria wasn’t the only sprinter to make it into the front group, with Italian champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo) in there and race leader André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) also there.
The group quickly gained 15 seconds on the main bunch, but Greipel had to avoid a collision with another rider and was forced to drop off, briefly joining Geraint Thomas (Sky) in pursuit of the front group before rejoining the peloton.
Meanwhile, Quick-Step were burning through their men to pull the gap to over 20 seconds, with Jungels forced to pull the last 2km by himself to ensure he could take as many seconds as possible.
As they made it within the final kilometre, Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) who had also made it across, tried a long range attack, pulling Gaviria with him.
Nizzolo then followed but got boxed out by Max Richeze (Quick-Step) and Haas, allowing Gaviria to sprint free to take his first Grand Tour victory in his debut ride at a three-week race.
There were no significant losses among the GC contenders. Geraint Thomas finished with his Sky teammate Landa, Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in a group that finished 13 seconds behind. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), who was looking to place highly in his first Grand Tour as a leader, dropped 5-22 after a crash in the final 10km.
How it happened
The day began much as the previous two stages had on the island of Sardinia; uneventful and with the peloton happy to let a few riders get up the road.
With the route to Cagliari a relatively short stage at 148km, the group of Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Ivan Rovny (Gazprom – Rusvelo), Eugert Zhupa (Wilier Triestina) were only allowed to gain just under three minutes advantage from the main bunch.
Tratnik was the last to be caught out of the trio, returning to the peloton with 26km remaining and the nervousness beginning to increase with the crosswinds in the back of everyone’s minds.
Approaching the final 15km it was all bunched up as the headwinds held back any attacks, but it was clear what the plan from Quick-Step was as soon they hit the 10km to go section with the crosswinds.
That move setup Gaviria to take his biggest win to date, and puts Jungels in a strong position ahead of the first mountain test on Tuesday.
The peloton will take a rest tomorrow as the travel to Sicily from Sardinia, with the prospect of the category one finish to Mount Etna on Tuesday’s 181km stage four.
Giro d’Italia 2017 stage three, Tortoli – Cagliari (148k)
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step, 3-26-33
2. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
4. Nathan Haas (Aus) Dimension Data
5. Maxmiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step
6 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Bahrain-Merida, at 3s
7 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
8 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 13s
9 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
10 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
General classification after stage three
1 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors, in 14-45-16
2 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal, at 9s
3 Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 13s
4 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
5 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Bahrain-Merida
6 Caleb Ewan (Aus) Orica-Scott, at 17s
7 Roberto Ferrari (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
8 Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension Data, at 23s
9 Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
10 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Team UAE Emirates