Elia Viviani misses out
A stage win for Viviani at this Giro seems inevitable as the Deceuninck – Quick-Step star has been on form all season, but with the added prestige and pressure of wearing the Italian national champion’s jersey in his home tour he would have been relieved to take an early win.
It wasn’t to be, despite him crossing the line first.
The decision to relegate the 30-year-old for dangerous sprinting was a big one, taking a stage win away from a national favourite and putting organisers in the firing line for a lot of criticism from Viviani fans.
Stage three culminated in a vintage Quick-Step sprint performance, with the Belgian outfit allowing other teams to lead the peloton until the dying moments as Viviani rode the wheels of his rivals to the line.
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) was overeager after his stage two victory, with the German opening his sprint too early and towing Viviani within range of the line.
Fernando Gaviria found himself too far back in the bunch heading into the final corner and was forced to power his way back to the front, but his huge effort saw him break past rivals and take second, which then became victory when Viviani was relegated.
This will be a bittersweet result for UAE Team Emirates’ Gaviria, as it gives him the win but will not come with the same glory as crossing the line first.
The controversy around Viviani will overshadow the stage and Gaviria will no doubt continue searching for a clear cut stage victory over the next three weeks.
Doomed solo break defines the day
Today was one of those bizarre days of Grand Tour racing where riders just don’t want to commit to a day out front.
Nippo-Vini Fantini-Faizané’s Sho Hatsuyama attacked in the opening kilometre of the race but found himself in a very lonely position as no-one followed from the peloton.
The Japanese rider made his frustration clear as he faced a long day in the saddle without any companions.
High winds at the start of the day and the expected bunch sprint meant teams were reluctant to commit to a day of hard racing with so many stages left before the finish in Verona, so Hatsuyama was allowed a five minute gap with the peloton confident they could close him down.
Eventually Hatsuyama capitulated with 75km left to the line and the bunch were happy to cruise their way in to set up the sprint finish.
This all contributed to a sedate and uneventful day of racing – a stark contrast to the finish-line drama surrounding Viviani.
Windy day made for a sedate pace
Severe winds at the start in Vinci had a major impact on the attitude of the peloton without actually affecting the race.
With strong gusts early in the day, riders and teams refused to commit to a brutal day in the breakaway trying to deny the inevitable with the sprinters’ outfits confident enough to ride a slow pace to the line.
Later in the stage crosswinds picked up and posed potential splits and echelons, but no team wanted to instigate chaotic racing on only the third day.
Then finally a headwind on the final straight left the sprint lead-out trains holding position until the very final moments, with the fast men hiding inside the bunch right to the line.
Despite no real racing being triggered by the winds, they still had a big impact on the shape of the day.
Tao Geoghegan Hart and James Knox lose time
Bad news for the Brits on stage three, as both Team Ineos’ Tao Geoghegan Hart and Quick-Step’s James Knox both fell behind.
Geoghegan Hart came in 1-28 down on the front group, which knocks him out of the top-ten in the first week of his debut Grand Tour leadership bid.
The Hackney-born rider was forced to chase back onto the bunch with the help of his team-mates in the final 50km after an incident, safely making it only to be caught up behind a crash with around 4.5km to the line.
Geoghegan Hart had been the best-placed Ineos rider after an outstanding start in the stage one time trial, and he will no doubt be frustrated about the time lost.
While Knox is not carrying the overall hopes of Quick-Step on his shoulders, the time gaps will still be a blow to the 23-year-old in his debut Grand Tour.
Having taken a general classification top-ten in the UAE Tour and climbed with the best in the Tour de Romandie, it would have been an exciting prospect to see how Knox would fare over three weeks.
But after hitting the deck in a crash, Knox lost two minutes on stage three and will never know how well he could have placed in an incident free Giro.
Let’s hope for more excitement during the stage
It’s hard to deny that the racing on stage three was actually very boring.
The sedate pace, solo break, and flat finish, all set up a long wait for the line for anyone tuned in from the early kilometres.
While uneventful stages are often an inevitability in races has demanding as the Giro, lets hope we don’t have too many days without a fully formed breakaway and at least the outside chance of an escape getting away.
With another sprint stage lined up for stage five and two relentlessly flat days to open the second week on stages ten and 11, we could see some more serene riding before the race is done.
The finish line drama after the line is far removed from the pace of the stage three and an unfortunate climax for the riders involved, so lets hope for more spectacle on the bike and less commotion after the stage.