Much has been made of EF Pro Cycling's marketing prowess at this year's Giro d'Italia, and now they have a result to match, as Jonathan Caicedo won from the day's breakaway atop Mount Etna, holding off the overall contenders as the GC battle erupted behind.
It was perfect weather for ducks as Caicedo dropped Giovanni Visconti, his final companion from the escape, and the heavens opened on the active volcano, the Italian Grand Tour already firing on all cylinders as Geraint Thomas dropped out of GC contention before the climb. By the end of the day, he had lost more than 12 minutes after crashing in the neutral zone at the start of the stage.
Simon Yates was also then dropped on the climb, shipping three and a minutes to Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) who all finished together, with Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) just behind.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step's João Almeida, who finished second in the opening time trial, is the new race leader by the slimmest of margins, having finished just over a minute down on Caicedo, who is now second overall on the same time, the Ecuadorian taking the king of the mountains jersey as a consolation prize.
How it happened
There was action from the off, which set the precedent for the whole day, as Geraint Thomas crashed in the neutral zone, apparently slipping on a discarded bidon from another member of the peloton.
The race slowed as the Welshman got back in before Victor Campenaerts (NTT) and Lawson Craddock (EF Pro Cycling) put in the first attacks of the day, soon joined by four more riders, including Lotto-Soudal's Matt Holmes and Giovanni Visconti (Vini Zabù - KTM).
Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) and Jonathan Caicedo (EF Pro Cycling) then made a quick dash over to fill an eight-man breakaway before the escapees were allowed up the road.
The opening half of the race then passed without incident, but with 70km to go a flurry of mechanical mishaps woke everyone up from their afternoon naps, Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) among those impacted, the young American's chain snapping.
The breakaway's gap crept up to the five-minute mark as the bunch continued towards Etna, a stray dog proving the only obstacle with 35km to go, the peloton parting ways to avoid colliding à la Marcus Burghardt.
Geraint Thomas was then spotted at the back of the peloton, Movistar's Dario Cataldo patting him on the back before the Welshman dropped out the back of the bunch. Trek-Segafredo relented their pace at the front to see if Thomas could get back in, but he had apparently crashed out on the road again, as the maglia rosa Filippo Ganna and Rohan Dennis fell back to shepherd their leader up the climb and try to limit his losses.
Craddock soon dropped from breakaway as the race headed uphill. With 15km to go Matthew Holmes hit out, Caicedo and Visconti chasing, before those two countered and dropped Holmes as well as Bjerg.
Bora-Hansgrohe took over on the front of the peloton to turn the screw, as Matteo Fabbro continued going up the road.
Vini Zabù - KTM sports director Luca Scinto then had a bit of a moment as he asked if he could hand Visconti a bottle inside the 10km, throwing the bidon to the floor after receiving a shake of the head.
With 9km to go Simon Yates was the second British contender for the overall to find himself going backwards, detached from the peloton as Fabbro continued to drive the pace on the front.
Relinquished of team duties at the start of a Grand Tour for what must have felt like the first time in forever, Ineos' Jonathan Castroviejo attacked with 6.5km to go, Bahrain-McLaren's Hermann Pernsteiner the next to go before Lotto-Soudal's Harm Vanhoucke also had a go.
Up ahead, Caicedo put in a ferocious attack to drop Visconti, going off in search of personal glory, as Wilco Kelderman was the next to hit out from the GC group as Jumbo-Visma drove the peloton and the rain started to fall more heavily.
The headwind was halting Caicedo's advance with 3km to go, slowly going backwards as the attacks continued behind, Nibali finally taking his turn as the group continued to be whittled down.
Majka, Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT), Kruijswijk, Fuglsang and Nibali were just ahead of the chasers with 2km to go, before Pozzovivo put in a dig that dropped Kruijswijk.
Castroviejo was then brought back into the fold with a kilometre to go but it was too late to catch Caicedo, who continued Ecuador's love affair with the Giro d'Italia, sailing across the line in his national champion's jersey to claim an impressive win as well as the king of the mountains jersey.
Giro d'Italia 2020 stage three: Enna to Etna (150km)
1. Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Pro Cycling, in 4-02-33
2. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Vini Zabù - KTM, at 21 seconds
3. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 30s
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 39s
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, 51s
6. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Ineos
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT, all at same time
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 56s
31. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 4-22
69. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos, at 12-19
General classification after stage three
1. João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, in 7-44-25
2. Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu) EF Pro Cycling, at same time
3. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 37 seconds
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb, at 42s
5. Harm Vanhoucke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at 53s
6. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 55s
7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) NTT, at 59s
8. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-11
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-13
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
25. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3-46
53. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos, at 11-17
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