Wouter Weylandt took the third stage of the Giro d’Italia today in a dramatic day’s racing that also saw Cadel Evans relinquish his grasp on the pink jersey.
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Weylandt (Quick Step) managed to squeeze past Andre Greipel and Graeme Brown to take a surprise win into Middelburg after 224km of chaotic racing.
On paper, today should have been a fairly innocuous bunch sprint for the peloton before heading back to more familiar territory in Italy but it proved to be anything but innocuous with multiple crashes wreaking havoc on the main field.
Tight, narrow corners, street furniture and the strong coastal wind shredded the bunch to pieces within the final 80km.
First of the big names to fall by the wayside was Damiano Cunego. Then Christian Vande Velde crashed, suffering a suspected broken collarbone. It was the second year in succession that the American’s Giro hopes have come to grief in the first week; last year he suffered fractured vertebrae and broken ribs.
By this time, the field was already in pieces, with Lampre’s Alessandro Petacchi forced to do the chasing at the head of the second group.
The final turn in the drama came within the final 20km on another tight, 90-degree left turn. Four Sky riders were among the casualties, including erstwhile pink jersey-wearer Bradley Wiggins but also race-leader, Cadel Evans.
Wiggins was delayed with a stubborn chain and eventually lost some four minutes on the day while Evans pushed on, seemingly unscathed.
Despite a valiant effort to try and limit his losses – he even attacked the chase group alone – he was left to take up the lion’s share of the pacing on the front – having been abandoned by his team-mates – and lost 45 seconds on the lead group.
The result was enough for Vinokourov to slip into the pink jersey, with young Australian Richie Porte tied on the same time. Britain’s Adam Blythe put in a sterling ride to claim fifth on the stage, while David Millar (Garmin) placed 12th and moved to just one second away from the pink jersey ahead of Wednesday’s team time trial in Cuneo. If Garmin can complete the team time trial ahead of Astana and Saxo Bank, we have the prospect of Millar wearing the pink jersey.
With plenty of evidence to suggest that he has a significantly weaker team in this Giro than he would have hoped, the importance of Evans and his BMC team’s performance in Cuneo will be critical to any hope of overall glory.
Giro d’Italia 2010, stage three: Amsterdam-Middelburg 224km
1. Wouter Weylandt (Bel) Quick Step in 5-00-06
2. Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank
3. Robert Forster (Ger) Milram
4. Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre-Farnese Vini
5. Adam Blythe (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto
6. Andre Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia
7. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo
9. Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Milram
10. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana all same time.
12. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at same time
31. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 46secs
51. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 46secs
56. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 1-33
62. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 3-59
63. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 3-59
132. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions at 7-59
139. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky at 7-59
174. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 7-59
Overall classification after stage three
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana in 10-07-18
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Saxo Bank at same time
3. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 1sec
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 5secs
5. Marcel Sieberg (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 7secs
6. Matt Goss (Aus) HTC-Columbia at 10secs
7. Andre Greipel (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 10secs
8. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Milram at 12secs
9. Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone at 15secs
10. Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank at 16secs
14. Ivan Basso (Ita) liquigas-Doimo at 18secs
24. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 43secs
31. Adam Blythe (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-03
43. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 1-40
55. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 4-28
64. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 6-20
82. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 8-43
106. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Transitions at 9-07
180. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky at 13-01
Crosswinds strung out and split the bunch
Christian Vande Velde hit the deck hard and withdrew from the race
Wouter Weylandt took the stage win
Alexandre Vinokourov as new race leader
2010 Giro d’Italia coverage in association with Zipvit