The Belgian looks in fine form ahead of his spring Classics campaign
Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet held off sprinters and overall contenders to take his first victory of 2019 on stage three of the Volta a Valenciana
The Belgian hit the front in the final 100 meters and out-sprinted stage two winner Matteo Trentin at the climax of a course perfectly suited to the Classics specialists.
Race leader Edvald Boasson Hagen held on over the long, undulating day and keeps his yellow jersey.
Stage three, the longest of the 2019 edition, was an Ardenne-style day of relentless climbing over 194.3km from Quart de Poblet to Chera.
With the top ten on general classification all within 20 seconds of Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), it was all to play for as the overall contenders looked for a shake-up.
Racing opened with breakaway of 10 mostly Pro Continental riders going clear of the bunch.
The break consisted of Julien Duval (Ag2r La Mondiale), Diego Lopez Fuentes (Equipo Euskadi), Diego Rubio Hernandez (Burgos-BH), Mauricio Moreira (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Raul Alarcon (W52-FC Porto), Vladislav Kulikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Cyril Barthe, Fernando Barcelo Aragon (Euskadi Basque Country), and Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise).
After they drew out a maximum seven minute advantage, the peloton slowly started to wind them in over the closing 100km.
The peloton pulled them well within range with 30km to go, and the break started to collapse on the closing climbs of the day.
With CCC Team setting the pace for their leader Van Avermaet, the break were caught with 8km left to ride.
Movistar worked to keep the tempo high for World Champion Alejandro Valverde, but that didn’t deter a lone attack from Israel Cycling Academy’s Ben Hermans with 5km left to ride.
CCC once again took on the chase over the undulating roads, as Boasson Hagen followed brilliantly on the final ramps, keeping himself in a strong position to hold onto his yellow jersey.
Hermans was caught by a trio of chasers and the peloton quickly came back together
In the final kilometre, Mitchelton-Scott’s Jack Haig took to the front for team-mate Matteo Trentin, with Valverde, Boasson Hagen, Van Avermaet and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) close behind.
Luis León Sánchez took to the front in the final turns but was quickly passed by Van Avermaet and Trentin 100metres from the line.
Trentin looked desperate to pass the 2017 Paris-Roubaix winner but just didn’t have the legs as Van Avermaet held on to take the glory.
Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2019, stage three: Quart de Poblet to Chera (194.3km)
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) CCC Team 05-00-16
2. Matteo Trentin (ITA) Mitchelton-Scott
3. Luis León Sanchez (ESP) Astana Pro Team
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar Team
5. Mike Teunissen (NED) Jumbo-Visma
6. Sergio Higuita (COL) Fundacion Euskadi
7. Ben Swift (GBR) Team Sky
8. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) Bahrain-Merida
9. Ion Izaguirre (ESP) Astana Pro Team
10. Marco Canola (ITA) Nippo-Vini Fantini
General classification after stage three
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, in 9-23-23
2. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 5s
3. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida, at 8s
4. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Movistar Team, at 11s
5. Pello Bilbao Lopez de Armentia (Esp) Astana Pro Team, at 12s
6. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 14s
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates, at 19s
8. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky, at 20s
9. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 23 s
10. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 24s