Michael Woods took the stage three win and the race lead at Tirreno-Adriatico 2020 after going clear on the final climb of the day, eventually beating Rafał Majka, who bridged the gap, in a two-up sprint.
Woods (EF Pro Cycling) showed that he has exceptional form as he targets the World Championships in Imola in a few week’s time, breaking clear of the GC contenders on the steep slopes of the final climb inside the final 8km.
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Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) did manage to bridge across to the solo Woods, with the pursuing group not able to organise enough to pull them back. In the final two-up sprint, Majka just lost concentration in the final 150 metres with Woods able to kick past him and push to the line unchallenged.
The Canadian now holds the overall lead by five seconds over Majka in second, with Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) in third at 26 seconds and Geraint Thomas (Ineos) in fifth at 30 seconds.
How it happened
The riders started in the town of Follonica and finished in Saturnia over a very hilly 217km course, making stage three the longest stage of this year’s race.
A strong eight-man break went away early doors and got a maximum gap of just over seven minutes but eventually settled around three and a half minutes.
The break was made up of Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-McLaren), Nathan Van Hooydonck (CCC Team), Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ), Matt Holmes (Lotto-Soudal), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè), Marco Frapporti (Vini Zabù-KTM), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma) and Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis).
The peloton took in a very difficult climb twice during the stage in the shape of the Poggio Murella; this climb has been renamed the Muro del Pirata as Marco Pantani once lived on the climb.
On the first passage of the climb the break was paced up by Holmes until Thomas pushed the pace and went clear, continuing his tempo over the top with 70km to go and pulled out a maximum gap over 1-10 over the rest of the break.
Ineos Grenadiers set the early tempo in the peloton but it was EF Pro Cycling who really turned up the tempo, bringing the gap down very quickly.
Thomas was losing time to the rest of the break and decided to sit up and drop back to the other riders with 40km to go as Tonelli lost touch. 14km later Thomas was also dropped by the leaders.
Frapporti used the descent before the Poggio Murella to kick on and leave the rest of the break behind, pulling out a 20 second lead over the chasers and 1-17 to the peloton who were closing rapidly.
Frapporti was then brought back by Holmes, Eenkhoorn and Pernsteiner at the bottom of the Poggio Murella with Holmes pushing the pace.
Behind, Florian Sénéchal (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) attacked early to try and spring a surprise on the peloton but he was slowly brought back by the peloton along with Pernsteiner, leaving Holmes up the road on his own.
Holmes was finally caught with 8km to go as Michael Woods led the peloton up the climb ahead of Geraint Thomas, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), and Wilco Kelderman going clear.
Woods then kicked on as they crested the steepest gradient as he pushed clear.
Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) and Rafał Majka made it back to the chasing riders just behind Woods.
Majka attacked over the top and bridged across very quickly as yet more riders made it back to the chasing group.
Majka and Woods worked together well on the descent as they headed towards the final ramp to the finish in Saturnia with an 18-second gap to the chasers with 1km to go.
Woods capitalised on Majka not watching him and hit the Polish rider with about 150 metres to go and as soon as the Canadian kicked Majka looked defeated.
Behind, it was Kelderman who lead the other general classification leaders in that included Thomas, Fuglsang and Yates with Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) being the riders who lost out.
Stage four is another tough day that takes in a couple of huge climbs before descending into a hilly finish that will be the first major GC day.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2020, stage three: Follonica to Saturnia (217km)
1. Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling, in 5-19-46
2. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1s
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 20s
4. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana
6. Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates
7. Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling
8. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, all at same time.
General classification after stage three
1. Michael Woods (Can) EF Pro Cycling, in 13-19-24
2. Rafał Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5s
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 26s
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 30s
5. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Sergio Henao (Col) UAE Team Emirates
7. Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
8. Tanel Kangert (Est) EF Pro Cycling
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
10. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana, all at same time.