Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) extended his overall lead in the 2019 Ruta del Sol after winning the stage three time trial in Andalucia.
The Belgian rider entered the stage with three riders, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre, and Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott) breathing down his neck at five seconds back, but managed to trump them all with the time trial win, beating next best finisher Fuglsang by two seconds.
Defending champion Wellens only leads by seven seconds over the Dane though, and will face a tough task in holding onto the lead in the mountains of stage four against Astana, who also have Pello Bilbao in the top-10 overall.
How it happened
The riders face a short but testing course in the stage three time trial of the 2019 Ruta del Sol, with just 16.2km on the cards but featuring a tough climb to the finish.
Of the early riders out on the course, Britain’s Simon Yates set the benchmark time of 22-34, which would remain unbeaten for some time.
The next rider to beat Yates’ time would in fact be his twin brother Adam, who raced through the finish seven seconds quicker.
Again, it would be a benchmark that would hold for some time as riders counted down towards the overall favourites.
Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) was the first of the overall hopefuls to look in contention for the stage win, coming home six seconds quicker than Adam Yates.
That was short-lived however, with Ion Izagirre crossing the line and taking the lead by just a 100th of a second. Jack Haig was unable to keep the pace with the other riders in the top three positions, finishing seven seconds down on Izagirre and dropping to fifth overall.
With just the top-two now out on the course, it looked as though Fuglsang may have the advantage as he blasted to the finish seven seconds up on his team-mate Izagirre.
However Wellens was showing no signs of relenting to the pressure on his overall lead, and powered up the final climb to log a time of 22-25, two seconds quicker than Fuglsang, extending his overall lead to seven seconds with two stages remaining.
The Ruta del Sol continues on Saturday with a tough mountain stage from Armilla to Granada, covering just 119.9km.
Ruta del Sol 2019, stage three: Mancha Real to La Guardia de Jaén (16.2k, ITT)
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 22-25
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 2 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 9s
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
5. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 15s
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 16s
7. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana, at 19s
8. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 22s
9. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, at 26s
10. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo, at 47s
General classification after stage three
1. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, in 10-42-05
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 7 seconds
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana, at 14ss
4. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 18s
5. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at 21s
6. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana, at 28s
7. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Merida, at 39s
8. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Gazprom-Rusvelo, at 56s
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-04
10. Óscar Rodríguez (Esp) Euskadi Basque Country-Murias, at 1-16