Sonny Colbrelli battled hard to take a hard-fought sprint victory on stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné 2021.
The Italian launched his sprint around 200 metres from the finish on a tough uphill drag, chasing down Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech) and hitting the front to take the victory.
Colbrelli finally took his win after finishing in second place on both of the previous two stages.
Aranburu took second, with Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) rounding off the podium.
Lukas Pöstlberger held onto the race lead for another day at the end of the stage.
How it happened
The third stage of the 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné looked to be a good opportunity for the lightweight sprinters, particularly those that thrive on an uphill finish.
Raced over 172km from Langeac to Saint-Haon-Le-Vieux in the Loire department of central France, the day started with a long 17km climb, followed shortly after by a 3.5km fourth category ascent.
Following a lump section leading to the biggest climb of the day, the 3.6km Col de Limites, riders then dropped down to the valley floor for a mostly flat run to the final 30km.
After a series of uncategorised lumps in the final, the last ramp was 2.3km at 3.5 per cent to the line, taking the favour away from the pure sprinters.
After the opening two stages went to breakaway riders, the peloton kept a firm grip on the race early on stage three, with just two riders attacking in the opening 10km and immediately being allowed a gap.
Omer Goldstein (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Loïc Vliegen (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) were the two riders to get clear of the bunch, extending their advantage out to four minutes with just over 100km still to race.
A crash early in the stage forced former world champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who would have been a contender for the stage, to retire from the race.
With Bora-Hansgrohe doing most of the pace-setting back in the bunch, the gap tumbled down to around one minute with 60km left to the line.
Finally with around 20km left to race the break was swept up by the bunch and the race ramped up.
Into the final 10km, UAE Team Emirates were riding hard for Alexander Kristoff before Ineos Grenadiers stepped up to keep their leader Geraint Thomas safe from the 4km mark.
Ineos led the bunch all the way into the steepest section of the uphill finish, as Alex Aranburu was the first rider to launch his sprint around 200 metres from the finish, with Colbrelli chasing.
That pair had a clear gap on their rivals, but with a long way to the line it was a tough drag.
Aranburu began to fade 150m from the finish as Colbrelli had enough to catch the Spaniard and push past to take victory after his near misses on the opening two days.
Pöstlberger finished in the bunch to hold onto the leader’s jersey for another day, but now with just two seconds over Colbrelli.
The race continues with a lumpy 16.4km time trial on stage four.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2021, stage three: Langeac to Saint-Haon-Le-Vieux (172.2km)
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, in 3-56-36
2. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech
3. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates
4. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën
7. Carlos Barbero (Esp) Qhubeka-Assos
8. Clément Russo (Fra) Arkéa-Samsic
9. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 12-35-08
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, at 2s
3. Alex Aranburu (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at 18s
4. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 20s
5. Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 23s
6. Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM, at 24s
7. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Ilan Van Wilder (Bel) Team DSM
10. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
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