Pello Bilbao claimed his first victory of 2022 on stage three of the Tour of the Basque Country, putting in an impressive uphill sprint that dashed Alaphilippe's hopes of consecutive stage wins.
It looked like Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were going to repeat their win from yesterday as Remco Evenepoel brilliantly led out the French world champion. But a late burst of power from Bilbao was enough to snatch the win from Alaphilippe.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) took third while all the GC favourites survived a punchy day in the Basque Mountains without losing time to race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), who was given the same time as winner Bilbao, looked like the strongest rider in the hills but was ruled out of the sprint by a late mechanical.
HOW IT HAPPENED
At 181 kilometres and with over 3000 metres of climbing, stage three presented the first real chance for the GC contenders to do battle on the steep slopes of the Basque Mountains.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo Visma) took a five second lead into the day over Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and his other GC contenders were all within a minute of the Slovenian.
The day’s break consisted of Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) and Cristian Rodriguez (TotalEnergies), but they never built up a threatening gap over the peloton as Geraint Thomas and Ineos Grenadiers controlled the pace well.
On the first ascent of the day’s hardest climb, the Ozeka, Rodriguez rode away from his breakaway companions in search of mountain points.
The peloton was happy for Rodriguez to lead through the luscious Basque countryside as they prepared for the GC battle on the stage’s two final climbs, the Opellora and Ozeka.
With Polanc and Houle caught, Ineos Grenadiers and UAE Emirates drove the pace knowing positioning would be key on the narrow lanes.
Rodriguez’s gap was decimated from two minutes over the Opellora to 22 seconds over the Ozeka, but the Spaniard had secured the mountains jersey.
Adam Yates used the brutal gradient to launch three attacks creating a highly select group of 16 GC riders, but no time gaps.
With 20 kilometres to go the group began to attack itself, first was Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), then Evenepoel twice, then Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), then Bilbao again.
But in what looked like a repeat of yesterday’s stage, it was Evenepoel who surged to the front to lead out Alaphilippe.
The world champion looked set to win the stage were it not for a superbly timed Pello Bilbao sprint that saw him edge Alaphilippe by a wheel.
In the GC, there were no losses for the main contenders. Yates looked the strongest of the bunch particularly when he briefly distanced Roglič on the Ozeka.
TOUR OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY 2022, STAGE THREE: LAUDIO TO AMURRIO (181.7KM)
1. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 4-35-24
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at same time
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar
6. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies
7. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo Visma
8. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Cofidis
9. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo Visma
10. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF-Education Easy-Post
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo Visma
2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 5s
3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 14s
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 18s
5. Pello Bilbao (Esp) Bahrain Victorious, at 19s
6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo Visma, at same time
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Cofidis, at 20s
8. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
9. Pierre Latour (Fra) TotalEnergies, at 25s
10. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 28s
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