Home favorite Rigoberto Uran retook the overall lead at the Tour Colombia on Thursday after compatriot Sebastian Molano won the 167 kilometer third stage.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome finished safely in a reduced peloton alongside other potential overall contenders including Colombians Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez and Egan Bernal.
Uran had donned the leader’s orange jersey after Tuesday’s opening team time-trial but lost it on Wednesday to the second stage winner Alvaro Hodeg.
“The pace here in Colombia is high, there’s high quality cycling, but when you have six World Tour teams, riders able to hit 60km/h for half an hour, that really increases the pace,” said Uran.
Molano, 24, took over sprinting duties from his UAE team leader Fernando Gaviria after the Colombian pulled out of the day’s stage with illness.
Molano pipped Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and compatriot Diego Ochoa in a punchy finish at Llanogrande.
“I knew that Julian is one of the fastest,” said Molano.
“I was feeling confident because I knew that if they let me get ahead in the final 300-meters it would be difficult to pass me.”
On the final climb of an otherwise relatively flat stage, former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana winner Quintana and Uran, the Tour de France runner-up to Froome in 2017, were amongst the riders that tried to break away solo for victory, but they were quickly reeled in.
Friday’s 144km largely flat fourth stage around Medellin is one of only two to take place under 2,000m.
After that there will be a hilly route on Saturday before Sunday’s finale finishes on the steep Alto de Palmas summit.
That’s where the overall contenders are likely to make their mark.
Froome, racing for the first time this season, says he’s here merely to “survive.” Although Sky have been coy over who there leader is, Froome’s teammate Bernal is the defending champion.
Stage three results:
1. Sebastian Molano (COL) UAE Team Emirates 3hr 42min 52sec
2. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) Deceuninck-Quick Step same time
3. Diego Ochoa (COL) Team Manzana Postobon s.t.
4. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) Astana Pro Team s.t.
5. Egan Bernal (COL) Team Sky s.t.
6. Edwin Avila (COL) Israel Cycling Academy s.t.
7. Miguel Florez (COL) Androni Giocattoli s.t.
8. Juan Esteban Arango (COL) Colombia National Team s.t.
9. Richard Carapaz (ECU) Movistar s.t.
10. Edison Munoz (COL) Orgullo paisa s.t.
1. Rigoberto Uran (COL) Education First 07hr 19min 37sec
2. Daniel Martinez (COL) Education First s.t.
3. Lawson Craddock (USA) Education First s.t.
4. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) Deceuninck-Quick Step at 2sec
5. Egan Bernal (COL) Team Sky 8
6. Bob Jungels (LUX) Deceuninck-Quick Step s.t.
7. Jhonnatan Narvaez (COL) Team Sky 9
8. Ivan Ramiro Sosa (COL) Team Sky 10
9. Chris Froome (ENG) Team Sky s.t.
10. Sebastian Henao (COL) Team Sky s.t.