Mathieu van der Poel powered away from his closest rivals to win the uphill sprint at the end of the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico in Gualdo Tadino on Friday. The Dutch national champion, who rides for Alpecin-Fenix, surged past race leader Wout van Aert in the final meters to make up for his near miss the day before.
“I was thinking about myself, about my mistake yesterday. I was really happy to take the win,” Van der Poel said.
When a breakaway that formed just three kilometers after the start of the 219 kilometer stage in Monticiano was reeled in with less than three kilometers to go, Van der Poel was badly positioned, as he had been the day before when he finished third behind Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe and Belgian van Aert.
This time, Van der Poel had moved close to the head of the pack by the time Zdenek Stybar accelerated away in the final kilometre. The Czech had appeared to be leading out his Deceuninck Quick Step team-mate Alaphilippe, who did not accelerate, creating an instant gap.
Van Aert of Jumbo-Visma gave chase with Van der Poel on his wheel. As Van Aert caught the Czech, Van der Poel pounced.
“I was surprised by the move by Alaphilippe, which was kind of smart,” said van Aert. “But if I still wanted the victory I had to react, and unfortunately I took Mathieu on my wheel, which was at that point a waste of energy.”
Van der Poel, who punched the air as he crossed the line in 5:24:18 at the end of the longest stage of the seven-day race, agreed that he had gained from Stybar’s break.
“Wout immediately reacted, otherwise it could have been dangerous, but I think I did the right thing by waiting,” he said.
“It was a really hard sprint, it went uphill a bit, and after such a long stage today, yeah, it hurt,” he said.
Van Aert leads the overall classification by four seconds from Van der Poel with Alaphilippe third at 10 seconds.
It was only the eighth time Van Aert, Van der Poel and Alaphilippe have started a day’s road racing together but it continued a pattern. Every time the trio have all been in a field, one of them has won.
Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar finished 10th to take the white jersey for best young rider. He sits fifth overall, 20 seconds behind Van Aert.
“I’m happy for the white jersey,” the Slovene who rides for UAE said, adding that he is looking ahead to Saturday’s mountainous 148km stage from Terni to Prati di Tivo.
“Tomorrow’s the hardest stage, and I feel good so we look forward for tomorrow and I hope for good legs.”
Meanwhile, sprinter Caleb Ewan, who started the day in the cyclamen jersey of the points leader climbed off his bike with 98.5km to go.
His Lotto-Soudal team tweeted that the Australian sprinter: “has withdrawn from the race as he has been suffering from mild gastro-enteritis. The decision to abandon was taken in order to not jeopardise his participation at Milano-Sanremo” on March 20.
STAGE 3 RESULTS
|1||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||Alpecin-Fenix||5:24:18|
|2||VAN AERT Wout||Team Jumbo-Visma||0:00|
|3||BALLERINI Davide||Deceuninck – Quick Step||0:00|
|4||HIGUITA Sergio||EF Education – Nippo||0:00|
|5||VAN AVERMAET Greg||AG2R Citroën Team||0:00|
|6||DE BUYST Jasper||Lotto Soudal||0:00|
|7||GARCÍA CORTINA Iván||Movistar Team||0:00|
|8||POGAČAR Tadej||UAE-Team Emirates||0:00|
|9||SERRANO Gonzalo||Movistar Team||0:00|
|10||HOFSTETTER Hugo||Israel Start-Up Nation||0:00|
|1||VAN AERT Wout||Team Jumbo-Visma||14:01:47|
|2||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||Alpecin-Fenix||0:04|
|3||ALAPHILIPPE Julian||Deceuninck – Quick Step||0:10|
|4||LANDA Mikel||Bahrain – Victorious||0:19|
|5||POGAČAR Tadej||UAE-Team Emirates||0:20|
|6||STANNARD Robert||Team BikeExchange||0:20|
|7||ALMEIDA João||Deceuninck – Quick Step||0:20|
|8||HIGUITA Sergio||EF Education – Nippo||0:20|
|9||DE BUYST Jasper||Lotto Soudal||0:20|
|10||KONRAD Patrick||BORA – hansgrohe||0:20|
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini