Tough mountain top finish in Volta Catalunya stage 3Wed 23 Mar 2016
Stage 3 of Volta a Catalunya concluded with a mountain top finish in La Molina with multiple Vuelta a Espana stage winner Esteban Chaves staying in contention until the final steep slopes to finish in 29th place.
A large group of riders were still together until the final kilometre of the race when the gradient increased. Numerous riders tried to get away but a well-timed late move by Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) saw him take the stage victory.
Sport director Neil Stephens explained how it was a really hard stage and although the team didn't come away with a top result he was pleased with the team's efforts.
"It was a really solid day today," Stephens said. "It was the first time we really had to put things to the test. The boys did a great job. Damien Howson was really good after such a long time without racing to stay up there until the last climb."
"Everyone in their own capacity did a good job and in all reality the only thing missing in the end was in the last two kilometres when the real punch comes down. Esteban is not quite up there at 100% yet, so that's the cards we have got and we will just have to play with them."
With another mountain top finish tomorrow ORICA-GreenEDGE have another chance to fight for a result.
How it happened:
The race departed from Girona, a European base for many of the ORICA-GreenEDGE team. They were treated to clear blue skies and warm weather before heading up to 1750m snow covered mountains in the ski resort of La Molina.
After 15km of racing five riders broke free from the peloton - Johann van Zyl (Dimension Data), Kevin Reza (FDJ), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep), Koen Bouwman (Lotto-NL) and Jan Hirt (CCC) - and shortly after two additional riders in Alex Howes (Cannondale) and Huub Duyn (Roompot) bridged across to make a sizeable lead group.
As the breakaway rode over the first category one climb, Alt de Coubet, their advantage increased to over 12 minutes. Team Sky decided to up the speed in the main bunch and brought the seven escapees back down to a more manageable six minute advantage with 90 kilometres remaining.
Alt de Toses was the next first category climb the riders tackled climbing up to 1750m. The road sides were covered with mounds of snow as Howes and Duyn left their breakaway companions and established a gap heading towards the first ten kilometre ascent of La Molina.
The pace increased behind and the chase group of five riders were soon swallowed up. Peter Weening (Roompot) bridged across to his teammate out front, passing the duo to take the lead on the penultimate climb with Team Sky picking up the pace around one minute behind.
The riders descended once more before climbing back up for the final time to the summit finish. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto-Soudal) passed Weening but was eventually caught with 4km to go. A large group of around 30 riders remained in contention as they jostled for position and tried to break free.
On the steep final slopes, Martin timed his move to cross the line first ahead of Contador, with Chaves finishing the day off in 29th place and 28seconds behind.
It was a tough day all-round for the riders taking on four first catergory climbs at a high altitude. ORICA-GreenEDGE has another chance tomorrow with a summit finish in another ski resort of Port Ainé.
Volta Catalunya stage 3 results:
1. Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) 5:00:27
2. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) +0:02
3. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:02
29. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) +0:28
General Classification after stage 3:
1. Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) 14:08:18
2. Alberto contador (Tinkoff) +0:06
3. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:08
28. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-GreenEDGE) +0:38