Italian Domenico Pozzovivo won the third stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on Wednesday as France’s Pierre Rolland took the overall lead.
AG2R-La Mondiale’s Pozzovivo made a solo dart for home from a seven-man breakaway group about 2km from the finish and held off his charging companions to win by 3 seconds.
Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran took second, with Dan Martin of Ireland in third after a 156.6km stage around Girona, Spain.
Pre-race favorite Alberto Contador finished fourth, but fellow former Tour de France winner Chris Froome gave up 22 seconds on the winner after failing to follow the initial break.
Contador, who is attempting a Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double this year, said he was coming into shape in time for May’s Giro.
“I’m happy, I feel quite good. It’s the last race before the Giro and it’s good that my legs are responding. Now I need to recover and tomorrow will be another day,” the 32-year-old six-time Grand Tour winner said.
A split in the peloton resulted in a frantic finish to the stage as Tuesday’s second stage winner and one of the overall favorites Alejandro Valverde had been caught behind in the second group that lost 30 seconds.
As Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team and the Astana teammates of Fabio Aru, who finished fifth, pushed the pace up front, the lead group started to splinter on the ascent of the Alt dels Angels about 15km from home.
Contador attacked, taking Australian Richie Porte, Pozzovivo, Uran and Aru with him.
Porte’s Sky teammate Froome failed to react and was stuck in a chasing group, from which both Martin and his Cannondale teammate Andrew Talansky managed to bridge the gap to the leaders.
As the seven-man group took turns on the front to try to distance the chasers, Pozzovivo pounced on a brief lull to take off on his own and he had the legs to hold off the chasers right to the finish.
The Italian, who was fifth at last year’s Giro and sixth at the Vuelta a Espana the year before, was fourth overall, 2 minutes, 14 seconds behind Rolland, who came home in the same group as Froome, as did Valverde, who managed to catch the second group on the descent to the finish to limit his losses.
Overnight leader Maciej Paterski of Poland, the winner of the opening stage, lost 1:34 on the winner and was second overall, 1:08 down.
Belgium’s Bart de Clercq was third at 1:16, while Contador was up to seventh, 2:27 down.
Valverde was 11th at 2:36 with Froome 28th overall at 2:46, but both were likely to move up in yesterday’s fourth stage.
It was due to be a first truly mountainous stage, leaving from Tona and arriving at the ski resort of La Molina 188.4km down the road.
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