Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria on Sunday finished off a cunning tactical move by his Quick-Step Floors team to win the third stage of the Giro d’Italia and secure the race leader’s maglia rosa.
Gaviria, competing in his maiden Grand Tour, emerged from a small bunch sprint after the Belgian outfit used tough crosswinds to cause a split in the peloton with 10km to race to power over the line in triumph at the end of the 148km ride from Tortoli to Cagliari.
Germany’s Rudiger Selig of Bora-Hansgrohe finished a distant second with Italian national champion Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek-Segafredo third.
It was the 21st stage win by a Colombian on the race and Gaviria’s joy came after two frustrating days of seeing Lukas Postlberger then Andre Greipel upset his plans for a maiden sprint victory.
“I felt bad and was sorry for my teammates, because I’d made a lot of sacrifices to be ready for the start of the Giro, so it’s an amazing feeling, especially after all the hard work the guys put in,” Gaviria said. “All the teams knew the wind would make it difficult in the finale, but we were in front, my teammates were strong and they really went for it.”
On the third and final stage on Sardinia, Gaviria took the maglia rosa from overnight leader Greipel.
Greipel, an 11-time stage winner on the Tour de France, claimed his seventh Giro stage victory when he powered to victory in Tortoli on Saturday, but his first spell in the maglia rosa proved brief. He, too, was caught behind.
“I couldn’t fight for the stage win and to keep the jersey,” Lotto-Soudal’s Greipel said. “It was a good opportunity, I knew I would have stayed in this group, but then the selection [split] was made.”
A three-man breakaway escaped early on and went on to build a maximum lead of three minutes on the peloton, but their bid collapsed with less than 25km remaining when the last remnant of their escape was reeled in.
The run-in to Cagliari looked simple on paper, but with tough crosswinds to negotiate and a lengthy home straight that enticed the fast men of the peloton, nerves began to fray amid fears teams would work to cause splits.
The inevitable finally happened with a little under 10km to race when several Quick-Step Floors riders — including Gaviria, but led by their general calssification contender Bob Jungels, upped the pace and broke away from the peloton.
Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal team battled to close the 20-second gap, but it was futile.
The frontrunners were left unchallenged on the long home straight, with Gaviria making no mistake with an impressive finishing burst that left his few rivals in his wake.
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