Luca Paolini won the third stage of the Giro d’Italia to take the overall leader’s pink jersey following a 222km ride from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea, Italy, on Monday.
In a bunch sprint for second place, former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans edged out reigning Giro champion Ryder Hesjedal as the overall favorites finished in a small group 16 seconds back.
In his first ever Giro at the age of 36, Paolini took over the leader’s jersey from countryman Salvatore Puccio of Sky Pro Cycling, who was distanced on the final climb.
The Katusha rider now leads from reigning Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins by 17 seconds, with the latter’s Sky teammate Rigoberto Uran third on the same time as his team leader.
For Paolini, who won a stage on the 2006 Vuelta a Espana, it was an extra-special day.
“I had to wait until I was 36 to ride in the Giro. For one reason or another I’d never been on the starting line,” Paolini said. “I really went for this victory. I raced like it was a Classic and everything happened as I’d have hoped. I struggled on the last climb, which was climbed very fast, I gave my all and then I had a great descent. After our good team time trial, I knew I would have the pink jersey if I won. I could take that pleasure as I crossed the line.”
The big winners were Evans and Hesjedal, who needed to make up time after losing chunks in Sunday’s team time trial.
Australian Evans took a 12 second bonus for finishing second, with Canada’s Hesjedal picking up 8 seconds.
Hesjedal is now seventh overall, 34 seconds back, with Evans another 8 seconds behind that. Vincenzo Nibali is fifth, 31 seconds back.
The Canadian was the main protagonist in an exciting end to the stage.
About 20km from home, Hesjedal’s Garmin-Sharp team upped the pace on a tough gradient, before their team leader sprung a surprise attack on the final climb.
Nibali’s Astana team took up the chase and reeled in Hesjedal, but the reigning champion kept the pressure up on the descent, before Paolini burst clear.
Hesjedal’s initial attack had momentarily dropped Evans, but the BMC rider recovered and by the end he was the main winner among the overall contenders.
Wiggins finished comfortably in eighth place.
The big loser on the day was 2011 champion Michele Scarponi, who fell on the run-in, losing a whole batch of time.
Lampre-Merida’s Scarponi was 1 minute, 23 seconds off the lead.
“The two riders in front of me went down, and I instinctively touched my brakes and found myself on the ground as well,” Scarponi said. “Today I lost time, but I won’t admit defeat.”