Giro d’Italia 2017
With six riders featuring in a 10-man break that formed 10 kilometres from the conclusion of the blustery 148km stage from Tortoli, Quick-Step used their power in numbers to turn the 100th edition of the Giro on its head.
Gaviria powered from slipstream of team-mate Maximiliano Richeze to take a comfortable win on the flagstones of Cagliari ahead of Germany’s Rudiger Selig (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Italian national champion Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Segafredo).
Australian Nathan Haas, the Dimension Data rider who led out the final sprint on the home straight, was squeezed out for fourth place while Argentinia’s Richeze completed the top five ahead of Belarus champion Kanstantsin Siutsou (Bahrain-Merida) and Luxembourg champion Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors).
Greipel came home to take tenth place behind Sacha Modolo (UAE Team Emirates) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) after a splintered peloton crossed the line 13 seconds down on Gaviria.
With 10 bonus seconds pocketed for the win, Gaviria now leads Greipel by nine seconds on GC with Lukas Postlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) third, a further four seconds back.
While the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and the other big-name favourites finished in the main pack, Australia’s Rohan Dennis (BMC) conceded more than five minutes, effectively ending any realistic expectations of a high finish in Milan.
Although its profile looked largely flat and there was not a cloud in the sky, the third and final stage in Sardinia, to the ferry port of Cagliari, was hardly plain sailing for the riders.
From the outset, the Lotto Soudal team of overnight race leader Greipel were a permanent fixture on the front as they controlled the pursuit of a four-man break that zipped clear after just three kilometres.
Jan Tratnik (CCC Sprandi Polkowice), Ivan Rovny (Gazprom-RusVelo), Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data) and Eugert Zhupa (Wilier-Selle Italia) combined to build up a maximum lead of three minutes in the Sardinian sunshine before Italian Sbaragli dropped back to the pack having picked up maximum points in the intermediate sprint.
Zhupa took the second intermediate sprint before Rovny crested the summit of the only categorised climb in pole position. The gap had come down to 1:30 over the top of the Cat.4 Capo Boi before a seemingly relentless queue of riders picked up punctures on the coarse road surface of the coastal road as the race headed west towards Cagliari.
Slovenian national champion Tratnik was the last of the escapees to be swept up with 26km remaining. Increased nerves in the peloton ahead of the expected crosswinds saw a couple of riders – Patrick Konrad of Bora-Hansgrohe and Twan Castelijns of LottoNL-Jumbo – skid off the road in otherwise innocuous incidents.
But the real drama was yet to come – and with 10km remaining, the echelons which everyone predicted formed following some exquisite pressing by Gaviria’s Quick-Step Floors team.
Despite missing the split, Greipel fought back before a near-crash forced the German to unclip and regain his composure. He rejoined a small chasing group featuring Team Sky’s Geraint Thomasbut the damage was done.
The Quick-Step Floors-dominated group pulled 30 seconds clear before a regrouped peloton rallied to reduce the arrears ahead of a final sprint in which Gaviria proved peerless.
After Monday’s rest day, the Giro resumes across the Tyrrhenian Sea in Sicily with the first uphill finish of the race. The long climb up Mount Etna to the Rifugio Sapienza is not the steepest but it could prove an explosive test for the GC favourites, who will look to make their mark. Indeed, win convincingly and Vincenzo Nibali could ride into his home town of Messina on Wednesday in the maglia rosa.
Giro d’Italia general classification after stage 3: 1 Fernando Gaviria (Colombia / Quick-Step) 14:45:16″ 2 Andre Greipel (Germany / Lotto) +9″ 3 Lukas Poestlberger (Austria / BORA) +13″ 4 Bob Jungels (Luxembourg / Quick-Step) 5 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus / Bahrain) 6 Caleb Ewan (Australia / Orica) +17″ 7 Roberto Ferrari (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) 8 Ryan Gibbons (South Africa / Dimension Data) +23″ 9 Enrico Battaglin (Italy / LottoNL) 10 Sacha Modolo (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) 11 Geraint Thomas (Britain / Team Sky) 12 Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Bahrain) 13 Adam Yates (Britain / Orica) 14 Domenico Pozzovivo (Italy / AG2R) 15 Rui Costa (Portugal / UAE Team Emirates) 16 Diego Rosa (Italy / Team Sky) 17 Nairo Quintana (Colombia / Movistar) 18 Kristijan Koren (Slovenia / Cannondale) 19 Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands / Sunweb) 20 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain / Astana)