STAGE 3 – GIRO D’ITALIA
After yesterday’s hill-top finish the ante was increased for today’s stage and a summit finish atop Mount Etna, with the peloton taking on the ascent from its most difficult side. A few probing attacks failed early on, before a breakaway of eight riders managed to escape in the opening ten kilometres, with all of the Team Sunweb riders in the peloton.
The kilometres ticked by and the team conserved some energy for the stage finale, sitting safely within the bunch. On the approach to Mount Etna the breakaway still held an advantage of almost three minutes with 20 kilometres to go. A big fight on the the lower slopes of Mount Etna saw the team move forward cohesively as a unit, taking up a good position towards the front of the peloton.
It was a stop-start pace on the climb, which allowed the breakaway to maintain their advantage as the kilometres ticked by. Once the bunch hit the ten kilometres to go sign the rain started to fall and the pace increased which thinned out the group. After being supported by Martijn Tusveld and Sam Oomen until that point, Wilco forged on in the reduced group of around 20 riders.
Attacks flew from the peloton, with some riders escaping although other moves were unsuccessful. After dropping to the back of the group, Wilco timed his attack perfectly and caught everyone by surprise to surge clear. Riding on his own into the strong winds that battered the exposed final three kilometres, Wilco managed to plough on and took a strong fourth place on the stage and gain some seconds over the other GC contenders. It’s a result that moves Wilco up to fourth place in the overall standings, with Hindley not too far behind in 13th place for the team as well.
“I felt good throughout the stage,” explained Wilco at the finish. “The weather was a bit strange today; it was hot and sweaty in the valley but then on the top it was cold and raining so that also had an impact on the body. It was a crazy climb with all of the lava, it’s quite like Tenerife. Coming towards the finish we saw there was not really one team that was able to control the group on the climb, so it was good to jump and attack and see what happened. It turned out to be a good decision. It’s just the beginning of the race and the last week is really hard, so there is still a lot of racing to go but it’s a good start.”