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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana Stage 3 – Live coverage


Good day. How do you do?

Welcome to our live coverage from stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. It's a day that should end in a bunch sprint, although there is a testing climb that could tip the race towards the break. So, sit back and enjoy our live coverage for the next few hours. You might as well. It's Friday, so why bother working?

To bring you up to speed on this 176km stage from Orihuela to Torrevieja, we already have a healthy looking break up the road and over the opening 36km they have built up a 2'44 lead over the pursuing peloton. The leaders are:

Héctor Sáez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Manuel Peñalver (Burgos-BH), Julen Irizar (Fundación-Orbea), Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Daniel Viegas (Kometa Xstra Cycling Team, and  Iván Moreno (Equipo Kern Pharma).

The latest update is that after 44km of racing the break have 2'50 over the main field. At the front of the peloton we can see UAE Team Emirates setting the pace. They, of course, have the race leader in their ranks with Pogacar having won on stage 2 ahead of Alejandro Valverde.

Here's the GC standings coming into the race:

1 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 

2 Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott

3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team

4 Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Fundacion-Orbea

5 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain McLaren

6 Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Ineos

7 Ion Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team

8 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Ineos

9 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation

10 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain McLaren 0:00:02

Bit of trivia but Pogacar was three when Valverde turned pro back in 2002.

120km to go

120km to go and we can see both QuickStep and Jumbo-Visma on the front and setting the pace. It's far from flat out at this point but they just want to make sure that the break don't any serious ideas about the stage. QuickStep have Jakobsen here, while Jumbo Visma have stage 1 winner Groenewegen in their ranks. 

Along with protecting the race lead UAE Team Emirates will also be looking to set up Alexander Kristoff in the bunch sprint. The big Eastbound and Down fan was third on stage 1 and will be targeting a finish like today's.

Trentin, who is making his debut for CCC, and John Degenkolb, who is doing the same for Lotto Soudal, are also worth watching for in today's sprint finale. Both riders would dearly love to open their accounts nice and early this year before the pressure starts to mount later in the spring.

And there, near the front of the field is Van Avermaet, the leader of CCC. Tell me has anyone looked as cool, calm and collected in orange since Dennis Bergkamp turned Roberto Ayala inside out to score for Holland in 1998?

110km to go

110km to go and the gap has dipped slightly, and now stands at 2'30. That's simply due to the slight pressure being put on the front by Jumbo Visma and a gaggle of other sprinters' teams. 

There's a hint of cross-wind action out there right now too, as we see QuickStep drag the bunch from right to left and across the road. This could be an issue for some of the riders near the back of the peloton if they're not too careful. 

Lets have a quick scan of the news from this morning. Alberto Contador has compared Mathieu van der Poel to Lionel Messi from Barcelona. Messi, if you don't know, is probably the best football player in the world. You can read that story, right here.

If you could be compared to any Lionel in the world which Lionel would you go for? Lionel Blair? Lionel Richie? Can't think of any other Lionels. 

Some sad news for Foss. The Avenir winner from 12 months ago left the race with a broken collarbone. A blow for the young rider who was riding just his second race with Jumbo Visma. A very talented kid, we wish him a speedy recovery. You can read about him and Gallopin's injury latest here.

Moreno, by the way, is the best placed rider on GC. He started the stage at 1'51 down on Pogacar, so he's currently leading the race in a virtual sense. A reminder of the riders in the break:

Héctor Sáez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Manuel Peñalver (Burgos-BH), Julen Irizar (Fundación-Orbea), Petr Rikunov (Gazprom-RusVelo), Daniel Viegas (Kometa Xstra Cycling Team, and  Iván Moreno (Equipo Kern Pharma).

84km covered so far, and the gap remains at a steady 2'30. We're about 20km from the foot of the only major climb on today's stage. It should cause problems for some of the weaker climbers but they have much time to chase back on that they should all be fine.

The leaders have hit the base of the climb and immediately a split has formed with three riders: Irizar, Rikunov and Penalver going clear. They've already put over two minutes into the rest of the break and we've covered 89km of racing. Back in the peloton and AG2R La Mondiale have started to chase.

The French team have already won a race this year through Benoît Cosnefroy, who won the  Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise at the start of the month. In fact, Cosnefroy was first and second in his first two races of the season. 

Astana have come to the front as well, as they look to protect last year's winner
Ion Izagirre. He currently sits seventh overall. Astana were in the news earlier in the week after leaked report came out regarding alleged meetings between two of their riders and Michele Ferrrari. In the end the CADF did not bring a case to the UCI, and the team and riders in question denied all the allegations that were part of the leaker report. 

The climb continues to do some damage with a number of groups drifting off the back. Pogacar looks more than comfortable at the moment though as he sits behind a clutch of UAE riders. 

Over the top of the climb and Rikunov is first, followed by Penalver and Irizar. There's no time check to the main field right now but it will be interesting to see if the leaders have kept much of their advantage as they take on this rolling section of terrain before the real descent starts. 

80km to go

The three leaders have done really well here. We've 80km to go and they've managed to hold the peloton at 2'34. That's with several teams including Jumbo Visma, Astana and UAE setting the pace. They have a decent head of them before the road flattens out and we head towards the finish. 

Torrevieja. That's where the finish is today. That's also where the Vuelta started last year with that TTT and the flooded road caused that crash that took down Jumbo Visma. 

The finish itself goes through the town and then ends on the far side. The last few kilometres are technical until the last kilometre and a bit as it goes through the city, which after a slight curve left with a kilometre opens onto a broad, well-surfaced, flat, straight boulevard. Our man on the ground, Alasdair Fotheringham also tells us that it's going to be very fast, there's a little bit of a cross-wind but nothing serious. Weather is overcast, and not that warm. A lot of riders are wearing arm-warmers but they'll take those off when the real racing starts. 

Right now the peloton are lined out as they take on a long and technical descent. It's so hard to move up in conditions like this as we see UAE push on at the front for their leader Pogacar, and quite possibly their sprinter Kristoff. 

Out from the lead group has changed to Saez, Irizar and Moreno and we have 46km to go before the expected bunch sprint. There was a general regrouping of the leaders after the summit and that's where this group pushed on. 

45km to go

There's no time gap at the moment but the three leader are tearing down the descent. Suddenly the road flattens out and they're slowed but their intent to push on is clear. 

The leaders have 1'27 at this stage, with 42km to go. While the road descends it's not as hard to keep the gap level but when the road flattens or starts to climb it's almost impossible to keep the bunch where they are. That's the problem now facing the three leaders as they take on board some gels and try and keep their slim hopes alive.

1'31 for the three leaders but their time out front is likely to come to an end in the next 15km or so. QuickStep and Jumbo sit on the front and set the pace, their leadout trains mixing things up like a game of connect4. The entire field is lined out at the moment with 32km to go as the pace continues to rise.

Moreno, who was the virtual race leader earlier in the stage, continues to plough on at the front of the break as UAE once again move up to help with the peloton's chase. 

Just one more fun fact, last time there was a stage here was in 1993, and it was a bunch sprint. Alfonso Gutierrez, the 'pocket rocket' of Santander, won.

27km to go and the lead still hovers at over a minute but the leaders look like a spent force as the turns on the front get shorter and shorter. 

Away from this race, Ian Boswell is going to make his gravel racing debut this weekend. You can look at his race bike, from Specialized, right here.

22km to go and the gap is now at 46 seconds. 

The peloton race under the 20km to go banner as the gap to the three leaders continues to hold at 45 seconds. The sprinters's teams are starting to organise themselves at the front of the bunch but there's still plenty of road between here and the finish. UAE, CCC, Astana, Jumbo and QuickStep are all in the mix.

Another ten seconds off the lead and it's almost all over for the three riders up the road. They've been out there for most of the stage but their day is almost over. 18km to go.

Irizar tries to encourage the other two riders in the break as he comes through and hands out some instructions and a bit of a motivational pep talk but they're losing second after second at the moment. The bunch can see the break up ahead with 17km to go.

The three leaders are still holding on though as they get closer to the centre of town. 15km to go and the bunch might have eased slightly, and allowed the gap to move back out to around 35 seconds.

They go again. The peloton push once more and the gap drops to 22 seconds with 13km to go.

Crash. In the middle of the pack with a handful of riders hitting the deck. Not sure who was taken down in that one but the pace eases as a result.

11km to go now and the three leaders have around 20 seconds left of their advantage. Greonewegen was caught out in the crash but he's now back near the front of the peloton. 

10km to go and even though the leaders have 20 seconds it's not going to be anywhere near enough when the peloton open the throttle. 

9km to go and just like that it's all over for the break. CCC are here and they have Trentin neatly tucked in. There's Van Avermaet with the Italian on his wheel. Mitchelton are also in the mix with Mezgec here.

But it's QuickStep who sit on the front with 7km to go. CCC and Mitchelton are trying to come around the outside but there's still a really long way to go but with such a technical finish all these teams want to be at the front in order to position their sprinters.

Jumbo Visma now show their hand as they come up on the inside right. They have Groenewegen well placed with 5km to go.

Racing towards the coast now and it's straight for the next 2-3kms. Movistar come to the front for Valverde and it's a drag race into the next corner. 

Van Avermaet continues to lead Trentin but CCC are running out of men with 5km to go. Not once single team has complete control though at the moment.

3km to go and Kwiatkowski attacks with an AG2R rider on his wheel. 

QuickStep look to hunt down this dangerous move because these two have a gap. 

The lead is just a couple of seconds but it's stretching the bunch as Mitchelton hit the panic button with 2km to go.

The move has been caught. Just under 2km to go. All the sprinters are still present. 1.5km to go.

Another two tight turns and GVA is second wheel. Groenwegen, Trentin and Kristoff are all there with 800m to go.

QuickStep are back but Trentin is too far back.

300m to go.

It's going to be close as no leadout train is in control. Groenewegen has ground to make up as Contina goes first. 

Here comes Groenewegen. He's coming around his rivals as Mezgec fades.

Groenewegen takes the win. Jakobsen was second on the line. 

That was close but that's two wins in the race for Jakobsen.

Jakobsen came around Groenewegen and it looked like he would take the Jumbo rider on the line but Groenewegen was just too strong and had enough on the line to see off all his challengers. A messy sprint but Groenewegen showed his class.

Let's hear from today's winner:

"It was an easy day but in the final I crashed at around 30km from the finish. The team was waiting for me and I was in a good position to sprint. I had some mechanical problems but it was ok.In the final there was some corners but we stayed in a good position and we stayed together really well. I was really good in the sprint, in a good position. I had some problems with my bike after the crash but it was ok.It feels really good. We have one more chance. Now it's a 100 per cent score in the sprints. The last day is a new chance and we'll be looking forward to it."

You can find our brief report, and stage results here

You can hear from the new race leader Jack Haig, right here.

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