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Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana stage 3 – Live coverage

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Since the beginning of 2020, Remco Evenepoel has completed six stage races and won all of them (he abandoned the Giro d'Italia and Benelux Tour last year). And, since the beginning of his professional career, every time Evenepoel has led a stage race, he has gone on to win it overall. On the evidence of his exhibition on the opening day here, that sequence looks set to continue at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, though today's finale to Alto des Antenas del Maigmó Tibi will tell us more, particularly given the gravel sector near the top.

Today's 155km run from Alicante to Antenas del Maigmó takes in four classified climbs. The category 2 Coll de Rates comes after 65km, followed shortly afterwards by the Fageca (category 3). The category 2 ascent to Benifallim is next up, while the short category 3 kick to Tibi precedes the stiff, 6km finale up the Alto Antenas del Maigmó Tibi.

The neutralised start is at 13:07 local time, with the peloton scheduled to hit kilometre zero at 13:17.

General classification after stage 2

That top 20 has altered even before the start, of course, as BikeExchange-Jayco have withdrawn from the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana after they reported two positive tests for COVID-19 among their team this morning. 

Fabio Jakobsen made it two from two for QuickStep-AlphaVinyl yesterday when he won by the proverbial street in Torrent. The Dutchman is set to be QuickStep's sprinter at the Tour de France this year, and he has started the campaign like a man eager to ensure he retains that place atop their depth chart. The lead-out wasn't quite pitch perfect but it scarcely mattered, such was Jakobsen's strength. "I found my own way and launched myself at 200 from the line," he said. "I have to say I had small cramps in the legs because it was hot and the first race of the season but I'm happy with the win."

The peloton has been flagged away from the start in Alicante and is making its way through the neutralised zone. 

-155km

Stephen Bassett (Human Powered Health) is among the early attackers, but the American is pinned back. The pace is brisk in these opening kilometres and the peloton remains intact. 

-145km

Antonio Jesus Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is the next would-be escapee to try his luck. He's opened a small gap over the peloton, but he will surely need some company if his move is to gain any real traction.

Soto's solo rally lasts a kilometre or so before he, too, is brought to heel.

Evenepoel holds a buffer of 19 seconds over Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) and 37 seconds on Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) after his dominant win on the opening day. Although he claimed that retaining the yellow jersey is his principal objective this afternoon, it would be a surprise indeed if the Belgian didn't seek to deliver another exhibition on the final climb. "On Friday the most important thing is to defend the yellow jersey," Evenepoel said yesterday. "But if we have the opportunity to make it three wins out of three, then why not? We're here to win races." Alasdair Fotheringham has the full story here.

-137km

-124km

Interestingly, while BikeExchange-Jayco went home after their two COVID-19 cases, Movistar have opted to remain in the race despite both Einer Rubio and Juri Hollmann testing positive for the coronavirus after stage 1. Alasdair Fotheringham has an update on the situation here.

-112km

As well as the entire BikeExchange-Jayco team, incidentally, there were a number of other non-starters today: Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ryan Gibbons (UAE Team Emirates), Felix Gall, Jaakko Hänninen (AG2R Citroën) and Tobias Andresen (DSM).

A crash in the peloton sees a number of riders come down. Meanwhile, Van den Berg and Prodhomme have a lead of 11 seconds over the bunch.

-106km

On the approach to the Coll des Rates, Van den Berg and Prodhomme have some reinforcements, as Sven Erik Bystrøm, Dimitri Claeys (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious), Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ), Kenny Molly (Bingoal Pauwels Sauces WB), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) and Jacopo Mosca (Trek-Segafredo) bridge across.

-100km

The nine escapees hit the base of the Coll de Rates (6.8km at 5.5%) with a lead of 25 seconds over a peloton that is being led by Gazprom-RusVelo. 

The Coll de Rates is a favoured test site for the many riders who flock to this corner of Valencia for pre-season training, and Tadej Pogačar dealt his first psychological blow of the new year when he posted his data from his apparently record-breaking time up the climb to Strava last month. Pogačar is not in this race, of course, as he starts his campaign at the UAE Tour. But there may eventually be a direct confrontation between Pogačar and Evenepoel before 2022 is out. The pair haven't raced against one another too often in their careers, but both men are slated to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège and, perhaps more pertinently, the Vuelta a España this year. 

The leading group splits as the gradient bites on the Coll de Rates. Bystrom, Valter, Van den Berg, Tratnik and Prodhomme are in front, while Molly, Polanc and Claeys lose ground.

Valentin Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) has attacked from the peloton and he is picking his way through the dropped riders from the break as he bridges towards the front of the race.

-90km

Lars van den Berg leads Tratnik, Valter and the rest of the break over the top of the Coll de Rates with a buffer of 20 seconds over the dropped riders and almost 50 over the peloton. 

-87km

-84km

Tratnik led the break over the climb of Sa Creueta with a buffer of almost two minutes over the peloton. Ivan Cobo (Kern-Pharma) is at 1:38, caught in the no man's land between the bunch and the break, and he will surely drop back to the peloton in due course. 

Cobo is duly swept up by the peloton, which trails the 11 leaders by two minutes at the midpoint of the stage. 

-76km

-74km

-67km

There was a crash in the peloton a short while ago, meanwhile, and Joey Rosskopf (Human Powered Health), Casper Pedersen (DSM), Ilnur Zakarin (Gazprom-RusVelo) and Matthew Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe) were among those caught up in the incident. 

ALTO DE LAS ANTENAS DEL MAIGMO TIBI ALICANTE SPAIN FEBRUARY 04 LR Sven Erik Bystrom of Norway and Team Intermarch Wanty Gobert Matriaux and Jan Polanc of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates compete in the breakaway during the 73rd Volta A La Comunitat Valenciana 2022 Stage 3 a 1551km stage from Alicante to Alto De Las Antenas Del Maigmo Tibi 1080m VCV2022 on February 04 2022 in Alicante Spain Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

Jan Polanc leads the break on stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. (Image credit: Dario BelingheriGetty Images)

-65km

-55km

The lower section of today's finishing climb will be familiar from the Balcon de Alicante stage of last year's Vuelta a España, where Michael Storer took the honours and Primož Roglič buttressed his overall lead. That comes between -9km and -7km from the finish, however, after the race leaves Tibi and before it comes to that gravel sector in the finale, pictured below.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The escapees are currently on the lower slopes of the category 2 Benifallim, which yawns upwards for 11km at an average gradient of 4.5%. Their lead over the QuickStep-led peloton holds firm at just over 2 minutes.  

A reminder of the terrain still to come. After Benifallim, the race tackles the category 3 ascent of Tibi (5.5km at 5.3%) ahead of the category 1 haul to the finish at Antenas del Maigmó. The gravel sector has drawn the attention but the statistics are bracing too. It's 5.4km in length at an average of 10.1%.

Aleksandr Vlasov's Bora-Hansgrohe squad have joined QuickStep-AlphaVinyl in setting the tempo at the head of the peloton on the climb of Benifallim. Wilco Kelderman is no longer in the race after he crashed in the finale of yesterday's stage and Matthew Walls has now abandoned following his fall earlier on today's stage. 

-44km

-42km

-39km

Bystrom was first to the top of Benifallim, incidentally, ahead of Paret-Peintre and Tratnik. Josef Cerny sets the pace in the peloton on behalf of his QuickStep leader Evenepoel.

-33km

 

-29km

-25km

The descent of Benifallim now complete, the escapees are on a section of road that continues to rise and dip ahead of the penultimate ascent of Tibi. Back in the bunch, Evenpoel sits in 7th place, tucked in behind his QuickStep-AlphaVinyl squad.

Van den Berg and Paret-Peintre are doing their best to breathe some life into this break as they approach Xixona, but the peloton draws inexorably nearer. 1:37 the gap.

-20km

-18km

Tratnik hasn't looked for a turn since the climb of Tibi began, and he drops his companions one by one. Bystrom is first to go, then Barcelo and now Valter is unable to match the Slovenian's relentless pace-making.

The remnants of the break, meanwhile, are being swept up by the peloton, which is exactly two minutes down on the lone leader Tratnik, who climbs out of the saddle. Valter battled to stay within touching distance of Tratnik's back wheel, but now he is losing ground with every pedal stroke. 

Bora-Hansgrohe and Israel Start-Up Nation join QuickStep at the head of the peloton. Tratnik, meanwhile, keeps turning his gear over and keeps extending his buffer over Valter. 

-15.5km

-14km

QuickStep set the pace on the climb of Tibi in the peloton, with delegations from Astana, Bora and Israel Premier Tech lining up behind them. 

-12km

-10km

Valter looked to be drawing closer to Tratnik on the descent, but he is falling back again as the road climbs ahead of the start of the Antenas del Maigmó proper with 5.4km remaining. 

-8.5km

-7.5km

Ineos Grenadiers have put their shoulders to the wheel at the head of the peloton as the speed continues to ratchet upwards ahead of the summit finish.

-6km

-5km

QuickStep are back in front beneath the 5km banner, with Honoré setting the tempo for Evenepoel, 1:04 down on Tratnik. 

Tratnik's expression starts to betray signs of suffering, as does his pedalling, but he is keeping his gear turning over as the gradient bites. 

Back in the yellow jersey group, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) accelerates and quickly opens a gap... Will anyone follow or will they wait for the gravel in the final 3km?

Valverde's former teammate Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) leads the pursuit in the yellow jersey group, which has stretched out but not quite exploded. 

-4.5km

Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) accelerates in the yellow jersey group with Valverde and Pello Bilbao on his wheel. Jakob Fuglsang and Evenepoel are also present, and this yellow jersey group of 15 riders is about to sweep up Valter.

-3km

The gradient is wickedly steep at this juncture and Tratnik is visibly struggling. The pace relents slightly in the yellow jersey group, however, and the Slovenians remains in front, perhaps with 15 or so seconds in hand. 

-2.7km

Fuglsang accelerates on the gravel, with Valverde, Mas and Vlasov on his wheel. Evenepoel looked to have been caught out at first, but he quickly closes the gap in the company of Giulio Ciccone to join up with Fuglsang et al.

-2.2km

-2km

-1.5km

-1.2km

-1km

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) wins stage 3 of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana. He will also move into the overall lead.

Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) takes second at 14 seconds. Enric Mas (Movistar) is third at 21 seconds. Pello Bilbao and Alejandro Valverde come home at 29 seconds. 

Remco Evenepoel crosses the line 8th at 41 seconds and he concedes his yellow jersey to Vlasov. Evenepoel was at the head of the chasing group with Mas, Fuglsang et al beneath the flamme rouge, but he cracked horribly in the final kilometre. He battled to limit his losses as best he could, but he shakes his head as he rolls through the finish area.

Result

General classification

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2022 - 72nd Edition - 3rd stage Alicante - Antenas del Maigmo’ 155,1 km - 04/02/2022 - Aleksandr Vlasov (RUS - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022

(Image credit: Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency)

Aleksandr Vlasov on his victory: "Today was super tough. Also, the final climb was pretty steep but I know this is my kind of climb so I was concentrating on it to save as much as possible for the final and just the last kilometres, I did my best."

Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2022 - 72nd Edition - 3rd stage Alicante - Antenas del Maigmo’ 155,1 km - 04/02/2022 - Aleksandr Vlasov (RUS - Bora - Hansgrohe) - photo Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022

(Image credit: Luis Angel Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency)

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