Hello there and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live race centre for stage 3 of the Volta ao Algarve. After yesterday's drama on the Alto da Fóia, we're back on flatter ground today for what is expected to come down to a bunch sprint.
As we pick up the action, with just over 100km remaining, this is the situation.
Three breakaway riders have a lead of 2:30 over the peloton. They are:
- Gotzon Martin (Fundación-Orbea)
- Tiago Antunes (Efapel)
- Alexander Grigoryev (Atum general/Tavira/Maria Nova Hotel)
Martin took maximum points at the early intermediate sprint, after 18km, and they've recently dealt with a pair of category-3 climbs. On the Portela da Corcha, after 63km, Grigoryev beat Antunes to the top, but the Portugese rider turned the tables 15km later on the Cachopo.
They were the only two climbs on today's parcours, and we're now heading lightly downhill towards a long run-in that, while still gently undulating, is largely flat.
Deceuninck-QuickStep and Cofidis are the two teams who have been bossing the peloton today. The four escapees had four minutes at one point and it's drifting back up that way again now in the post-feed zone slump.
QuickStep, of course, are working for Fabio Jakobsen, who won the opening stage with a powerful sprint. Cofidis for Elia Viviani, who was well beaten that day but will be hungrier than ever to land a first win for his new team.
The other leading candidates today are Matteo Trentin (CCC Team) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), third and fourth on the opening day. Longer shots include Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Davide Cimolai (Israel Start Up Nation), Cees Bol (Sunweb), Jon Aberasturi (Caja Rural), Roger Kluge (Lotto Soudal), Danny Van Poppel (Circus-Wanty), and Ben Swift (Team Ineos).
While today's stage shouldn't influence the general classification, yesterday saw the first of three big tests for the overall contenders. Once more, Remco Evenepoel startled us all at the top of the Alto da Fóia, winning the stage, taking the leader's yellow jersey, and putting himself in pole position to win the overall title.
The 20-year-old Belgian has already surpassed pretty much every expectation out there but few thought he had such an explosive finishing kick in his locker at the end of a tough climb, in esteemed company. There's nothing, it seems, he can't do.
Staying with Evenepoel, our colleagues at the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad called up Eddy Merckx - with whom Evenepoel is often compared - and the 11-time Grand Tour winner said how impressed he was yesterday, and how he thinks Evenepoel can compete for the Giro d'Italia title in May in what will be his Grand Tour debut. More from Merckx here.
Here's Evenepoel in yellow at the start in Faro this morning. Patrick Lefevere has also flown in, and Cyclingnews' Daniel Ostanek was one of those to grab a word with the QuickStep boss. You'll be able to read his thoughts shortly.
75km to go
Not much happening out there, truth be told. The peloton have digested their lunch and the gap to the three breakaway riders has come down again to 2:30. We have another intermediate sprint coming up in around 10km time.
A reminder of how things stand on GC. This shouldn't change today but there's another uphill finish tomorrow, followed by a 20km final-day time trial on Sunday.
1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-Quickstep - 9:42:15
2. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates - 0:00:02
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation
5. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Astana Pro Team - 0:00:05
7. Amaro Antunes (Por) W52/FC Porto - 0:00:08
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10. Frederico Figueiredo (Por) Tavira Maria Nova Lounge Hotel
A little less pressure on Elia Viviani, given Anthony Perez has just landed Cofidis' second win of the season - and their first on European soil - at the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes et du Var. Over the border in Spain, at the Ruta del Sol, they're heading into the final 10km there.
65km to go
Gotzon Martin takes maximum points once again at the second of the three intermediate sprints. The peloton follow 2:20 in arrears.
Here's the line of Deceuninck-QuickStep riders, with Evenepoel in yellow and Jakobsen in red.
Jakob Fuglsang has just won stage 3 of the Ruta del Sol, triumphing on a technical uphill finish just after Dylan Teuns took a wrong turn in the final 100 metres. We'll have a stage report on the way very shortly.
50km to go
Into the final 50km we go and the gap to our three leaders is down to 1:45.
While QuickStep are flying high in Algarve, Ineos are having a rather miserable time. Geraint Thomas, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Rohan Dennis all lost time yesterday. Here's Daniel Ostanek's story on the latter.
QuickStep continue to set the tempo at the head of the peloton and the gap comes down to one minute, with 42km to go. The trio up front will up the pace now as we head into the final hour but they will know they stand next to now chance here.
Here's our report page for Andalucía
Here's a look at the finale, and it's far from straight forward. There are roundabouts either side of the flamme rouge, followed by a tight right-hander with 400m to go. Positioning will be crucial.
25km to go
25km to go now and the gap is down to 15 seconds. Cofidis are continuing to assist in the chase.
Cofidis need to take this to QuickStep, you feel. Jakobsen looked so strong on day one but QuickStep's top lead-out riders are with Sam Bennett in the UAE. He has Senechal, Lampaert, and Keisse here. Viviani, meanwhile, has the two compatriots he urged Cofidis to sign for him: Simone Consonni and Fabio Sabatini. Leading through that final corner could be the key.
It's a 90-degree left-hander through a roundabout and a central reservation leaves three Trek-Segafredo riders on the deck. Stuyven, Theuns, and De Kort are the riders in question, and Stuyven looks particularly hurt. None of them have got up and back on their bikes yet.
20km to go
Into the final 20km we go and just after that crash the breakaway are caught. As they are, Bruno Silva (LA Aluminios) goes on the attack.
17km to go
Silva is caught as the urgency increases in the peloton. Teams are getting organised and jostling for position.
The Trek riders are back on their bikes. They'll play no real part in proceedings here but will simply roll in to the finish for a more thorough check-up. Good to see no one was seriously injured.
Bora-Hansgrohe have set up shop on the right-hand side of the road. QuickStep are in the middle, and UAE are on the left.
15km to go
And now Cofidis move up on the far left. The pace has just ebbed slightly. Still a fair way to go.
UAE have the front now, with Tom Bohli, Mikkel Bjerg, and Ivo Oliveira providing the horsepower in front of Kristoff.
The sprint will be played on a slight drag, though nothing too significant.
9km to go
Mathieu van der Poel moves up, shouting instructions on the radio. He's working for Alpecin-Fenix sprinter Sacha Modolo.
Bora once again make their presence felt on the right, and Sunweb, working for Bol, tuck in behind. There's a big gap in the middle of the road, with Alpecin, QuickStep, and UAE over on the left.
Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) takes the plunge and dives into that windy gulf in the middle of the road. That's all to take GC leader Miguel Angel Lopez out of trouble.
5km to go
5 to go and it's a messy one, with formations changing all the time. Sunweb have taken over from Bora on the right, CCC have moved up through the middle. QuickStep are still hiding on the right as Lotto Soudal also come through the middle.
UAE take to the front, raise it, and string it out with just over 3km to go
It fans across the road once more and Sunweb drive it forward on the right.
Straight across a big roundabout they go. Two more of them coming up shortly.
Luke Rowe powers Kwiatkowski to the front. Swift not there with them
2km to go now and Sunweb take it up again.
Israel suddenly hit the front as we take the first of those roundabouts. Left-hand turn and it's a gentle one
1km to go
Israel have the front with one rider ahead of QuickStep's Senechal
Senechal takes them into that final right hander!
Sunweb light it up now!
Bol opens up the sprint!
Jakobsen and Kristoff respond
But Bol finishes it off! Bol wins it!
Cees Bol (Sunweb) wins stage 3 of the Volta ao Algarve
Great sprint from Bol. Senechal led through that tight last bend but Sunweb had a rider left in front of Bol, and the lead-out was perfect. The Dutchman had Kristoff in the wheel but held him off with ease. Jakobsen came from behind Kristoff but couldn't get near Bol, and in the end Modolo came through to take second place.
Viviani was well out of it and finished around 7th. He was simply too far back going through that bend.
Let's hear from the winner.
"With the team we made some mistakes on stage 1 but today we really nailed it and I was happy I could finish it off.
"I just followed my lead-out man, Casper [Pedersen], then when I saw the 200 metres to go sign I just went full and I was first to the line."
1. Cees Bol, 2. Sacha Modolo, 3. Fabio Jakobsen pic.twitter.com/5XCb04sgaXFebruary 21, 2020
Here's our report page
That's it from us for today. We'll be back tomorrow for live coverage of stage 4, which finishes atop the Alto do Malhão. Hope you'll join us again then.
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