Tim Wellens takes solo win on Vuelta a Andalucia stage 3

Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates) won stage 3 of the Vuelta a Andalucía in Alcalá de los Gazules on a day conditioned by the severe winds that forced the removal of the planned final climb to the finish.

The Belgian was part of a group of 21 riders that forged clear early on, and he adapted well to the new configuration in the finale, pressing clear of his companions on what would have been the penultimate climb with 1.3km remaining to win by 14 seconds and claim his team’s third stage win in as many days.

Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) took second place ahead of Samuele Battistella (Astana-Qazaqstan) and Connor Swift (Ineos), while Laurenz Rex (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) – the most aggressive of the escapees in the finale – had to settle for fifth.

With the short, sharp climb of the Alto de Alcalá de los Gazules stricken from the route beforehand, race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) seemed content to take a break from hoovering up victories and grant the early escapees their freedom. It helped, of course, that his new teammate Wellens was a firm favourite to land the fifth Ruta del Sol stage win of his career.

Three minutes or so after Wellens came home, Pogačar couldn’t resist delivering another show of force at the last by leading the peloton up the gentle rise towards the finish to retain his grip on the yellow jersey.

After winning the opening two stages, Pogačar carries a lead of 48 seconds over Santiago Buitrago (Bahrain Victorious) into the weekend, with Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) and Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) both a further four seconds behind.

How it unfolded

With 75 kph winds forecast for the finish, the Vuelta a Andalucía organisation took the sage decision to excise the exposed final climb to Alto de Alcalá de los Gazules from the route, a decision that immediately heightened the odds of the day’s early break going the distance.

Wellens, Latour, Battistella, Swift, Rex, Houle, De Bondt, Díaz and Barthe were joined in the move by Edoardo Zambanini (Bahrain-Victorious), Salvatore Puccio (Ineos Grenadiers), Joel Nicolau (Caja Rural), Erik Fetter, Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa), Liam Slock (Lotto-Dstny), Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech), Ibai Azurmendi (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Felix Engelhardt (Jayco AlUla), Samuel Gaze, Stefano Oldani (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Geoffrey Soupe (TotalEnergies).

The escapees found common cause for most of the day, building a lead of four minutes over the UAE-led peloton, though the group was in perpetual risk of splitting into shards whenever it swung into a crosswind section.

The escapees faced into a stiff headwind after the day’s lone classified climb to Medina Sidonia, however, and that limited attacks on the run-in, while the unfortunate Cyril Barthe (Burgos-BH) suffered the indignity of being blown off the road with 12km or so remaining.

Yet even though it must have seemed like riding through treacle at times, Rex was a repeat attacker in the finale. He first went on the offensive with 11km remaining, drawing interest from gravel World Champion Dries De Bondt (Alpecin-Deceuninck). They were swept up soon afterwards but that didn’t dissuade them from another, more enduring attack with 5km to go.

With the peloton over three minutes down, however, Wellens knew he had the freedom to chase stage victory and he worked to reel in De Bondt and Rex with 3km to go. Just as he did so, however, Battistella, José Manuel Díaz (Burgos-BH) and Hugo Houle (Israel-Premier Tech) jumped clear and as they approached the outskirts of Alcalá de los Gazules, it looked as though the winning move might have ghosted clear.

Wellens, however, was simply bided his time for the short but stiff ascent that led the race into the final kilometre. The incline was supposed to have been the preamble to the final kick to planned finish on the Alto de Alcalá de los Gazules, but now it was the last available springboard.

Wellens wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by, and his forcing splintered the chasing group and pinned back the leading trio. The Belgian caught them with 1.3km to go and immediately pressed on, reaching the flamme rouge with a winning gap and maintaining that advantage to the line.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.

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