Giro 2013 stage 3: Paolini wins solo

Italian rider takes over lead with Wiggins in second overall

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

Luca Paolini (Katusha) won stage three to Marina di Ascea and snatched the race leader's pink jersey with a solo attack on the final part of the twisting descent to the finish.

The 36 year-old Italian won alone, with Cadel Evans (BMC) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) taking second and third, 16 seconds behind. Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) finished in the same front group but Salvatore Puccio was not there and so lost the pink jersey to Paolini, who took it thanks the 20 second time bonus. Evans picked up 12 seconds and Hesjedal took 8 seconds, making up for their poor team time trial on Sunday.

The late climb of Sella di Catona was not expected to shake up the race but an attack by 2012 Giro winner Hesjedal forced a major selection with the twisting descent causing several crashes and left just 20 riders up front.

Paolini dedicated his win to his father

Paolini is riding his first Giro d'Italia and took off in pursuit of victory with five kilometres to go.  

"It's incredible to win like that and take the pink jersey as well," he said. "My father was in hospital today for a minor operation and so this pink jersey is for him."    

"I suffered to stay on during the climb and tried to ride at my pace. I knew there was a little climb near the finish and know I can descend pretty well. I went for it."

"I rode as if it was a Classic. We had a good TTT and so I knew I could take pink if I won. I did it." 

How it happened

The riders rolled out of Sorrento under grey skies with a risk of rain at the start and at the finish, 222km down the coast. Fortunately the sun would shine on the race and the riders all day.

Before the start, riders and directeur sportif predicted an intense fight to get in the break, with a super fast first hour of racing, before the move went away. Many also expected Team Sky to let the move go and not defend Puccio's pink jersey in order to save their legs for later in the Giro d'Italia. 

An early break of seven riders got away on the 222km stage from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea

Instead seven riders quickly got away on the circuits of Sorrento before diving down the Amalfi coast. In the move were Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Bert De Backer (Team Argos-Shimano), Dirk Bellemakers (Lotto Belisol) and Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli).

They quickly opened a gap and had a chance to enjoy the twisting coast road and stunning views across the Mediterranean. Their lead reached six minutes after an hour of racing but then stayed there as Team Sky set the pace behind, flexing their muscles and perhaps playing mind games on their rivals.  

The seven riders worked smoothly together as they followed the now flat coast road and passed the stunning ruins of Paestum, with the Omega Pharma-Quick Step also helping Team Sky with the chase.

The first of the two climbs of the stage began after 145km, heading quickly into the Cilento hills. The San Mauro Cilento climb was not difficult but De Backer was dropped, reducing the break to six. Many of the sprinters also suffered on the eight-kilometre climb, with Cavendish, Bouhanni, Chicchi, Gavazzi all going into the red and losing contact.

Up front, the riders in the break sprinted for the mountain points, with Taborre even using his shoulder and head to fight his way clear to accelerate away. However, Wauters was the strongest and was first to the line.  Behind the Team Sky steamroller powered on, reducing the gap to less than three minutes. As a result, the break ran out of steam, morale and unity, with Taborre going clear alone on a rise. He opened a gap of a minute but the peloton continued to chase them down as the final climb loomed.

Wiggins stayed in the front group and moved up to second overall

The Sella di Catona climb started gradually, included a short dip and then kicked up again. Few expected any fireworks, but that all changed with 27km to go, when Garmin-Sharp went on the front and then Hesjedal accelerated away alone. For a few seconds it seemed the race could explode but then the big teams got organised and Astana set the pace and led the chase. Hesjedal eased up and let the front group of chasers catch him. But Puccio was not there and would lose seven minutes at the finish of the stage.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) jumped away to take the mountain points but would lose his blue climber's jersey to Wauters. Straight after the summit, the attacks came again. Valerio Agnoli (Astana) went first and Hesjedal joined him, with other riders going across to them on the fast and technical descent to the coast.

For a while there was no sign of Wiggins or Team Sky but the men in black gradually moved back up near the front. Paolini took advantage as the overall contenders watched each other. He is an excellent descender and gradually opened a gap, giving him time to celebrate his first ever Giro d'Italia stage win and take the pink jersey.

After just three days, the overall contenders have already begun to clash and are already in the top ten overall. Paolini leads Wiggins by 17 seconds, with Rigoberto Uran (Team Sky) third at the same time. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is fifth at 31 seconds with  Hesjedal seventh at 34 seconds.

Tuesday's fourth stage is one of the longest of this year's Giro d'Italia. It is 246km long and includes a gradual 12km climb up to the finish. It could spark more attacks.

Evans brought in the front group for second, just ahead of Hesjedal

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