Giro d’Italia: Luca Paolini attacks into the Maglia Rosa in technical stage three finish
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Monday, May 6, 2013

Giro d’Italia: Luca Paolini attacks into the Maglia Rosa in technical stage three finish

by Ben Atkins at 11:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia, Race Reports and Results
Katusha’s Classics man escapes to take Milano-Sanremo style finish in Marina di Ascea

luca paolini

Luca Paolini (Katusha) took his first victory in his ever appearance in the Giro d’Italia in the third stage of the 2013 race, between Sorrento and Marina di Ascea, as he used his descending experience to escape the broken peloton on the Milano-Sanremo style finish. Having made the gap the 36-year-old Italian veteran was able to use his descending skills to open up a gap over the chasing group, which was up to 16 seconds by the time he crossed the line.

Behind Paolini the chasers were led by one or two riders at a time from several teams, but was unable to close the gap. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) won the sprint for second place, ahead of defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) at the head of a 16-man group.

The 16-second gap, coupled with the 20-second time bonus on the line, meant that Paolini would also take the first ever Maglia Rosa of his career, while Evans and Hesjedal both took back a few of the seconds they had lost in the previous day's team time trial.

“My team car told me I had a few seconds advantage, but I knew there was a descent ahead, and I am a good descender," explained Paolini afterwards. "My head was clear and I descended to the best of my ability. I heard that there were falls behind me, but we were all on the limit on the descent. 8km from the finish, I looked back and realised my advantage was big enough to win the stage.

“We’re demonstrating that we deserve to be in the Pro Tour," he continued, referring to Katusha's initial rejection by the UCI WorldTour committee and its resultant last-minute invitation to the Giro. "We’re a good team, we work hard, and we have directors who leave nothing to chance. Our results are due to the climate of harmony that reigns in this team.

“My father Giovanni was in hospital today, for routine surgery," Paolini added. "He managed to see some of the stage, and I spoke to him and dedicated the stage win to him. It was nice for me and for him because we are very close."

The 212km stage featured a seven-man breakaway from Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM), Bert De Backer (Argos-Shimano), Manuele Boaro (Saxo-Tinkoff), Dirk Bellemakers (Lotto-Belisol), Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela), which escaped in the opening kilometres and built a maximum lead of seven minutes half way through the stage.

The break was reduced to six as De Backer was left behind on the first climb of the stage with around 75km to go then, following the descent, Taborre attacked and left the others behind. The Vini Fantini rider was alone at the foot of the final climb, but was caught with just over 25km to go as Hesjedal went on the offensive.

The Canadian continued his aggression onto the tight, technical descent that followed and, although he was unable to get away, the pace thinned the group to less than 20 riders as it approached the finish. Paolini attacked with seven kilometres to go and, largely because he was of no long term danger to the overall contenders, there was no concerted chase.

Team Blanco tried to pull back the Italian in the final five kilometres, but both Steven Kruijswijk and Robert Gesink came down on a hairpin - also taking out Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) - and the chase lost all momentum.

Seven go early but Team Sky keeps a lid on their lead

The break of the day escaped the peloton before it had finished its two short circuits around the streets of Sorrento. Taborre was the best placed of the group, just 22 seconds behind Maglia Rosa Puccio after the previous day’s team time trial, and was very quickly the virtual race leader. Team Sky was in control of the peloton, but allowed the seven riders to build a lead that reached 6’20” after just 50km. This lead was to gradually rise to 6’30” after 72km, then peak at just over seven minutes at around the halfway point of the stage.

With 98km to go the lead was still 7’06”, but this was the point that Team Sky began to close it down. The British team was soon joined by Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Astana and, with 80km to go, on the approach to the first climb of the day - the 2nd category San Mauro Cilento - it was little more than six minutes.

As the breakaway riders hit the climb with 77km to go De Backer found himself dropped almost immediately, reducing the group to six. The sharp corner at the bottom saw many in the packed peloton forced to stop, but the chasing teams quickly recovered; with 75km to go the gap to the leaders was down to five minutes.

Although the peloton was not chasing hard, with the front of the bunch spread across the road, many of the sprinters - including stage one winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Francesco Chicchi (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia - began to drop off the back.

Pantani tried to attack for the points, but the Colombian was chased down and it was Wauters that led over the top. De Backer was 1’10” back as he crossed over, while Team Sky was still setting a steady tempo, and the gap to the peloton was down to just 3’42”.

The group containing Cavendish, Bouhanni, Chicchi and a number of other sprinters, was 1’40” behind the peloton as it rolled over the climb.

Team Sky was still leading on the descent, but Omega Pharma-Quick Step moved to up to ease the pace a little to help the Cavendish group to catch up. This saw the gap to the leaders move up to almost four and a half minutes again, but the sprinters all managed to rejoin the peloton.

Taborre goes it alone but the favourites are feeling aggressive behind him

As the break hit the foot of the descent, with 55km to go, and the coast road that followed, it was 4’22” clear of the peloton. Taborre then accelerated and quickly moved clear of the other five riders; with 50km to go he was 25 seconds ahead of the others, with the peloton still at 4’17”.

Taborre continued to open his lead over his former companions, opening it up to 50 seconds by the 43km to go point; despite the five chasers seemingly working well together, it was up over a minute shortly afterwards. Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Katusha were now leading the peloton, with Team Sky behind them en masse, and the gap to the lone leader was down to 3’30”.

The lone leader was 1’06” ahead of his five former companions as he hit the bottom of the 3rd category Sella di Catona with just over 35km to go, with the peloton now at 2’51”. The pace in the peloton saw Cavendish dropped again, so Omega Pharma-Quick Step eased up a little which saw Garmin-Sharp team move up. Under the 30km to go banner the chasers were 1’13” behind Taborre, with the peloton at 1’37”.

Garmin-Sharp then began to lift the pace sharply, which quickly saw them pass the chase group. Hesjedal was sitting in third wheel, with Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) sitting behind him. Astana joined the American team on a short descent midway up the climb, pulling a group clear of the front of the peloton that included Nibali, Hesjedal, Wiggins and Scarponi.

Hesjedal then attacked himself, leaving the others behind, and quickly passed the exhausted Taborre. With 25km to go he was several seconds ahead of an expanded group, which was now led by Nibali’s Astana team. The Canadian was back in the fold with 23.5km to go - with almost four kilometres still to climb.

Puccio, in the Maglia Rosa was losing contact with the lead peloton and drifting out of the race lead.

Paolini makes the final descent count as the favourites put pressure on one another

Astana now had four riders lined up on the front of the peloton, led by Estonian champion Tanel Kangert, but it was Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) - clad in the blue mountains jersey - who was allowed to attack over the top with 19.8km to go. The second half of the peloton was now 42 seconds behind the first, with several others - including Puccio - much further back.

Valerio Agnoli (Astana) then attacked with just over 17km to go, with Hesjedal and Paolini jumping across to him and, before they could get too far, they were joined by Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) and Mauro Santambrogio (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) but the group was not far ahead of the chasing peloton.

Hesjedal continued to push the pace on the tight, technical descent, trying to put pressure on his rivals, and the the front part of the peloton was reduced to less than 30 riders. The pace saw Carlos Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) leave the road with around 12km to go, but the Colombian was unhurt and quickly back on his bike.

On the last small rise with nine kilometres to go Astana took over the pace again, with Agnoli trying to keep the pace high. Rigoberto Urán (Team Sky) tried to control it as the road began to slope downwards again with seven kilometres to go, but Paolini attacked past him and quickly got a gap.

Urán pulled away from the front, so Blanco took over, but Paolini was six seconds clear as he entered the final five kilometres; this was up to eleven seconds with four to go, but the descent was beginning to level out a little. The Blanco chase was suddenly halted, however, as lead riders Kreuijswijk and Gesink came down on a hairpin; they also took out Scarponi, who had to wait a long time for a new bike.

Hesjedal then began to chase, with the Astana team with him once more, but Paolini was in the final kilometre now and racing on to take the victory. With 500 metres to go they had him in sight, but they had no chance of catching the Italian as he cruised around the final corner.

Sitting up he pointed to his head, then to the sky as he rolled across the line, with the time bonus also meaning he was taking the pink jersey. Evans led the chasers over the line, 16 seconds later, with Hesjedal third.

Result stage 3
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team @ 16s
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
4. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia
5. Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
6. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha Team
7. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Team Sky
9. Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar Team
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling

Standings after stage 3
1. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky @ 17s
3. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Team Sky
4. Beñat Intxuasti (Spa) Movistar Team @ 26s
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Team Astana @ 31s
6. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Team Astana
7. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp @ 34s
8. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha Team @ 36s
9. Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha Team
10. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky @ 37s


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