Volta a Catalunya: Tadej Pogačar does it again on stage 3 summit

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) once again stamped his authority on the Volta a Catalunya with another dominant victory on stage 3, soloing to the summit finish at Port Ainé to secure a second stage win in two days.

The Slovenian star bided his time in the peloton on the first 11km of the climb as Soudal-QuickStep set the pace before he matched an acceleration from Mikel Landa at 7.5km to go and then pushed on alone shortly afterwards.

Pogačar quickly built an insurmountable gap as Landa and Sepp Kuss (Visma-Lease A Bike) gave chase ahead of a larger group of GC men, with Chris Harper (Jayco-AlUla) also joining the move. By the 5km mark, he was 25 seconds up the road as the next group lay 45 seconds down and from then the only question that remained concerned how great his advantage would be at the finish line.

When Pogačar got there, he’d enjoy a lead of 48 seconds over the solo Landa, who took off on his own 4km from the finish to grab second on the stage. Meanwhile, Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious) rounded out the podium at 1:03 ahead of teammate Wout Poels and Kuss.

"It definitely wasn’t easy; it’s a really hard climb, also on altitude," Pogačar said. "I definitely felt cold at the top and not enough oxygen. Once again, a super good stage from the team. I’m happy to take the win because my teammates worked hard for this win.

"Mikel Landa attacked first, and I went over him because I saw that he had made a gap. I was thinking it was maybe too early, but I got a good rhythm, and then, until the last two kilometres, I could push good. Then I stuffed a bit but managed to finish well."

Pogačar retains the race lead following his easy victory and now holds first place with an extended 2:27 advantage over Landa in second. Third place is occupied by Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 2:55, while Lenny Martinez (Groupama-FDJ) moved up to fourth at 3:21.

How it unfolded

The third stage of the Volta a Catalunya would be another day in the mountains as the peloton traversed two major climbs en route to the often-used summit finish at Port Ainé (18.4km at 6.7%).

With the first-category Port de Toses (4km at 9%) and HC-rated Port de Cantó (25.5km at 4.2%) lying ahead of the finale, it was no surprise to see a major battle for the breakaway over the early kilometres of the stage.

Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek) was the first man to make a move as soon as the flag dropped to start the day, though it wasn’t until the Port de Toses when a move finally got established.

Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Andreas Leknessund (Uno-X Mobility) would be among the major names making the break.

They’d be joined out front by a number of strong climbers including Mauri Vansevenant (Soudal-QuickStep), Juan Pedro López (Lidl-Trek), Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), Iván Sosa (Movistar), Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan), and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Dstny).

UAE Team Emirates pulled in the peloton behind on behalf of overall leader Pogačar, limiting the break’s advantage to a minute over the top of the climb as Tejada, López, and Carthy led the way across the summit.

The move continued onwards down the long spell downhill and in the valley road, though they wouldn’t even survive to the day’s second climb, instead being brought back with 65km still left to run, over 20km from the top of the Port de Cantó.

Visma-Lease A Bike joined UAE Team Emirates in pushing the pace at the front as no further breakaway attempts were made on the climb. However, Tejada did race to the front to add 26 points to his mountain classification haul and move into the virtual lead on 36 points to Pogačar’s 29.

The stage would once again be about the final climb, then, with Pogačar once again expected to dominate as the rest of the big names fought over the podium behind.

The first volley in that battle was thrown at the intermediate sprint following the descent off the Port de Cantó, as Aleksandr Vlasov took three bonus seconds to move level on time with second-placed Mikel Landa.

UAE led the way onto the final climb, setting a pace that dissuaded any long-range attacks to the top. Victor de la Parte (Euskaltel-Euskadi) did give it a go; however, riding off the front at 17km to go before Soudal-QuickStep’s move to the front saw him caught back a handful of kilometres later.

With the Belgian team setting a high pace at the front for Landa, the peloton shattered on the way up the climb as notable names including Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates), and Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) dropped away.

Heading into the final 10km, only 26 men remained in the lead group with Jan Hirt continuing to push it at the front.

The Czech rider stayed in place, dragging the group along until the 7.5km to go mark, at which point Landa became the first man to make his move. The Basque rider was immediately matched by Pogačar, and only Pogačar, as the race leader immediately took to the front and began to ride away.

He was clear at 7km to go while further back, Sepp Kuss made it across to Landa at a deficit of 15 seconds, though that gap would only increase as the riders made their way closer to the top of the mountain.

Landa and Kuss were joined in the chase by Chris Harper inside the final 4km as the trio sought to put time into the remainder of the podium hopefuls. The group wouldn’t remain as a trio for long, however, with Landa pushing on at 3km to go and dropping both Kuss and Harper as he struck out for second place.

He rode solidly to hold off the chasing pack with ease and secure that ‘best of the rest’ slot as Kuss and Harper dropped back to the chasing pack, heading into the final kilometre 45 seconds down on Pogačar and another 30 ahead of the next group on the road.

Enric Mas was the next to try from that chase group, striking out just before the flamme rouge to go solo and secure third on the day.

The Spaniard wouldn’t survive until the finish, however, instead getting brought back inside the final kilometre as Bahrain duo Antonio Tiberi and Wout Poels took Kuss along in a three-man move which separated from the rest in the final drive to the line.

Results

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