O’Connor wins solo in Tour of the Alps, as Pinot takes the race lead
Apr 18 2018 08:30 pm CET

O’Connor wins solo in Tour of the Alps, as Pinot takes the race lead
O’Connor wins solo in Tour of the Alps, as Pinot takes the race lead
Image: Tour of the Alps logo

Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data) has won an attractive third stage in the Tour of the Alps. He perfectly made use of a moment of doubt in the group of favourites at the descent of the final climb and finished his solo in the streets of Merano. Race leader Ivan Ramiro Sosa (Androni - Sidermec - Bottechia) lost his jersey to Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) because of a crash in the final descent.

The third stage in the Tour of the Alps presented the peloton with a significantly easier course than the first two stages. Even though the difficult Mendel Pass and Gampen Pass had to be conquered, the stage was, on paper, less exhausting than that of the day before. The riders left Auer around 10:45 am for a 139 kilometre stage that would take them to the finish in Merano. The two categorised climbs of the day were in the second part of the stage, but far enough from the finish to give a breakaway a chance of success. The summit of the Mendel Pass (first category) was set at 48 km of the finish, while the final summit, that of the 3rd category Gampen Pass, was situated 27 km before the line, with the last 7 kilometres being flat.

All in all, it seemed like a day for a breakaway with some significant gaps in the GC after yesterday’s queen stage, and thus it took more than 30 km before an escape group was formed. During these first kilometres, yesterday’s winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) was involved in a small crash, but without any complications.

The four riders that managed to escape were Matteo Montaguti (AG2R La-Mondiale), Stephen Rabitsch (Team Felbermayr – Simplon Wels), Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain Merida) and Manuel Senni (Bardiani-CSF).

However, they were never given a big advantage and the day turned out to be another battle for the GC. Pinot attacked on the Mendel Pass and was joined by Ben O’Connor (Dimension Data), Domenico Pozzovivo and Mark Padun (Bahrain Merida). They joined the morning escape just before the summit with a minute advantage on the group of favourites. Padun and Rabitsch were dropped by then. Pozzovivo won the KOM before Pinot and O’Connor, getting himself into a good position in the mountains jersey classification.

Behind the group, Astana was chasing hard to protect its five riders in the top 13 of the GC, and was joined in the descent by no one less than Chris Froome (Team Sky).

Montaguti got dropped from the leading group as soon as the road started rising again. Pozzovivo and Pinot found each other in the break and worked well together to keep the gap at a minute, helped by O’Connor and Pozzovivo’s teammate Visconti.

Visconti had to pay for his efforts and was dropped with a 32 kilometres to go. By this time Astana had brought back the selected group of favourites to about 40 seconds, being helped in their effort by David de la Cruz and Kenny Elisonde (Team Sky). Just before the summit, Senni too was dropped from the group in the front, while Froome himself set a high pace in the pack where only race leader Sosa, Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Luis Leon Sanchez and Lopez (Astana) could follow. The gap at the summit was 27 seconds, with as many kilometres to go. This time Pinot took the KOM, before Pozzovivo and O’Connor.

The chasers regrouped in the descent and a group of eight riders got back to 15 seconds of the leaders, as Chris Froome gave his all pulling the chasing group closer. Pinot had difficulties following his fellow escapees in the descent, though he still managed to stay with them.

Froome, without teammates, got back to the front before the bottom of the descent, bringing along Bennett, Senni, Lopez, Sanchez, Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates), Michal Schlegel (CCC) and Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale). Race leader Sosa crashed in the descent and lost the leader's jersey.

At the bottom of the descent the pace slowed down and O’Connor attacked. Bennett and Lopez countered and kept the pace high in a chasing group. The Australian in front didn’t care much and slowly extended his lead to about ten seconds with one kilometre to go. O’Connor was on his way to a victory in the streets of Merano and the 22 year old took his first win of the season, and his team’s second this year. Pinot won the sprint of the chasers, before Pozzovivo. Sosa, in his Fuchsia jersey, finished well behind, conceding the race lead to Thibaut Pinot. Pinot defends a lead of 15 seconds to Pozzovivo in the remaining two stages.

By Siebe Kok




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