Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) was ahead of Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) and Kaden Groves (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in the third stage to win in the curtailed sprint.
After his Jayco-AlUla shouldered the burden of shaping the game, Matthews did the job. They were so fast on the two final 40km climbs that many of the sprinters were knocked out, including yesterday’s winners Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victory) and Mark Cavendish (Astana Kazakhstan).
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) finished the race safely and slightly extended his lead at the top of the overall standings by three seconds over Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) in the middle sprint of 10 km from the finish line.
“Honestly, I’m just speechless. What I’ve been through the past few months, and now I’m back with a win for the team. We rode all day today and they were all behind me to win the stage. I have nothing to say right now. This year has been a roller coaster and now we’re in Stage 3 with a stage win. It’s beyond my dreams.”
Jayco-AlUla apparently had a plan to leave as many sprinters behind as possible by setting an intense pace on the final two climbs, which they managed to do.
Even Mads Pedersen, one of the few sprinters who can claim to be as good at the climb as Matthews, was a little far behind him on the last climb and had to dig deep to rejoin on the descent peloton.
That’s probably why he couldn’t get past Matthews in the final sprint, even though he seemed to be timing his moves well after Matthews started his sprint early.
“I heard Pedersen was knocked down on the climb, so I expected him to be pinned down in the sprint,” the Australian explained. “I just knew to go early, catch them and it worked out. .
“I’m just here to race his Giro, to have fun, to enjoy the bike and being with my teammates, being with my team. It was such a team effort today and that win went to the boys.”
It wasn’t just the sprinters who fell behind on the final climb, but also Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates), who finished ninth after an impressive opening time trial. He finished the stage 4-40 behind the peloton, meaning he didn’t appear to be in contention for the pink jersey.
His Emirates Teammate João Almeida was also spooked after crashing on the downhill 15km from the finish, but the Portuguese rider appeared unhurt and was soon back in the peloton.
All this late action comes after a very quiet first 150km.
Team Corratec – Selle Italia teammates Alexander Konychev, Veljko Stojnić hit the road to form a day’s rest and the peloton was in no rush to bring them back.
The race briefly entered the middle sprint, where Pedersen took the win ahead of Arne Marit (Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) and Matthews.
Jonathan Milan (Bahrain Victory) also picked up some points, keeping Maglia Ciclamino despite not appearing in the final.
However, there will be a new wearer of the blue King of the Mountain jersey after Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) sprinted from the peloton and scored top points at both summits.
The Giro continues with stage 4 tomorrow and the late stage 2 climbs could see some GC action and a new pink jersey if the breakout is allowed.