Thomas De Gendt has claimed another memorable victory. The Belgian rider successfully finished off a day in the breakaway on the third stage of Volta a Catalunya. He managed to hold off an elite group and finished solo in Camprodon. During the stage De Gendt had already conquered the KOM jersey and at the finish he had enough advantage left to take over the overall lead too! It’s the third stage win ever at Volta a Catalunya for De Gendt.
The third stage was shortened due to snow on Vallter 2000, the original finish location. The stage started in Sant Cugat del Vallès and finished after 153 kilometres in Camprodon. There were two official climbs on the route: one of the first category and one of the second category. Perfect for Thomas De Gendt. The Lotto Soudal rider established an early breakaway together with Bizkarra, Chevrier, Mas and Torres. De Gendt was the first to cross the top of Coll de Bracons (1st category), already securing the KOM jersey. He had gone solo on the climb, but Bizkarra and Mas could join him again.
A few kilometres before the second and last climb, with top thirteen kilometres from the finish, De Gendt attacked again. His advantage over the bunch increased up to 2’20” until Mitchelton-Scott raised the pace. Mathias Frank, Thibaut Pinot, Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates attacked from the peloton, reducing the lead of De Gendt to half a minute in the uphill final kilometres. A very strong De Gendt managed to hold them off. At the finish he had twenty seconds advantage left over Simon Yates who finished second and Silvio Herklotz who got third. De Gendt takes over the leader’s jersey from Alejandro Valverde over which he now has 23 seconds lead. Daryl Impey is third overall at 29 seconds.
Thomas De Gendt: “The headwind at the end of the stage was lethal, but I survived. The tactics of the GC riders were an advantage for me. Quintana for example stopped pulling in the chasing group. I only had to pedal hard. The closer I got to the finish, the more I wanted to win. The last twenty kilometres were very hard nonetheless. It was only in the last three kilometres that I started to believe that I could win. The road went uphill until one kilometre from the finish and there was that strong headwind. I knew that if someone would attack from the bunch it would soon be over for me, because I had nothing left in the tank. The way I win, is one of the greatest performances of my career.”
“This morning I was twelve seconds behind on GC, just like most of the peloton. At first I kept riding at the front to conquer a place on top ten, even if I would get caught. That’s why I also grabbed bonus seconds along the way. I thought it would be good that our team car would move up in the caravan for tomorrow’s mountain stage. At the end I did start thinking about becoming GC leader.”
“I had no plan for today, but I just felt like joining the breakaway. With the headwind it was actually pretty dumb to be in the break as I had told before the stage. We kept a steady pace, because we knew the bunch wouldn’t let us get further away than three minutes. On the first climb I wanted to take some lead for the descent and that’s why I distanced the others. By crossing the top first I was almost certain of conquering the KOM jersey. It’s always nice to wear a KOM jersey on a race, but it will be a different jersey after all. It’s the third time that I can wear the leader’s jersey in a WorldTour race and that’s something to be proud of.”
“It will be difficult to maintain the leader’s jersey tomorrow, with a summit finish on La Molina. I only have a small lead. As a team we have achieved our goal of winning a stage and we have a nice bonus. I will try to hang on as long as possible tomorrow, but I assume I will lose the jersey. Which wouldn’t be a disgrace considering the riders in this peloton. It will also be difficult to win the KOM jersey here, because there are a lot of points to win tomorrow but as a leader I won’t be allowed to join the breakaway. I’ll see the day after tomorrow what’s still possible in the KOM classification.”