Quick-Step Floors had one clear goal at the beginning of stage 3, as the peloton rolled through the neutral zone: control the breakaway and deliver Julian in a perfect position to fight for the win in Bristol, a starting place for early voyages of exploration to the New World and the place from where Venetian John Cabot sailed out in 1497 to become the first European since the Vikings to land on mainland North America.
Maximilian Schachmann was the first to attack, and when he was brought back by the bunch, Fernando Gaviria tried his luck, followed by Iljo Keisse. All these skirmishes spread panic in the pack, which reacted on the rolling terrain and chased hard to shut down the moves. Even then, things didn’t ease off, other riders giving it a go on Cheddar Gorge, the second classified climb. Eventually, the peloton needed around 60 kilometers to figure out a breakaway, which numbered four men, who were at all times kept on a tight leash by Quick-Step Floors, with the likes of Iljo Keisse and Max Schachmann.
The latter softened up the pack on Providence Lane, before Gaviria – unfazed by the tough slopes – accelerated and made the others dig deep in order to prevent him from sailing away. On the descent, Bob Jungels reeled in Tom Pidcock (Team Wiggins) and remained at the front to make sure no one would go clear on the twisty roads taking to Clifton Down, which was returning on the race after four years.
A monster lead-out of the Liège–Bastogne–Liège reigning champion put Julian Alaphilippe in a perfect position inside the last kilometer, before the Frenchman jumped onto the wheel of Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin) and came around to Dane to power to his ninth victory of a season which he kicked off in February, when he claimed a stage at Colombia Oro y Paz.
“I am very happy, like always when we win. The team was very strong again, working hard from the outset, and this victory wouldn’t have been possible without their help. We attacked several times, and then took the responsibility and controlled the gap to the escapees, before playing it perfectly in the final, where Bob did a brilliant job, setting me up for the win. This result shows that I have good legs after a long break and gives me confidence for the remaining of the race. I didn’t come here thinking of the general classification, but now I am third, so we will see how this goes”, Julian explained at the end of stage 3, which saw him don the points jersey.