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When the greats take care of it…

08/03/2023

Let’s face it, the risk of boredom was high! In a stage race there is always one where you know that not much will happen, either because the riders have plenty of other stages ahead of them in which they can make a difference, or because the route winks at the sprinters and everyone has an interest in closing the day with a bunch sprint without too many headaches. Stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico 2023, from Follonica to Foligno, 216 kilometres through the Val d’Orcia and Umbria, looked like one such day, and indeed it was… until 20 kilometres to go.

Let’s point out that today could have been even more monotonous than already expected, since the breakaway’s adventure, featuring Stefano Gandin and Alessandro Iacchi (Team Corratec) along with the brothers Mattia and Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa) – by the way, let’s hope that at the end of the day, in addition to Davide’s Maglia Verde, they brought home a nice photo of themselves to hang up at their house – ran out of steam with 70 km to go, and the fear of a mass procession all the way to the finish line was more than justified.

Then, in the last 50 km, the fear began to build in the peloton that some riders would take advantage of the crosswind to play a little trick on their rivals. This led to an increase in speed and nervousness, the teams organised themselves in blocks, some to protect their GC captains, some to make sure their sprinter could fight for victory. To fully set the race on fire, however, we needed the top riders, and when talking of top riders, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) are usually in the game.

With 15 km to go, Van Aert lined up the peloton which, due to the wind, quickly broke into several chunks: 15 remained at the front, pretty much the whole Jumbo-Visma hornets along with talented riders such as Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) and Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty). Panic broke out at the back, but thanks to the reaction and organisation of UAE Team Emirates, the alarm was lifted with 3 km to go, as the main bunch, exhausted by Wout’s sudden acceleration, managed to catch up with the unexpected attackers. Oh, Van der Poel was initially caught by surprise, but then soloed back to the front group…

So, after watching his nemesis dictate the law for a few kilometres, Van der Poel decided to have some more fun and become Jasper Philipsen‘s last man, a role he has rarely played, but one that someone with his characteristics is certainly fit for. The Dutchman provided a perfect lead-out to the Belgian sprinter, who “only” had to unleash his power in the last 150 metres to secure Alpecin-Deceuninck‘s first win of the season. True, in the end the stage ended in a sprint anyway, but boredom was definitely out of the equation.

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