Katusha’s Luca Paolini launched a late attack to win the third stage of the Giro d’Italia and take the leader’s pink jersey.
The Italian rider got himself among a leading group containing a number of general classification contenders, including defending champion Ryder Hesjedal, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans, during the closing stages.
Paolini made his move with six kilometres of the 222km run from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea remaining and opened up enough of a gap to triumph ahead of Evans and Hesjedal.
Wiggins, on the day Team Sky’s team principal Sir Dave Brailsford re-iterated Chris Froome will lead their Tour de France challenge, was eighth on the stage and remains a comfortable second in the general classification, 17 seconds down on Paolini. Wiggins’ team-mate Rigoberto Uran lies third overall, with Astana rider Nibali fifth, 31 seconds behind Paolini. Garmin-Sharp’s Hesjedal was three seconds further adrift. Sky’s Salvatore Puccio had held the pink jersey after Sunday’s team time-trial, but he was gapped by the field on the final climb before the finish and lost over seven minutes. It was also a bad day for Lampre-Merida’s Michele Scarponi, who fell on a damp patch of tarmac on the descent towards the finish and lost a minute after waiting for a replacement bike.
The day’s early breakaway had been made up of seven riders and Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Manuele Boaro (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Dirk Bellemakers (Lotto Belisol), Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli) and Bert De Backer (Team Argos-Shimano) led the peleton by over six minutes at one stage.
But with Sky, Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step taking turns at the front of the main field the gap was steadily eroded, with De Backer the first to struggle on the stage’s first climb.
Taborre refused to accept the inevitable and broke away from the remaining quintet with around 55km to go in a solo bid for glory. But he was overhauled when he cracked on the second of the day’s two climbs as the likes of Wiggins, Nibali and Hesjedal formed a lead group clear of the peleton. Hesjedal twice attacked as he tested the legs of his principal rivals, although on both occasions he was happy to sit up and fit back into the group. Paolini then took the opportunity to stage his decisive attack and take his first stage win in the Giro. The Italian’s win was also enough to see him take the red points jersey from Mark Cavendish, who finished over eight minutes down in 113th on the day. A delighted Paolini, riding in his first Giro, said: “It’s incredible to win like that and take the pink jersey as well. I suffered to stay on during the climb. I knew there was a little climb near the finish and I know I can descend pretty well. I went for it.”