After two days at the seaside, Tirreno-Adriatico got harder on Wednesday for stage 3, and Groupama-FDJ took the opportunity to be a protagonist with Benjamin Thomas, who remained in front for nearly 200 kilometers. The former French time trial champion was caught in the final before the favourites’ battle and Michael Woods’ victory. Bruno Armirail held on well to take a solid top 20 at the finish.
“Benjamin did a great ride”, Sébastien Joly
Unlike the first two stages, which did not really suit the breakaways, stage 3 of Tirreno-Adriatico featured a nice profile until Saturnia, where a very demanding final was awaiting the peloton. “It was really a difficult stage and the race got really different,” said Sébastien Joly. “Yesterday and the day before, it was pure sprint. Today it rather was for punchers, or even climber-punchers considering how hard it was”. As the team did not have a key rider for this kind of stage, the idea rather was to anticipate the big fight. “We had considered being represented in the breakaway if a good move would go,” added Sébastien. “Bruno tried his luck at first, but it was caught and Benjamin went for it. It was good, and he also did a great ride front”.
Thomas went in the lead with Herman Pernsteiner (Bahrain-McLaren), Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani-CSF), Nathan Van Hooydonck (CCC), Dimitri Claeys (Cofidis), Matthew Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) and Pascal Eenkhoorn (Jumbo-Visma), and he got up to eight minutes on the bunch. The latter started to reduce the gap before the halfway point and even came back just three minutes behind the breakaway at the bottom of the first ascent of Poggio Murella (1.6 km at 11%). Benjamin Thomas chose this moment to go solo at the front of the race, with eighty kilometers still to be covered. “He felt good in this first time up the climb, so he just went”, summarized Sébastien. “When he broke away from the group, the bunch actually paused for a bit. It was a good move. Unfortunately, EF Education First then started to pull for Woods and there was not much left to do. He fought well regardless”.
“The strongest were in front”, Sébastien Joly
The Groupama-FDJ rider put the rest of the breakaway a minute behind him at some point but saw them returning with forty kilometers to go, and he eventually got caught by the bunch fifteen kilometers later. The favourite teams then took position for the anticipated fight on the tough Poggio Murella’s slopes. “If there was a small bunch at the finish, we had thought to go with Anthony, but after the first time up the hill, we realized that it was way too hard for him”, explained Sébastien. “Besides, the climb was done on concrete, not on asphalt, so it really required a lot of energy. In the end, the strongest were in front”. Michael Woods proved to be the strongest of the favourites and outsprinted Rafal Majka for the win after nine more kilometers. Bruno Armirail finished thirty-three seconds later, in eighteenth position, in a group of outsiders. “Bruno did a solid climb”, confirmed Sébastien. “He’s just fifteen seconds off the main group of favourites, which is pretty good.”
On Thursday, the profile will get even harder on Tirreno-Adriatico, with several climbs to be completed in the last sixty kilometers. “As today, the strongest will emerge,” said Sébastien Joly to conclude. “As far as we are concerned, we don’t need to make big plans. We just have to see day by day”.