Paolini Takes Stage 3 of Giro d'Italia and Maglia Rosa
In the opening kms, Fabio Taborre (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), Bert De Backer (Argos-Shimano), Dirk Bellemakers (Lotto-Belisol), and Jackson Rodriguez (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) sallied off of the front. The septet's advantage grew to 6:20 at 50 kms and 6:30 at 72 kms. The escapees' lead maxed out at a little more than seven minutes with about half of the stage ridden.
Sky began to chase the fugitives, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step eventually joined the British squad. At the base of the Category 2 San Mauro Cilento (145 kms), the break was six minutes ahead of the bunch. On the ascent, De Backer was dropped from the break, and many of the premier sprinters in the race, such as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Nacer Bouhanni (Francaise des Jeux), were dropped from the bunch. At the summit, the peloton was 3:42 behind the break.
At the base of the descent, Taborre attacked and dropped his companions. With 43 kms to go, the Italian led the his erstwhile companions by 0:50. Eight kms later, at the base of the Category 3 Sella di Catona (35 kms left), he led the chase group by 1:06 and the peloton by 2:51.
Garmin-Sharp took over at the front. The bunch absorbed the chase group, and Hesjedal attacked with 25 kms left. He caught and dropped Taborre before the bunch overtook him. Behind, maglia rosa Salvatore Puccio (Sky) dropped out of the lead part of the peloton.
Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) attacked, and then Valerio Agnoli (Astana) had a go on the descent. Hesjedal and Paolini joined the Astana man, as did Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). Hesjedal pressed the pace. Behind, the front part of the peloton was reduced to 30 riders. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) crashed with 12 kms remaining, but the Colombian remounted quickly.
With seven kms left, Paolini made his move. He led the pursuit by 0:11 with four kms to go. Blanco led the pursuit, which was disrupted when Robert Gesink and Steven Kruiswijk crashed on a hairpin turn, taking Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) down with them. Hesjedal set out after Paolini, but it was too late. Paolini pointed to his helmet and then to the sky as he crossed the finish line.
Paolini said the following of his effort: "My team car told me that I had a few seconds' advantage, but I knew there was a descent ahead, and I am a good descender. My head was clear, and I descended to the best of my ability. I heard there were some falls, but we were all on the limit on the descent. Eight kms from the finish, I looked back and realized my advantage was big enough to win the stage.
"My father Giovanni was in hospital today for routine surgery. He managed to see some of the stage, and I spoke to him and dedicated the stage win to him. It was nice for me and for him because we are very close."
In the overall, Paolini leads Bradley Wiggins and Rigoberto Uran (both from Sky) by 0:17. Stage 4 will see more stage-end attacking. The 246-km ride from Policastro Bussentino to Serra San Bruno will feature a Category 3 ascent with 40 kms left, and a Category 2 climb with seven kms to go. Who will win? Will the maglia rosa stay on Paolini's back? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!