Yesterday’s fifth place finisher Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT) moved into the race lead at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana today, after finishing in 12th position in the bunch sprint and as the highest placed rider from the general classification, on a day that came down to countback.
With no time bonuses awarded on the finish line, stage placings have become crucial, with Haig able to finish ahead of yesterday’s stage winner, Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), to leap frog the Slovenian into the classification lead.
Mitchelton-SCOTT executed their two-pronged attack well in the final, firstly assisting sprinter Luka Mezgec into position before he powered to sixth place, whilst also looking after Haig and delivering him into the yellow jersey.
Like the previous two stages, a breakaway group formed in the opening kilometres and headed out to a steady advantage, sitting between two and three minutes for most of the stage.
As the race passed the only categorised climb of the day and entered the final 50 kilometres, the group of six halved in size, with just Hector Saez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Julen Izizar (Fundacion-Orbea) and Ivan Moreno (Equipo Kern Pharma) the three riders remaining out front.
Their advantage dropped to under one-minute as they passed the 25 kilometres to go mark, with the race leading team UAE Emirates and sprint teams, Team Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck-Quickstep, heading the chase.
With eight kilometres to go, the day was finally over for the three breakaway riders as the peloton stormed past. Mitchelton-SCOTT worked to keep Haig and Mezgec in a good position into the final three kilometres, with stage placings an important factor for the classification.
Youngster Rob Stannard fought to keep a high pace into the final kilometre, before Mezgec found a gap and opened up the sprint. The tight finish saw Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) claim another sprint victory, with Mezgec taking sixth place and Australian climber Haig, close behind in 12th.
Haig heads into tomorrow’s Queen stage as the race leader but on the same time as the other main classification contenders.
Jack Haig: “To start the first race of the season with a good performance yesterday and to go on to take the jersey today and head into the hardest stage tomorrow in the lead, it really gives a nice confidence boost.
“I hope to hang onto it tomorrow but it will be a hard battle, the field of riders here is super strong.
“The final today was quite tricky, it was super fast and especially the last 10kilometres there were a lot of roundabouts, but again the guys did an incredible job of looking after me. Callum Scotson and Chris Juul-Jensen were really good in the final making sure I was always in good position and Michael Albasini did a massive pull on the front in the final kilometres to bring two riders back.
“It will be hard tomorrow but I will try my best, I am excited and I’m sure the guys will do their best to give me the best opportunity to see how my legs are and go up against everyone. The final climb is only around five kilometres but time wise, it will be quite a long effort, especially for this early in the season but I will give it my best shot.”
2020 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – Stage 3 Results:
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) 4:54:16
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) ST
3. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain McClaren) ST
2020 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana – General Classification after Stage 3:
1. Jack Haig (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 13:16:25
2. Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) ST
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) ST