Stage 3 is a 150km ride from Enna, taking in generally rolling terrain for the most part, with the course having been designed for the peloton to erupt on the road to the summit finish of Etna. This was used a few years ago, where Jan Polanc produced a brilliant performance to win, but today’s ascent differs in that is deemed the harder approach.
The race manual labels the climb as 18.8km with an average gradient of 6.8%, which should mean we see the general classification riders stretch their legs and test the water on day three, especially with extended sections between 9% – 11% nearer the summit.
Geraint Thomas will be aware that he does not need to win today’s stage in order to secure the leader’s jersey, with the focus simply being to finish with the day’s frontrunners, knowing full well that he can deliver real damage during this year’s time trialling opportunities. The Welshman is not afraid of riding aggressively though, and has more than enough in terms of a sprint, to put many of his rivals to bed in a charge for the line.
Jakob Fuglsang suits the ascent of Etna well, where he will seek to settle into a powerful rhythm and take advantage of the early losses from his general classification hopes and exercise his freedom in pursuit of stage honours. He has looked impressive this season, aware that he only needs to stay in contention today, before being able to pounce late for the win.
Simon Yates enjoyed a great showing at Tirreno-Adriatico, and if his form has held well since then, knows this stage finale suits him very well. Given the lack of serious climbing during the relatively short 150km stage, the British rider will be able to invest everything into the ascent of Etna, likely making him the most marked man during the concluding moments. If he can time his attack well enough, it will take a concerted effort from cooperative chasers to reel him back on these steep gradients.
João Almeida is neatly placed in second on the general classification, with a one second advantage of Geraint Thomas, providing the 22 year old prodigy with an incredible chance to take the pink jersey after day three. It is difficult to say if he has the ability to follow the moves if the deciding ascent is ridden aggressively, yet a strong headwind or more subdued finale, could hand him a huge career milestone.
Vincenzo Nibali is a local boy and will undoubtedly love the idea of winning atop the island’s iconic landmark. We have not seen the best form from the multiple grand tour winner yet, though his world championship performance was encouraging and this is an easier prospect in comparison to that. Personal motivation is often a big factor in professional cycling, so do not be surprised if the ‘Shark of Messina’ sits atop the volcano by the end of the day.
There is still a strong possibility of a breakaway or late counter attack managing to make it all the way; Atilla Valter, Ilnur Zakarin, Diego Ulissi, Jack Haig, Ben O’Connor, Fausto Masnada and Tobias Foss all capable of taking the honours.
1st Vincenzo Nibali 2nd Simon Yates 3rd Geraint Thomas