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Jonathan Milan gave Lidl-Trek two wins in one day, taking out stage 3 of the Volta a la Valenciana in Orihuela.
The Italian played off a perfect lead-out from his teammates to take the bunch sprint by two bike lengths over his nearest rival, Arne Marit (Intermarché-Wanty). Giovanni Lonardi (Polti-Kometa) was third.
Milan’s victory came just after his teammate Mads Pedersen won the stage in Étoile de Bessèges.
Alessandro Tonelli (VF Group-Bardiani-Faizané), who has led the race since his first stage escapade, remained atop the general classification by 1:08 over stage 2 winner Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious). Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) provisionally climbed into third after a crash split the peloton in the final 2km.
“This is a really special victory, my first with my new team. It’s a big emotion,” an elated Milan said. “This season is an important one for me so it’s really great to be able to start it in this way.
“Coming into this race, I was really believing in our possibilities as a whole team. We are here with one goal, to bring home results for Lidl-Trek and I think in these first three days we really did that. Winning it was like crowning our teamwork.”
While VF Group-Bardiani-Faizané hold the race lead, they have less firepower to control the race, so Lidl-Trek led the chase to try for the stage win.
“Today we had eyes on us and we knew we had to take responsibility to lead the race. We did such an amazing job together,” Milan said. “We kept the situation under control and even if the finale was a bit hectic we didn’t have any worry. The guys really supported me during the full stage and especially in the final kilometers. They put me in the perfect position for the sprint and I really have to say thanks to them. I am so, so happy to have taken this victory for and with them.”
How it unfolded
The balmy weather continued for the third stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and, with the first really flat finish, it was a day for a solid breakaway making the sprinters’ teams take care of the chase.
Six riders popped off the front in the first kilometres with Guillermo Silva (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Asier Etxeberria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Laurent Gervais (Project Echelon), Unai Esparza Garin (Illes Balears Arabay), Nathan Smith (Novo Nordisk) and Ander Okamika (Burgos-BH) representing in the move.
Lidl-Trek took control of the early pacemaking as the breakaway gained over six minutes, and by the halfway mark their advantage was down to a more manageable three.
Silva led the breakaway through the intermediate sprint in Albatera as their advantage fell to two minutes and change, and again over the only KOM of the day, the category 3 Puerto de Albatera.
With 20km to go, the gap fell under the minute mark but a brisk tailwind made Lidl-Trek work harder than anticipated to close the gap to the six men ahead.
The cars came out of the gap and an acceleration of desperation in the breakaway spat Esparza out the back as the gap fell under 30 seconds with 13km to go.
With 7km to go, Gervais nearly came to grief in a sharp turn and smartly bunny-hopped the curb and managed a gentle get-off, but the incident took some of the wind out of the breakaway’s sails.
With 5km to go, however, the technical run-in helped the leaders maintain a 30-second lead, and the four remaining riders buried themselves for a rare chance to contest for the stage win.
However, a few kilometres later, the peloton got to work and closed them down with 2km to go, even though a crash split the bunch with Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla) out of contention.
Lidl-Trek had control of the front looking to make it two in one day after Pedersen’s win in Étoile de Bessèges, and Jonathan Milan delivered in style.
As he celebrated after the line, there was another bizarre crash right next to him when Matyas Kopecky (Novo Nordisk) nearly ran into a barricade and fell over after taking seventh on the stage.
American Tyler Stites (Project Echelon) scored a fine 10th place for his Continental team.
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