At the start of the Volta ao Algarve, Tom Pidcock vowed to “take every day as an opportunity to race” and his Ineos Grenadiers boss Rod Ellingworth insisted that his star-studded squad would “put themselves out there, for sure.”
All that was proven well founded on Friday’s stage 3, as Pidcock and Filippo Ganna helped rip up the script with a late ambush.
With the intermediate sprint at 25km to go carrying bonus seconds, race leader Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) was drawn out along with several other general classification contenders. Ineos chose to leave their two more-proven GC riders – Dani Martinez and Thymen Arensman – behind, as Pidcock was led out by Filippo Ganna, himself a dark horse for the overall title given the final-day time trial.
Cort won the sprint with ease, with Pidcock third behind Rui Costa ( Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), but then something remarkable happened. At first they didn’t quite seem to realise it, but the cobbles and the slight incline had created a gap back to the peloton, and Ganna swiftly returned to the front to prize it open.
“It was [Michał] Kwiatkowski who saw it and said on the radio, ‘keep riding boys’,” Pidcock explained to Cyclingnews at the finish in Tavira. “So we kept riding, and then I had 20k of getting my head kicked in.”
Everyone else was on the same page. As Ganna was taking to the front, Cort exchanged a knowing glance with Tobias Foss (Jumbo-Visma) and the deal was sealed, with Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) the final member of a group that packed strength and commitment in equal measure.
“It was only really strong guys in front, and we went ‘full-full’,” Foss told Cyclingnews. “When you have six of those guys in the front then it will be hard to catch. Everyone was just committed to go full gas to the line.”
Cort added: “Ineos was really keen to keep it going. I was thinking ‘OK, Ganna is there, he’s a big big machine’, so I was also happy to push on.”
Despite remarkably holding a gap of 15 to 20 seconds for much of the run-in, the group was eventually rounded upon by the peloton through the final corner, but not completely cancelled out. Cort produced another vicious acceleration on the 200-metre uphill drag to win his second straight stage, while Ganna stormed in his wake to hang on for second place ahead of Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter Jordi Meeus.
“It was a bit of a shame the bunch caught us there at the finish, but there we go,” Piddock said. “It was good, fun racing. After a relatively dull…
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