Past Rás Tailteann stage winner Taco van der Hoorn triumphed on stage three of the Giro d'Italia on Monday, soloing to a highly impressive victory into Canale.
The Dutch Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux rider showed the progress he has made in the five years since landing stage one of the 2016 Rás and finishing eighth overall, going clear early on as part of a seven-man move, building a lead of over six minutes and then pushing clear with the Swiss rider Simon Pellaud (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermic) with approximately 17 kilometres left.
The duo had a mere 38 seconds on the peloton with 10 kilometres remaining and most expected the gap to tumble. Van der Hoorn had more to give, though, pushing ahead alone soon afterwards and increasing his advantage over the bunch back up to a minute. That buffer proved enough to get to the finish, with the 27-year-old crossing the line four seconds ahead of sprinters Davide Cimolai (Israel Start Up Nation), Peter Sagan (Bora hansgrohe) plus the rest of the main group.
“I can’t believe it. I just wanted to be aggressive for the whole Giro,” said an elated Van der Hoorn after securing the biggest victory of his career. “I knew it would be very difficult to win a stage.
“I took my chance but I didn’t believe we’d make it with a one-minute lead going into the finale. But Simon Pellaud rode very hard up the hill. He was tired then and I dropped him and I heard on the radio that I had a lead of 40 seconds. I looked back at one kilometre to go and I started believing I could win. It’s unbelievable.”
The undulating stage saw many riders being dropped, including key sprinters such as Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), but Irish duo Dan Martin (Israel Start Up Nation) and Nicolas Roche (Team DSM) had no such problems. Martin placed 37th and Roche was 63rd, with both finishing part of the bunch led in by Martin's team-mate Cimolai.
Roche is now 33rd overall, 43 seconds behind the race leader Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), with Martin a further 17 seconds behind in 73rd place.
Tuesday’s lumpy stage to Sestola concludes with the toughest finish yet of the race. It sees the riders tackle the category two Colle Passerino climb, a 4.3 kilometre ramp averaging almost 10 per cent in gradient, then a more gradual rise to the line. It appears to be well suited to Martin, who said in recent days that he saw it as the first real test of his form.
He is the designated leader of his team for the Giro and is hoping to build on the excellent fourth overall he took in last year’s Vuelta a España.