ADELAIDE, Australia – Pello Bilbao of Spain won the challenging third stage of the Tour Down Under, while Jay Vine – who was in third place – took a 15-second lead on general classification.
Stage 3, which favored climbers over sprinters, was decided on the short but steep Corkscrew ascent not far from the finish.
Bilbao took part in a breakaway with Britain’s Simon Yates and Vine on the way up the final climb, stayed with them on the descent and came off Vine’s wheel to cross the finish line ahead of Yates.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis, who held a three-second lead on general classification after winning the second stage Thursday, was held up in a crash before the final climb and couldn’t rejoin the leaders.
The 116.8-kilometer (72.5-mile) stage between the suburbs of Norwood and Campbelltown through the Adelaide Hills featured three of the toughest ascents on the tour at Norwood Summit, Checker Hill and, just before the finish, on the notorious Corkscrew which has a gradient as steep as 24%.
The first climb came soon after the start and allowed an early breakaway. Fabio Felline of Italy and Mikkel Honore of Denmark took the chance to put an early gap on the peloton.
They were caught by the peloton after the second climb and the peloton stayed together until the sharp and narrow ascent of the Corkscrew where Vine and Yates first went away. Bilbao, who rides for Team Bahrain Victorious, set out boldly to catch them and showed his proven stage-winning ability. He already has won two stages on the Giro d’Italia.
“Yesterday we were a bit disappointed because the race didn’t go as we expected,” Bilbao said. “Today this was a good day for me, short with an explosive peak and also with a sharp descent to the finish line.
“I had some difficulties to join Yates and Vine. In the last 300 meters I knew it was going to be a bit easier and I just did my sprint and I knew I was going to have good possibilities. They were looking at the overall and I was looking at having my best sprint.”
The race continues with the fourth stage Saturday before finishing Sunday atop 710-meter (2,329-foot) Mount Lofty.