The general classification is overturned, proclaiming BORA – hansgrohe rider its new leader.
Starting in Kraśnik and finishing in Przemyśl, the 237.9km third stage proved to be as hard-fought as promised, with numerous attacks.
On his 25th birthday, Sergio Higuita was not intimidated by the challenging Przemysl climb and, with a little more than 200 metres remaining to the finish line, he attacked, leaving Pello BIlbao (Bahrain Victorious) and Quinten Hermans (Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert) respectively in second and third place.
“Today it was a special day for me as the victory coincided with my birthday. I couldn’t expect a more beautiful present,” confessed Sergio Higuita right after the podium ceremony. “It was a long stage but we stayed focused all the time and went for the win. The team worked really well. The climb of Przemysl is really hard and you have to know how to use your strength very well, especially in the final part which leaves no breathing before the final sprint. Now we will try to defend the jersey in the coming days. The time trial will be a crucial moment of the race as you have to tackle it to the maximum from start to finish. With the team we will now do our best to defend the leadership.”
The result was decided in the last 1,700 metres, when the peloton turned left and faced the climb. Teunissen tried to take off from the bottom of the climb, but INEOS Grenadiers set a high pace and kept the Dutch rider under control. Once the Jumbo Visma rider was caught, the top riders began to move up on the steepest sections of the climb, with gradients of 13-15%. A selected group tackled the 90-degree turn with 200 metres to go, when Higuita opened the sprint ahead of Pello Bilbao and Quentin Hermans.
The General Classification inevitably underwent a shake-up and now sees the stage winner wearing the ENERGA yellow jersey followed by Pello Bilbao, 2nd at 4″, and Quinten Hermans, 3rd with 6″.
“This climb is brutal, somewhat reminiscent of the Muur de Huy. Last year I attacked at the beginning of the climb but it didn’t work out, so this year I changed tactics. I knew it was important to give everything in the final part before the bend to then have a chance of victory. I came close and if there is a chance I will try again. It’s a good year for me and for the team. We already won a stage here yesterday. We will try again in the next few days.” stated Quinten Hermanns who rounded up today’s podium.
The final 50km included three climbs – one third-category and two second-category and the gruelling and already iconic Przemyśl finish, first introduced in 2021 and won by the then General Classification winner, Joao Almeida.
After a series of attacks in the run-up to the three mountain prizes, won one after the other by Michel Hessmann (TJV), the peloton came back together and caught the day’s breakaway including Matthias Brandle (IPT), Hessmann, Michel (Tjv), Edward Theuns (TFS), and Piotr Brożyna (POL) who reached a maximum advantage of 6′ 30″ during the course of the stage.
“Today I was the last rider to bridge the breakaway. At the beginning we didn’t overdo it and we arrived near the climbs with a good lead on the bunch. I saw that I was strong on the climbs and tried to take the KOM jersey. I gave it my all and it was a good day. The Przemysl climb impressed me with its gradient. It’s a nice ascent, an iconic finish, although honestly I had little time to enjoy the scenery,” Michel jokes.
Tomorrow the stage from Lesko to Sanok features 179,4 km including 3 categorized climbs with an elevation gain of 2723 mt. A very technical final includes a last kick with a maximum gradient of 8.3%.