Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco Stage 3: Kwiatkowski 4th As 3 Escape on Alto de la Antigua
Etixx - Quick-Step rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished 4th in the 170.7km Vuelta Ciclista al Paisco Stage 3 finale that included a key point on Cat 2 Alto de la Antigua (2.5km, 9.6%) at the end of the race. On that climb Sergio Henao (Team Sky) attacked an already lined out peloton, on a climb with a narrow path due to dense crowds. Only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) could follow his move just before the top of the climb.
Joaquim Rodriguez went on to win the stage, with Henao placing 2nd and Quintana 3rd. Kwiatkowski did his best to pursue the trio on a technical descent before a very slightly uphill finish, but crossed 7" down.
As a result of the finsh, Henao took over the race lead. Kwiatkowski moved to 4th, 7" down overall.
Tony Martin was involved in a crash, but fortunately there were no consequences.
"I was going to the front to protect the position of Kwiatkowski," Martin said. "I was going way too fast into a corner. I locked the brake, and I just looked for a good place to lay down. Luckily I found some grass, and luckily nothing happened. I had to get a new bike but OK, I came back in the right moment to bring Kwiatkowski more to the front and then I tried to survive and minimize the time loss. I'm happy with the condition. I will do my best day-by-day going into the time trial."
"Today's stage was typical for Pais Vasco," Kwiatkowski said. "It was not easy today, but morale is still high. It was a close moment on Alto de la Antigua. If I get over the climb with that group of three I could finish much better, but I'm happy with fourth on a difficult final like today. It was really steep and not easy to stay straight on the bike, especially with so many people on the roads. This climb might have even been steeper than Mur de Huy. I had a 32 gear in the back and it was still not enough, so you can imagine how steep it was. I'll need that kind of gearing again on Friday probably. The hardest stages are still ahead of us. Tomorrow we also have Arrate at the end, with probably 4000m of climbing. It's going to be a tough couple of days coming up, but I'm looking forward to it. I also am excited for the time trial as I'm feeling good at the moment. I also have to say I'm proud of my teammates today. We had the whole team in the front all day and I was protected well. It's a pity that Tony crashed on the descent but fortunately he did not get injured. As for how I'm feeling, considering this is a preparation for me also for the Ardennes Classics I have to say I am happy with my condition. I'll do my best day-by-day at this race as this will be important riding also for the next races."
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to Stage 4, the 162.2km queen stage from Zumarraga to Arrate. This stage is yet another hilly affair with seven categorized climbs. The Alto de Arrate will likely play a role in the overall, as it is 7.3km at 6.71% average gradient, and the summit is just before the finale. There is then a tricky technical descent with turns until 100m to go in the stage.