De La Cruz claims Pais Vasco stage victory with audacious attack
The Spaniard rode into the yellow jersey at the end of stage 3 after holding off the chasers in San Sebastian.
Stage 3 of Vuelta al Pais Vasco was an eventful one, bringing spectacle, drama and a reshuffle of the general classification, after two straight days which ended up in a bunch sprint. Starting from Gasteiz, the 160.5km-long stage took the riders over six ranked climbs, last of which featured just a few kilometers before the finish in San Sebastian, a city renowned worldwide for its gastronomy, cultural events and also for being home of Spain's only World Tour one-day event.
Sensing the impact the day could have on the overall standings, the peloton kept on a leash all the riders who tried to go clear in the first hour. Eventually, nine men got green light and opened a gap, Quick-Step Floors' Eros Capecchi being one of them. The maximum advantage fell short of the three-minute mark, as several of the GC contenders' teams weren't keen on the idea of letting the escapees take a comfortable margin.
Inside the last 50 kilometers, Julian Alaphilippe was involved in a crash as the bunch was passing through the feedzone, but fortunately he didn't suffer any injuries and could continue the stage, albeit behind the pack, who was two minutes ahead by the time the best young rider of Paris-Nice remounted.
With around 20 kilometers left, the breakaway got reabsorbed by the peloton, who put the hammer down and accelerated in an attempt to shake off race leader Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb). Inside the final 15 kilometers, as the riders were climbing on the day's sixth classified ascent, Mikael Cherel (AG2R) attacked and David De La Cruz responded. Seeing the two of them crafted a gap, the 27-year-old Spaniard pushed clear, distanced the Frenchman and by the time he crested the climb already had a 16-second lead.
Behind, the chase was on, but David took advantage of the narrow and twisty roads taking him to San Sebastian, fighting for every second and making sure he'll take on the final three flat kilometers of the stage with a gap which will keep his hopes of nabbing the win alive. Movistar and Sky pulled hard to reel in the Quick-Step Floors rider, but all they could do was to reduce the deficit as David crossed the line victorious for the second time this season, following the closing stage of Paris-Nice.
"This morning, during the team briefing, we talked about trying something on the last climb. As we arrived at the bottom, I remained attentive and when Cherel went I took his wheel and worked with him to build an advantage. Knowing there was an organized chase behind, I then decided to go alone and ride full gas until the finish", said David De La Cruz, who scored the team's 23rd victory of the season in San Sebastian, one of the cities which hosted a stage finish at very first edition of the race, in 1924.
Going into the last three stages of the race, David – the 40th Spaniard to lead the general classification at Vuelta al Pais Vasco – doesn't want to get carried away by his performance, but instead is keen on staying focused on the tough tests which lie ahead: "The yellow jersey came as a bonus today. I'm very happy to top the rankings here and I want to enjoy this beautiful day. I'm not thinking of the GC yet, because we still have Arrate and a hard individual time trial left, but I want to assure everyone that I'll give it my all to bring other good results to the team, who did so much for me and helped me improve gradually since joining them."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele