Stuart Pickering's picture

Bernal continues Colombian dominance in Păltiniș

Colombian Egan Bernal is the winner of the third stage of the 2017 Sibiu Cycling Tour. After 211.5 mountainous kilometres, the race leader took his second victory in a row ahead of Colin Stüssi (Roth - Akros) and Moldavian Cristian Raileanu (Team Differdange - Losch) in Păltiniș. At the oldest Romanian ski resort, he celebrated the third win for a Colombian rider within three days, extending his lead in the general classification, putting him in a great position to take the first Sibiu Cycling Tour overall victory for the Italian team in the seventh edition of the race.

Many teams tried to join the breakaway, and it took a while to establish a break after an attempt by 14 riders to get away immediately after the start was shut down. Joris Blokker (Monkey Town Continental Team) went solo for a while, taking the first intermediate sprint of the day, and 20 kilometres into the stage was a five-man group of Moritz Fußnegger (0711|Cycling), Francesco Canepa (GM Europa Ovini), Andrea Borso (Adria Mobil), Cameron Piper (Team Illuminate) and Damian Lüscher (Roth - Akros) finally got clear.

Since none of the riders were a danger to race leader Egan Bernal, his Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia team set a regular pace in the peloton, letting the gap go out to over 7 minutes. Green jersey Moritz Fußnegger made full use of the opportunity to extend his lead in the mountain classification with first places on the gradual 20 km climb from Tilișca to Jina (category A) and a short category C climb to Dumbrava while Lüscher won the two intermediate sprints before the penultimate ascent of the day to Jina – this time from the harder side, with 5.1 km of climbing at 8.6% average.

In the Sebeș valley, the CCC Sprandi Polkowice took over at the front of the peloton and set a massive pace, quickly reducing the gap to two minutes at the foot of the Jina climb. Francesco Canepa didn’t want to give up and attacked his breakaway companions, crossing the top of the climb first ahead of Fußnegger whose second place was enough to secure the green mountain jersey for 0711|Cycling. Piper and Borso followed shortly after and the peloton, whittled down to about 30 riders, 1:30 minutes behind.

As the CCC and Androni teams were down to only two riders in the peloton at that point, they reduced the speed again, allowing riders to catch up. Simon Pellaud took the chance, attacked on the descent, and closed the gap to the breakaway in front. Only Andrea Borso (Adria Mobil) could follow the Swiss from Team Illuminate, and the duo quickly established a two-minute gap that they could hold until the start of the final climb to Păltiniș with 15 km to go.

Borso was caught early on the finishing climb, and though Pellaud stayed ahead for a little while longer and also took the special prize sponsored by IFN with 11 km to go, he didn’t have the strength to fight for the stage victory either. Some ten riders were left in the favourites' group when Pellaud was caught a kilometre later, and Valentin Baillifard (Roth – Akros) was the first to grab the chance for a stage win. The Swiss got a small gap and stayed solo in front for a couple of kilometres, but Egan Bernal (Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia), Colin Stüssi (Roth - Akros), and Cristian Raileanu (Team Differdange - Losch) attacked from the chasing group, bridged to Baillifard and left him behind.

The trio distanced the remaining climbers around yesterday’s third-place finisher Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling), and although both Stüssi and Raileanu did their best to get away from Bâlea Lac stage winner Bernal, the Colombian in the yellow jersey was simply too strong, attacked himself on the final kilometre and took another convincing solo victory.

With only one stage to go, Bernal now has a gap of 1:40 minutes on Stüssi in the overall ranking and also leads the U23 and points classification. Eduard Michael Grosu (Team Romania) remains the best Romanian rider in the race, Moritz Fußnegger (0711|Cycling) sealed the green jersey for the best climber and Nicolas Tivani (Unieuro Trevigiani - Hemus 1896) kept the blue jersey for the leader in the intermediate sprint classification before the final stage finishing on Sibiu’s Piața Mare on Sunday evening.

Stage 2 podium:

1.  Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia 5:41:26

2.  Colin Stüssi (SUI) Roth - Akros 0:11

3.  Cristian Raileanu (MDA) Team Differdange - Losch 0:21

Jersey wearers on stage 3:

 Egan Bernal (COL) Androni - Sidermec - Bottecchia

 Nicolas Germán Tivani Pérez (ARG) Unieuro Trevigiani - Hemus 1896

 Moritz Fußnegger (GER) 0711|Cycling

 Salim Kipkemboi (KEN) Bike Aid, leader is Egan Bernal

 Colin Stüssi (SUI) Roth - Akros, leader is Egan Bernal

 Eduard Michael Grosu (ROU) Team Romania