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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), back on the World Tour after his fall on the Vuelta, won the third stage of the Tour of Sicily on Thursday strong, taking the lead of the general on the eve of the final finish.
The 41-year-old Spaniard edged Alessandro Covi (UAE Emirates) and Jhonatan Restrepo (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), and won his third success of the season.
Victim of a heavy fall in the Tour of Spain which had caused him a broken collarbone at the end of August, Valverde proved for his return to competition that he was in good shape, even if he fell again just after his crossing over the finish line, apparently without immediate consequences.
After two stages sprinted by Molano, this 180 km stage between Termini Imerese and Caronia, steeper than the previous ones, was promised to climbers.
Molano was let loose in the ascent of the Pollina (11.4 km at 5.7% with passages at 10%), saying goodbye to his leader’s jersey, while the group of breakaways, who left shortly after the start, was caught up by the peloton.
Movistar then took control on the descent and then on the seaside, Trek Segafredo, Vincenzo Nibali’s team, sparing their forces for the final climb.
It was in the latter, started 3.5 km from the finish, that everything was played out. Valverde took the lead in the first switchbacks, with Romain Bardet, Brandon McNulty and Nibali in ambush. McNulty, winner of the Tour of Sicily 2019, placed the first attack just over 1 km, but to little effect. And it is Valverde who in the last hectometers finally left to win in front of his pursuers.
The last stage will lead the runners on Friday between Sant’Agata di Militello and Mascali (180 km), at the foot of Etna, with a drop of 2,500 m on the program.