An unexpected day in Andalucia. American talent Magnus Sheffield had a chance to go for his own results after his INEOS teammates Carlos Rodriguez and Jhonatan Narvaez crashed in a hectic final 3 kilometres. The 19-year-old rider used the disruption in the group to go solo after the chaotic day in Vuelta a Andalucia Stage 3, which contained a few bigger hills before a false flat finish.
Despite the parcours suiting the few sprinters in the race like Biniam Girmay, the race blew up with 35 kilometres to go when UAE Emirates set a high tempo on the last shallow uncategorized climb (3.4 km, 6.2 %). This show of strength back-fired for UAE, who only have five riders at this race including the leader on GC Alessandro Covi, when Lennard Kämna attacked and they could not respond.
It is around a year ago that Kämna attacked on an up and down day in Catalunya from a strong breakaway to take a stage win and already he looks to be in good shape. The peloton was in shambles after Mikel Landa, Simon Yates, Miguel Angel Lopez and other big riders started to go full-gas on the 7% gradient, sensing an opportunity to put Covi under pressure and take time on GC. A lead group was formed with Lopez, Landa, Dunbar, Vansevenant, Simon Yates, O’Connor and Cristian Rodriguez.
Movistar did not have a rider in the leading group and they chased back this dangerous group with the GC favourites. The race leader Alessandro Covi (UAE Emirates), who for a brief time was isolated, was lucky that Movistar did not have a rider in the leading group.
Later, Bahrain-Victorious with Landa and Caruso, who had lost a few minutes in previous stages, worked very hard in the leading group trying to maintain the gap to the second group, despite no climbs remaining and no major GC contenders being behind them. Bahrain went all-in for Wout Poels (13th in GC, +0:16) and Jack Haig (4th, +0:10), with INEOS later taking when Landa and Caruso had pulled off with a few kilometres to go. Unfortunately, with 2.5 km remaining, whilst Eddie Dunbar was drilling it on the front through a right hand corner, INEOS riders Carlos Rodriguez and Jhontan Narvaez, crashed, with Haig and Sosa caught up.
The crash opened a chance for attackers. Kämna used this chaos and attacked but blew up quickly, paying the price for his earlier effort. Magnus Sheffield, who had been closing the German on the front of the peloton, noticed he had a gap to his back wheel because he had pulled so strongly. The 19-year-old American wisely put his head down and committed to the solo last kilometre move. Once again, Lopez was left to close gaps on his own, with no Astana teammates willing to pace for him (Lutsenko was in the group), but for the sub-60 kg Lopez head to head against the powerful Sheffield, this was never coming back.
Sheffield won with a 3 second lead over the group. A very impressive performance by the new INEOS recruit, who has a contract with the team until 2024. Already at the 2019 World Championships in Harrogate he showed great power in the juniors race, finishing 3rd, after doing significant domestique work for his teammate at that time, Quinn Simmons, the eventual winner.
Australian Simon Clarke, who desperately searched for a contract in the off-season, finished 2nd. He already has earned 170 UCI points for Israel-Premier Tech in 2022 before February is over. Despite rolling across the line some time later, Haig, Sosa, Pozzovivo and Rodriguez were all credited with the same time as the main lead GC group, as they had been caught up in a crash with less than 3km remaining.
Stage 4 will be another rolling day in Andalucia, where everything can happen. The 169.5 kilometer stage chould be a bunch sprint, but there is a good chance it can finish like the stage today, particularly if Bahrain and other teams want to improve their GC positions.