Ruta del Sol: Tough Tim Wellens wins stage 3 time trial

Race leader Tim Wellens defies GC challengers with a victory in stage 3 time trial, setting up a battle on Saturday's mountain stage.

Photo: Getty Images

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The defending Ruta del Sol champion Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) gamely defended his overall lead Friday, winning stage 3’s individual time trial in Mancha Real, Spain.

“This is my first time trial win as a pro and also my second victory in three days,” Wellens said. “Of course I am really happy with my shape and the results.”

Wellens, winner of the race’s first stage, stopped the clock two seconds faster than Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang.

A second Astana rider, Ion Izagirre, was third, eight seconds down.

Wellens rode the 16.2km course in Andalucia in 22:25, averaging 43.4kph.

The first half of the course featured a gradual 4.5km climb before a long descent. The final 1.8km climb was much steeper at a 7.6 percent average gradient.

“The start was tough, then there was a descent and the end went uphill again,” Wellens said. “We made a plan to go for the victory here, but to put that into practice is another thing. It turned out perfectly though. It is fantastic to be rewarded for all the hard training work I did.”

Wellens’s GC lead extended to seven seconds over Fuglsang thanks to his strong ride in the time trial. The Spaniard Izagirre is 14 seconds out of the overall lead.

That Astana duo, as well as other climbers in the five-day race, will likely challenge the Belgian leader in Saturday’s short, mountainous stage from Armilla to Granada. The 120km route includes two Cat. 1 climbs, the 8.9km Alto de Purche, which averages 7.7 percent, and the 7.3km Alto de Hazallanas, which is very steep, averaging 9.6 percent.

“I expect that tomorrow’s 120 kilometers long stage will be a spectacle,” Wellens added. “I think the Astana riders will attack me already from the first climb. They have various riders who are well-positioned in the general classification. It will not be easy, but we will surely give our all to defend the lead. There are no bonus seconds to earn and the finish lies after a long descent, so that is to my advantage.”

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