Remco Evenepoel outsprinted Primoz Roglic in the final drag to the peak at La Molina on Wednesday to win the third stage of the Volta a Catalunya but the Slovenian clung to the overall lead.
When Evenepoel surged away from the pack with a few hundred metres to go, only Roglic was able to respond.
Evenepoel pulled clear on a final uphill bend to win by two seconds at the end of a mountainous 180.6km ride from Olost.
“I had super good legs,” he said. “I really felt I was getting better and better and better every day.”
Evenepoel claimed a 10-second victory bonus, while Roglic gained six seconds for finishing second. That left the two men tied on 12 hours 42 minutes and 17 seconds.
Roglic kept the leader’s jersey. He has two second places and a win in the three stages. Evenepoel had a third and a second before Wednesday’s win.
“I show already for a few days I’m pretty fast,” said Evenepoel, who was wearing the white jersey of the best young rider in the race rather than his rainbow jersey as world champion.
“It’s a pity I have the young jersey because I would like to have victory in the rainbow with my memories.”
Giulio Ciccone led the pack home and remains third at 19 seconds. Mikel Landa and Joao Almeida are next, already 44 seconds behind the two leaders.
“They were just on another level today,” said Almeida. “I think nobody could follow. Everyone was just playing for third place.”
While Thursday’s 188.2km stage from Llivia to Sabadell gets its one big climb out of the way early and then heads steadily downhill, stage five on Friday ends with a ferocious climb up Lo Port, a cliff-girded hill just outside Barcelona.
“Expect a nice battle,” said Evenepoel. “We should save our energy tomorrow.”
On another bad day for Ineos, former Tour de France winners Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas were again dropped and finished more than 10 minutes adrift.
🔄Reviu l'últim quilòmetre de l'etapa d'avui de la #VoltaCatalunya102 a @SnowLaMolina amb la victòria d' @EvenepoelRemco!
🔄Relive the last K of today's stage of #VoltaCatalunya102 at @SnowLaMolina and the superb win of @EvenepoelRemco (@soudalquickstep)! pic.twitter.com/CVnujtxCsJ
— Volta a Catalunya (@VoltaCatalunya) March 22, 2023