The field has yet to solve the riddle of Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), who sprinted to his third consecutive stage win at the Tour of Guangxi in China.
The current race leader who leads Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) by 13 seconds once again bested his rivals on the line after a four-lap 125.4-kilometre city circuit in Nanning came to a close on Saturday.
“Today was a good win,” the 23-year-old Colombian sprinter told Eurosport after his 13th win of the season — one shy of tying teammate Marcel Kittel. “It was short, really fast with a difficult final with a lot of people at the front.
"I [had] the legs for the win and I am really happy today.”
German rival Max Walscheid once again came up short, repeating his second-place performance from a day before. But the 24-year-old Sunweb sprinter said today’s circumstances were totally different from the Stage 2 finish.
“Again I was on the wheel of Gaviria, but apparently I did not have the self confidence to go out earlier,” said the five-time Tour of Hainan stage winner, who finished ahead of 24-year-old Dane Magnus Cort (Orica-Scott) in third. “After yesterday’s sprint I didn’t expect such a hard kick from Gaviria because yesterday he was more steadily accelerating … in the end, I was 50 metres too far behind.
“I just have to start 50m earlier,” he continued. “But I also have to admit that Gaviria is incredibly strong and he has won all three stages — and he has earned it.”
Quick-Step Floors sports director Rik van Slycke was obviously pleased with Gaviria’s performances to date.
"We can’t imagine doing better because we are at the end of the season,” he told Eurosport. “Fernando was winning stages [at Vuelta a San Juan] in Argentina back in January and still winning — it’s amazing.”
With three sprint stages in the books, the final WorldTour race of the season turns uphill with a summit finish on Sunday and the overall lead could change hands. However the red jersey could stay with Quick-Step as Gaviria’s teammate Julian Alaphilippe has his sights set on a queen stage (151km) win in Nongla.
“We came here with a very strong team for the sprints, with Fernando,” the 25-year-old Frenchman, who is 10th overall at 27-seconds back, told Eurosport. “We can’t do better than winning three stages out of three. Tomorrow will be something else, we’ll see how the legs respond. On paper it looks a bit harder, it’s good for me.
“But I take it day by day and so far it’s going great.”