Ben Healy clocked up one of the most important results of his career on Thursday, winning stage three of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in Italy in a three-man sprint.
The perennially aggressive rider surged clear on a short, steep climb 16 kilometres from the finish in Forlì, and was joined by his Ukrainian EF Education-EasyPost team-mate Mark Padun and Italian climbing specialist Domenico Pozzovivo.
They fended off those chasing behind all the way to the finish, where the stage came down to a sprint in the Forlì velodrome. Healy was on the front as they entered the track and led out all the way, his effort immediately distancing Padun and putting Pozzovivo under pressure. The Italian inched up to him but was unable to get past, with Healy triumphing.
“It was a pretty chaotic day and not what we would have expected, to be honest,” the Irish time-trial champion said. “There was a crash pretty early on, and from then on it was my job to mark a lot of the early moves. I had super good legs today. We just came to the final climb today and I could feel it in the legs that I had it, so I gave it a go and Mark and Domenico came with me.
“When we got away, I knew there was a good chance I could take the win. We pushed all the way to the line. I wasn’t sure I had the win until the very last moment when I crossed the line.”
The victory follows on from earlier stage wins in the 2019 Tour de l’Avenir, the 2020 Ronde de l’Isard and the 2021 Giro Ciclistico d’Italia, and his Healy’s first since becoming a WorldTour professional with his team prior to the 2022 season.
It marks an impressive return to racing this week. Healy was sidelined from competition for almost seven weeks after crashing on stage two of the Etoile de Bessèges stage race on February 2nd.
It sees him jump 12 places in the general classification to seventh overall. He is now 38 seconds off the overall leader Mauro Schmid (Soudal – QuickStep). Two stages remain in the 2.1-ranked race, a 168.8 kilometre road stage on Friday and a 18.6 kilometre time-trial on Saturday.
Fellow Irishman Eddie Dunbar won the race overall last year.
Meanwhile Mia Griffin recovered from a crash in the Classic Brugge-De Panne women’s WorldTour race on Thursday, finishing 47th at the finish.
She is in her first season as a WorldTour rider and is settling in well.