French rider Julian Alaphilippe won the third stage of the Tour of California on Tuesday, producing a perfectly timed late burst on a gruelling final climb to overhaul American rider Peter Stetina. The 23-year-old Etixx-Quick Step racer waited patiently before reeling in Stetina inside the final half-mile of the rugged 104.1-mile (167.5km) course from Thousand Oaks to Santa Barbara, northwest of Los Angeles.

AFP/Darrell Parks

Alaphilippe, runner-up in the general classification last year behind eventual champion Peter Sagan, finished in 4hr 36min 59sec, with Trek-Segafredo rider Stetina 15 seconds back. George Bennett of the Lotto NL-Jumbo team was third with Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) fourth and rising teenage star Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) in fifth.

Alaphilippe’s victory catapulted him into the overall lead of the general classification, with a total time of 12:49:47, 19 seconds clear of Stetina who moved up to second. Bennett is third, 31 seconds off the pace. Alaphilippe’s win was the climax of a thrilling closing battle which heated up when American youngster Powless broke away with around six miles to go.

For a while it looked as if Powless might hang on for an unlikely victory as he gradually increased his lead over the peloton. But the teenager was finally caught with just over two miles to go as Stetina and Australia’s Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) reached him.

Stetina, who suffered a career-threatening injury in April last year when he crashed on the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, breaking his leg and shattering his kneecap, then looked to mount a decisive attack with around 1.2 miles left. Morton and Powless were quickly left behind but Alaphilippe had stealthily made his way into position before powering to victory in the final few hundred meters.

We captured the situation with 2km to go.

Wednesday’s fourth stage will see the peloton travel 134.8 miles up California’s famous Pacific Coast Highway, moving from the seaside town of Morro Bay and passing through Big Sur before wrapping up at the Laguna Seca motorsport circuit.

Results
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step 4:36:59
2. Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:15
3. George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:25
4. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:27
5. Neilson Powless (USA) Axeon Hagens Berman 0:00:30
6. Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:33
7. Lachlan Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:00:35
8. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:48
9. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
10. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:59

General Classification
1. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx – Quick-Step 12:49:47
2. Peter Stetina (USA) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:19
3. George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:00:31
4. Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:37
5. Neilson Powless (USA) Axeon Hagens Berman 0:00:40
6. Laurens ten Dam (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:43
7. Lachlan Morton (Aus) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis 0:00:45
8. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:58
9. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:09