Stage 3: Vuelta

The GC favourites show their cards as the Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 3 despite being dropped and Chris Froome fights for every second to lead overall

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Stage 3: Vuelta

The GC favourites show their cards as the Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 3 despite being dropped and Chris Froome fights for every second to lead overall

Its only stage 3 but the the Vuelta hit the mountains for its stage three journey from Prades Conflent Canigo to Andorra la Vella on Monday. As the flag dropped, attacks followed and a group of four was joined shortly afterwards by three more riders to form the day’s breakaway – the first of the 2017 Spanish Grand Tour.

© Team Bahrain-Merida/ @BettiniPhoto)

At it’s maximum, the advantage the breakaway had over the chasers swelled to over five minutes and on the mountainous terrain, the make up of the breakaway was continually changing as some riders were dropped and others bridged across.

Back in the pleoton, Team Sky set the tempo and eventually it was back together on the penultimate descent with 30km to go. Froome then attacked on the final climb with only Chaves able to respond but Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) caught the duo on the descent showing just who were the favourites for the overall. A second group of five riders also made contact with the leading quartet in the final kilometres leading to a sprint for the stage won by the Shark, Vincenzo Nibali.

Vincenzo Nibali: “This victory is for the Team and for my teammate Javier Moreno, he was really unlucky yesterday. We’re only on the third day and it wasn’t easy to be ready for climbs and to win such a stage in a sprint”.

“I had some difficulties on the last ascent, where my rivals keep a high tempo. I was behind and I must recover on the downhill to close the gap to the front small group of riders and try my chance to take the win.” In the final kilometre, the Italian rider surprised his rivals in the sprint. “I knew that it was difficult to win, because there were very fast riders and today’s stage was really demanding due to high temperature too” adds Nibali, who after the stage wears the Green Jersey of leader of the points classification “It’s a long way to go”.

Chris Froome: (Team Sky) “I’ve lost the Vuelta before by 13 seconds so at this point I’m going to fight for every second I can” speaking about going for intermediate bonuses. “It’s the result of a lot of hard work today from my team-mates. We decided to take it on on the penultimate climb and the guys were just fantastic,” he said. “They laid down a really hard tempo and did a fantastic job, especially a guy like Gianni Moscon – it’s his first Grand Tour with Team Sky.”

“When he hit the front, the race just blew to bits. He was great today, as were the rest of the guys. It was tough conditions out there – it was really hot today and tough climbs. I’ve lost the Vuelta before by 13 seconds so at this point I’m going to fight for every second I can at this point. It has been a long time (since last wearing the red jersey). It feels amazing to put it back on and to be in this position.”

“It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. I’ve worked hard to be here after the Tour and I’m really happy to be in this position. [Keeping the jersey until the end] is going to be really hard, especially with all the time bonuses out there. There’s just two seconds until the next group of riders so it’s still really close. We can expect a big fight for the jersey.”

“I don’t necessarily expect to keep it all the way, especially with it being so close. We’re just going to have to see one day at a time. Obviously we’re going to do everything we can to protect it now.”

Esteban Chaves (Orica Scott) “I feel again like one rider,” Chaves said. “I arrived in the first group with the best riders in the world so I’m really happy. It was a really unbelievable final. Sky did a really good job and I am also really happy because the team works unbelievable and I can stay with Froome on the climb. In the final, I can’t really change with him in the flat, but anyway we arrive in the first group and I am happy for that. I want to congratulate Jack Haig. He is a really young fella, and he was still there in the front before the last climb and this is really good to start in this form.”

David De La Cruz  (Quickstep)”I’m a bit sad, because I wanted the red jersey here in Catalunya, in front of my fans and family. But there’s still a long day to go, I am motivated, and who knows, maybe I’ll get the jersey eventually. I am confident for the Vuelta; I’m not thinking about finishing in the top 3, top 5 or top 10, I just want to show that I can be again an important player in the general classification. I have a strong team around me and this gives me even more motivation to push myself and be up there when it matters”, said 28-year-old David after the first test of the race.

Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo): “I had very bad sensations,” said Contador, getting right to the point. “Also climbing La Rabassa, I felt it already. I don’t know what happened to me, but I felt super, super weak. Even when we went at a relatively calm pace, it was difficult to be there, and I decided to tell Peter (Stetina) just to try to pass the day as well as possible and wait some more days to see. I hope that this is only a bad day, maybe because of the lack of competition”.

“Now the most important is to recover and try to find the reason why I had such a bad day before deciding the next tactic. In any case, I want to enjoy this Vuelta; it’s the Vuelta where I am the more relaxed in my whole career, and I am enjoying it to the maximum. For sure, I want to be more ahead; I couldn’t today, but I’ll try on next days.”

Louis Meintjes said; “It wasn’t a super day and since I’m familiar with the last climb, I preferred to do it at my own pace, trying to lose as fewer seconds as possible. It was the first hard day of the Vuelta a España and the road to Madrid is long.”
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Nicolas Roche (BMC): “It was pretty tough. It was exactly what I expected. I know every time a race comes to Andorra, there is no easy finish. Today was no different. Once again, the race is usually made with the riders and the climb can be as tough as they are, but it’s actually the racing that makes it hard or not”.

“I think today the tempo in the last 50km was pretty high and there was a lot going on. The team did a very good job from the start. Everyone is really giving us a hand and putting us in a good position, getting the bottles and everything which is very important. Coming into the finish we were a few seconds off Froome on the top. Tejay van Garderen came back to me on the descent and we rode with them in the final kilometer. I tried to anticipate the sprint once we caught them but I was going nowhere and they counter-attacked straight away so I tried to maintain the same time as them.”

“After winning the team time trial, I was hoping that today was the day that I could have taken the red jersey. I had that in the back of my mind. Yesterday, losing those precious seconds was a big pain for today.”

Tejay van Garderen (BMC): “It seems like every day is a one-day race. With the team time trial always nervous, yesterday crosswinds and today, already in the high mountains. I think Nicolas Roche and I have shown that we are ready for the GC fight even though it is still a long three weeks to go. The rest of the team is riding really strong and giving us good support and I think today showed that we’re going well. It would have been nice to take the red jersey today but I’m only two seconds back after a few tough stages and we’ve already gained some time on some other rivals. That’s certainly a good place to be.”

Fabio Aru (Astana): “To be honest I prefer continuing to live day by day because after the Tour de France I’ve recovered and I didn’t race so I cannot know what could be the reaction of my body in these first days of the Vuelta – commented Aru after the stage – “I prefer to be careful and find out how I feel, also as a consequence of the racing season I have had, preparing the Giro, then riding the Tour and now here at the Vuelta… but, day by day, step by step, I will wait for important feedback.”

Romain Bardet (AG2R): “I was surprised that the chasing group caught back up to us in the last kilometre. Before that, I was riding well.I am pretty satisfied with how the Vuelta has started for me. I’m feeling good.I wasn’t in a good position at the base of that last climb, so I had to make a big effort to catch back up to Froome.I can’t wait for what’s to come.”

Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha): “I have not felt so well from the beginning. Maybe it was the heat. That’s why the first climbs were already hard for me. I have to analyze it,” said Ilnur Zakarin after finished on 16th place and 54 seconds behind the winner Vincenzo Nibali in the Pyrenees stage to Andorra.

Wilco Kelderman: After the stage Wilco said: “Today didn’t end up being such a good day. I cramped just before the last climb but the guys did a really good job in supporting me. I’m disappointed with how the day played out but tomorrow is a new day and we still have three more weeks to come.”

Davide Villella (Cannondale Drapac):Vuelta a España King of the Mountain classification leader – “This morning at the bus, I was one of the riders that could go into the escape,” explained Villella. “I wasn’t really thinking about the mountain jersey – only about the good opportunity the break might have to make it to the finish. We were a strong group of eight riders.”

Villella was second to crest the summit of Col de la Perche, behind de Gendt, to pick up six points. “It wasn’t stressful to race for the points,” said Villella, who spent much of the stage as virtual race leader. “I was having fun. I’ve never worn a jersey at a Grand Tour,” said Villella. “I won the mountain jersey in 2014 in the Basque Country, but that’s it.

“I hope to keep the jersey as long as possible,” he added. “It will be tough, but it’s also not the main priority. The biggest goal here is to fight for a stage victory, so that will be my focus.”

Next Stage … Stage Four shouldn’t present too many problems for the riders, with only one significant challenge factored into the 198.2km route. That climb, the Alto de Belltall, will be crested with 66km to go as the peloton approach the finish in the Mediterranean town of Tarragona, which has not hosted a stage of Vuelta since 2013.  The temperature in the Catalan region must be taken into account and riders can expect the mercury to hit 30 degrees at certain points of the route

Stage 3
1. Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida 4:01:22
2. David de la Cruz Quick-Step Floors
3. Chris Froome Team Sky
4. Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale
5. Esteban Chaves ORICA-Scott
6. Fabio Aru Astana Pro Team
7. Nicolas Roche BMC Racing Team
8. Tejay van Garderen BMC Racing Team
9. Domenico Pozzovivo AG2R La Mondiale
10. Michael Woods Cannondale-Drapac 0:25

11. Adam Yates ORICA-Scott
13. Simon Yates ORICA-Scott 0:29
15. Louis Meintjes UAE Team Emirates
16. Ilnur Zakarin Team Katusha – Alpecin
18. Warren Barguil Team Sunweb 1:14
21. Carlos Betancur Movistar Team
22. Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb
23. Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo
25. Miguel López Astana Pro Team
26. Sam Oomen Team Sunweb 1:24
37. Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo 2.33
55. Bob Jungels Quick-Step Floors 7.16
59. Rohan Dennis BMC Racing Team 9:16

1 Chris Froome Team Sky
2 David de la Cruz Quick-Step Floors 0:02
3 Nicolas Roche BMC Racing Team
4 Tejay van Garderen BMC Racing Team
5 Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida 0:10
6 Esteban Chaves ORICA-Scott 0:11
7 Fabio Aru Astana Pro Team 0:38
8 Adam Yates ORICA-Scott 0:39
9 Domenico Pozzovivo AG2R La Mondiale 0:43
10 Romain Bardet AG2R La Mondiale 0:48
11 Simon Yates ORICA-Scott
12 Michael Woods Cannondale-Drapac 1:13
13 Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb 1:17
14 Daniel Moreno Movistar Team 1:20
15 Warren Barguil Team Sunweb 1:22
16 Ilnur Zakarin T eam Katusha – Alpecin 1:29
17 Sam Oomen Team Sunweb 1:32
18 Carlos Betancur Movistar Team 1:35
19 Igor Anton Dimension Data
20 Louis Meintjes UAE Team Emirates 1:43
24 Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo 1:56
25 Miguel López Astana Pro Team 1:57
30 Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo 3:10
45 Bob Jungels Quick-Step Floors 7:24
53 Rohan Dennis BMC Racing Team 9:18



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