Philippe Gilbert Escapes to Win in Stage 3 of 2010 Vuelta a Espana and Takes Overall Vuelta Lead
Team Omega Pharma-Lotto's Philippe Gilbert wins stage three of the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and takes overall Vuelta lead from Team HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish.
A ferocious late surge by Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert netted the Belgian a solo win in the Tour of Spain third stage on Monday and his first lead in a major Tour.
Gilbert took off 900 metres from the steep uphill finish in Malaga's Gibralfaro Castle to claim the day's victory.
Second behind the Team Omega Pharma-Lotto rider was Spain's powerful Joaquim Rodriguez, three seconds back, with Spaniard Igor Anton in third, 13 seconds behind.
Best-known as a one-day rider, Gilbert told reporters the final two kilometer finish climb was similar to the finale of the Netherlands' top one-day race, the Amstel Gold Race Classic, which he won this April.
"I came to check out the climb this morning and I could see it was very like the Amstel finish," he said.
"I think knowing every corner and slight change of gradient on such on a short but difficult ascent made all the difference today.
"I came here for a stage win, but getting the leader's jersey of a big Tour for the first time in my career is a huge added bonus.
"I was close in the Tour de France back in 2007 and once in the Tour of Italy, but today's the first time it happened."
After overnight leader Mark Cavendish was dropped on the first climb of the day, the peloton kept up a fast pace along Malaga's coastline behind seven breakaways.
Gilbert himself was dropped on the day's one big challenge, the 16 kilometer Puerto de Leon, but regained contact for the finale.
"I knew the last three kilometers of the big climb were the steepest so I eased back before making a really fast descent and rejoining the bunch," he said.
"Once I was there and we'd caught the break, I was in my element."
While Cavendish finished over 25 minutes down, Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg lost over 14 minutes and is now out of overall contention.
"Andy just didn't have the legs today, he's not comfortable in all this heat," Schleck's sports director Bradley McGee told Reuters.
"There's no point in pushing him, Andy's only here to help (brother Frank Schleck of Saxo Bank, ninth overall) and we'll keep him tucked under wraps for now."
The Tour of Spain 2010 finishes on September 19 in Madrid.
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