Nibali Soloes to Win in Stage 3 of Vuelta a Espana
Spectators along the roads in Andorra la Vella earlier today watched Vincenzo Nibali solo to victory in stage 3 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana following a surge in the final kilometer.
The Bahrain-Merida rider showed his significant racing experience when he managed to regroup with the front group on the descent, after having been dropped on the final climb, and then initiated a powerful attack that resulted in him crossing the finish line in first position ahead of David de la Cruz of Team QuickStep Floors.
Team Sky Pro Cycling's Tour de France champion Chris Froome finished third in today's stage, which proved sufficient for him to take the overall lead in the Vuelta because he had gained valuable bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint earlier in the stage.
Froome now leads the general classification by two seconds over De La Cruz in second place and BMC Racing Team's Nicolas Roche in third.
The third stage of this year's Vuelta a Espana took the peloton straight into the mountains for a tough 158 kilometer stage to Andorra.
The peloton initially settled for a solution that saw seven riders form a breakaway group. General classification leader team Quickstep initially took control of the peloton and was then followed by Team Sky Pro Cycling as the riders in the main group contested two tough climbs on their way towards the finish line.
First up was the Col de la Rabassa and Team Sky used this category 1 climb to reel in the breakaway and reduce the leading peloton group to a manageable size of not much more than fifty riders by the time the race reached the summit with thirty kilometers to go.
The final test of the day was the category 2 climb of Alto de la Cornella. By then it was still Team Sky setting a high and determined pace to fend off any riders who might have contemplated carrying out an attack on the final climb before the descent that would bring the riders to the finish line.
Froome then attacked and was followed by attentive Italian national champion Fabio Aru of Team Astana, Esteban Chaves of Team Orica-Scott and Romain Bardet of Team AG2R La Mondiale.
By the top of the climb the group size had increased further and behind it a second group of general classification favorites had formed - this group involving eventual stage winner Nibali. The two groups merged on the descent and Nibali proved the strongest man of the day.
"We’re only on the third day. It wasn’t easy to be ready for climbs and to win such a stage contesting the sprint, stage winner Nibali told Roadcycling.com after being celebrated on the podium.
"I had some difficulties on the last ascent where my rivals maintained a high tempo. I was behind and I had to recover on the downhill to close the gap to the small front group of riders and try my chance to take the win. I knew that it was difficult to win, because there were very fast riders and today’s stage was really demanding due to the high temperature too," Nibali explained.
"I was surprised that the chasing group caught back up with us in the last kilometer. Before that, I was riding well," fourth place finisher Bardet told Roadcycling.com. "I am pretty satisfied with how the Vuelta has started for me and 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."
"I’ve lost the Vuelta before by 13 seconds so at this point I’m going to fight for every second I can," general classification leader Froome commented.
"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," Froome concluded.
Former Tour de France champion Alberto Contador delivered a truly disappointing performance in today's stage and lost 02:33 minutes in today's stage. Contador was dropped almost immediately when the pace was intensified in the climb by Froome and other favorites and Contador showed no signs of having prepared himself in the weeks leading up to the final race of his professional career.
Contador's miserable form and total lack of initiative and persistence showed major lack of respect for the many loyal fans who have supported El Pistolero since he won his first Grand Tour. Hopefully for Contador, he has a lucrative position as sports director waiting just around the corner.
2017 Vuelta a Espana - Stage 3 results:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 04:01:22
2 David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky Pro Cycling
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-Scott
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
7 Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Michael Woods (Can) Team Cannondale-Drapac 0:00:25
2017 Vuelta a Espana - General classification following stage 3:
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky Pro Cycling 08:53:44
2 David de la Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:02
3 Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:10
6 Johan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica-Scott 0:00:11
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:38
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott 0:00:39
9 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:43
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:48
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