Matthews Takes Stage 3 of Vuelta a Espana and Red Jersey
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) has won Stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Australian took an uphill sprint to win the hilly, 197.8-km ride from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera in 5:12:14. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp-POC) finished second, and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) took third. Matthews’s win and the bonus seconds that he got for it have put him in the red jersey.
The day started aboard the Spanish aircraft carrier Don Juan Carlos I in Cadiz harbor. The riders had a neutralized start from the flight deck of the ship, and within 10 km of the start, Danilo Wyss (BMC), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM Cycling), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), and Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka) jumped clear of the peloton. The bunch let the break go, and at 50 km, the quintet led the field by more than eight minutes.
Orica-GreenEdge, among other teams, had designs on this stage. The Australian squad went to the front and started chasing. At the base of the day’s first climb, the Category 3 Puerto del Galis, the escapees led the peloton by five minutes, and the pursuit had taken more than another minute out of the break on the day’s second ascent, the Category 3 Alto Alcornocales. With 70 km remaining and the bunch within 2:30 of the break, Bonet set out on his own.
At one point, Bonet led the field by nearly five minutes. With 46 km left, on the day’s last categorized climb, the Category 3 Puerto del Boyar, the Spaniard’s lead was down to 2:20. Having become King of the Mountains for a day, Bonet slowed and the peloton overtook him with with 25 km left.
The sprinters’ teams and the GC squads moved their men to the front. Movistar was on the front for its men, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, when a crash occurred with 20 km to go. Amadey Amador, Valverde, and Jonathan Castroviejo went down, and although everyone remounted quickly, Valverde would lose enough seconds to cede the red jersey.
Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) attacked with 13 km left. The Australian forged a 23-second lead within two km, but the increased speed of the the GC teams and the sprinters’ squads put paid to Hansen’s move.
Sky led the field through a bottleneck 2.6 km from the finish, and Giant-Shimano and Katusha led the charge into the finale. Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) made a surprise move and took the lead, but Martin overtook the Italian with 600 m left. The Irishman had Matthews on his wheel, however, and the Orica-GreenEdge man burst past him on the right for the win.
Matthews put the victory down to teamwork. “I’m just so happy that I got to finish off for them [his teammates],” Matthews said. “It makes the win so much sweeter to be able to win when your whole team has absolutely smashed themselves for you.
“We thought it was going to be a bit more of a reduced bunch at the finish. The heat was the main factor today and then the climb in the final was very hard but I had the team to put me in the perfect position and from there it was up to me to deliver for them.”
In the overall, Matthews leads Quintana by 0:04 and Valverde by 0:11. Stage 4 will not change this state of affairs. The hilly, 164.7-km ride from Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba will feature a Category 3 ascent and a Category 2 climb, the latter of which summits 28 km from the finish. A break followed by a small sprint should win the day. Who will win? John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano)? Peter Sagan (Cannondale)? Matthews again? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!