Michael Matthews timed his bid for stage victory and the red leader’s jersey to perfection, sitting on Dan Martin’s wheel until he overhauled him in the last few metres of a punchy uphill finish.
Aye, aye captain!
Today’s stage, which included four categorised climbs, was bookended by two exciting events. It started with riders exiting the Spanish navy’s aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, named in honour of the recently retired king. Beforehand the riders had an opportunity to try out some of the toys in scenes reminiscent of Top Gun. I suspect everyone wanted to be Maverick or Iceman rather than Goose.
Eurosport journalist Laura Meseguer was relentless in her pre-race interviews. We learnt Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural) fancied his chances in the break, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was prepared to give up the leader’s jersey and Michael ‘Bling’ Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) was going for glory.
To cut to the chase, Mas Bonet indeed made it into the early five-man break, dropped his companions with 70km remaining, collected enough points to become king of the mountain and was swept up by the bunch 30km from the finale.
Orica-GreenEDGE having signalled their intent, helped set the tempo on the front, pulling back the break and getting their man into position before the technical finale which included a sharp right-hander onto a pinch point, a three-rider wide bridge. Under the 2km to go banner, the leading bunch was spread across the road as they approached the final climb which maxed out at 6%.
Giant-Shimano set the pace for John Degenkolb but Katusha snuck up the right-hand side and launched Giampaolo Caruso, who faded in the final 200 metres. He was overhauled by Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), looking to recoup time lost in the team time trial, who flew past with Matthews on his wheel. Bling launched his sprint metres from the finish to sail across the line, leaving Martin to bang his handlebars in frustration.
Nairo Quintana was the only Movistarlet to finish in the 16-strong group credited with the same time as the stage winner and which included most of the leading contenders. He now moves into second place with former race leader Valverde third, a further seven seconds back.
VeloVoices rider of the day
Obvious, I know, but I’m going for today’s stage winner who said:
Today we had to take control from the start because we had a really good chance to win the stage. As you can see from the finish, none of my teammates are here because they sacrificed themselves 110 per cent.
He’s the third Aussie after Bradley McGee and Cadel Evans to have led both the Giro and Vuelta, although the other two have also led the Tour. (Thanks to @irishpeloton for that piece of information).
Matthews, who has just signed another two-year deal with Orica-GreenEDGE, is making a habit of peaking at the grand tours, having won two stages at the 2013 Vuelta and donning the pink jersey during this year’s Giro.
Stage 3 result
1. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) 5:12:14
2. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) same time
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) s/t
4. Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) s/t
5. Paul Martens (Belkin) s/t
1. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) 9:27:53
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:04
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:11
4. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:15
5. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) +0:17
6. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:17
7. George Bennett (Cannondale) +0:20
8. Julian Arredondo (Trek) s/t
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Trek) s/t
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:22
Points leader: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
King of the Mountains leader: Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural).
Combined jersey: Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural).
Team classification: Belkin.
Header: Start of stage 3 (image: Vuelta a España)