Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won the 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Espana, winning a small group sprint ahead of David de la Cruz (Quickstep-Floors) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) respectively. Froome pulled on the overall race leaders jersey after the stage.
The 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Espana took the peloton straight into the mountains for a tough 158km stage to Andorra. Unfortunately for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, we were dealt a huge blow even before the stage began as Ben King was not able to take the start today due to illness.
The stage went on and after the first early climb of the day the race settled with 7 riders up the road. Quickstep and then eventually Team Sky took control of the peloton, as we made our way to two tough climbs to finish off the stage. First up was the Coll de la Rabassa and Sky used this category 1 climb to reel in the breakaway and reduce the peloton to not much more than 50 riders by the time the race reached the summit at 30km to go.
Our African Team had Igor Anton and Lachlan Morton in the front group as we approached the final test, the cat 2 Alto de la Cornella. It was still Team Sky setting the pace and they attacked the lower slopes of the climb with real venom. Immediately, the bunch was in pieces with every man having to fend for himself. Anton and Morton were distanced initially, but soon began to find their rhythm again on the climb.
13 riders made up the front group of favourites as we neared the top of the last climb with Anton in the 2nd group on the road and Morton the following. On the descent, the favourites descended like stones and would not be seen again. Anton came home 54 seconds down and in 17th on the stage, the result saw him move up to 19th overall.
Igor Anton – Rider
It was a hard stage with a lot of guys wanting to try remain in the group at the front but not pulling. It was a hot day and at one moment I thought I had problems because I couldn’t drink, sometimes the race is just like that though. After Rabassa I started to feel better. I was able to lay down all my power but unfortunately, we were still dropped. The positive I can take is that I got into a really good rhythm with Zakarin, Moreno and Meintjes. We just couldn’t catch the 13 riders ahead. I am happy to still have limited the losses.
Dr Nicolas Theron – Team Doctor
Unfortunately Ben King has come down with a viral infection. He was fine during the time trial but before yesterday’s stage he started to complain of muscle pain and a general feeling of being unwell. Through the stage and overnight his condition didn’t improve, he couldn’t eat properly and felt very weak. Usually this would only take 2 or 3 days of bed rest to recover but obviously due to the nature of the sport, that did not help Ben’s situation as the race continued today. We are treating him now and hope he can come back strong for the final races of the season.