Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) won stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana, by being the sole survivor from a stage long breakaway. Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) was 2nd on the stage and at the same time took the lead in the general classification while 3rd place went to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The 3rd stage of the Vuelta a Espana was a tough 176km test with 3 categorised climbs coming in the last half of the stage. While the final climb, the Mirador, was only 1.8km long, it had an average gradient of over 13% and ramps peaking at 30%, making it one of the steepest climbs of the year. The general consensus was that the GC contenders would decide the stage but the breakaway had other ideas.
Seven riders formed the early escape of the day and Team Sky began setting the tempo in the peloton. For a large part of the stage, the gap was hanging around the 5-minute mark. When the break reached the Alto de Lestaio with 66km to go, Simon Pellaud (IAM Cycling) upped the tempo in the break by going clear. The Swiss rider was able to push the lead up to just over 7-minutes and then he was later joined by two of his original breakaway partners, Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quickstep) and Geniez.
Team Sky kept controlling the pace in the peloton but it was clear the break would arrive at the foot of the Mirador with a healthy lead. With 1.8km to go, the leading trio started the final climb 2’15” ahead of the peloton. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were riding hard in the approach to the climb in order to give Igor Anton a good starting position for the steep ramp.
Movistar were the aggressors from the peloton as their trio of Ruben Fernandez, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana attacked on the lower slopes of the climb. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) was the only other rider able to follow the pace of the Spanish team. Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Anton did not respond immediately to the violent acceleration but both riders rode a consistent tempo to claw back the 3 Spaniards and Colmbian with a few hundred meters to go.
Geniez had enough left in the tank to survive to the finish and win the stage, while the other two escapees would be caught by the GC contenders. Anton followed Quintana home to take an impressive 7th place on the stage for our African Team. Anton’s result saw him shoot up the general classification from 72nd to 16th position.
Igor Anton – Rider
I like the Vuelta and today I knew the final climb very well. It was really hard which was very good for me. The most important thing was to start the race with a good condition and so today’s result has been good for my confidence. I know there is still a long way to go but I was really happy with how today finished.