Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) won stage three of the Vuelta a Espana in Malaga after attacking the bunch on an uphill punch in the final kilometre.
Overall contender Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) chased hard after Amstel Gold Race winner Gilbert, but couldn’t catch the Belgian. However, he did distance the other favourites, earning valuable seconds in the fight for the red leader’s jersey. Igor Anton (Euskaltel) came across the line in third, with Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) in sixth.
Pre-stage leader Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) struggled with the heat and terrain, finishing 25 minutes behind Gilbert and losing the overall lead to the Belgian. Rodriguez moved up to second overall, with Cavendish’s team-mate Konstantsin Sivtsov third.
Nearly, but not quite for Serafin Martinez
Earlier, Spaniard Serafin Martinez (Xacobeo Galicia) had looked like he had the stage win sewn-up after soloing way from a breakaway but was painfully caught as he passed under the final kilometre banner.
Martinez was part of a seven-rider group that got away on the first of stage three’s two categorised climbs, the category two Puerto de Ojen. Martinez, Mikael Cherel (Francaise des Jeux), Javier Ramirez (Andalucia-Cajasur), Biel Kadri (Ag2r), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Niki Terpstra (Milram) worked well together, at one point extending their lead over the bunch to around nine minutes.
As the group neared the second big climb of the day, the first category Puerto del Leon, the escape group started to splinter and Martinez seized the chance for a solo attack. He quickly distanced himself from his former companions.
Behind, Katusha forced the pace up, a change in acceleration that was too much for Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), who dropped off the back.
The bunch quickly whittled away Martinez’s gap and caught him with exactly one kilometre to the line.
One-day specialist Gilbert then accelerated away from the bunch on the uphill drag to the line, where the stage win and red jersey waited for him.
Sky’s illness woes
Team Sky suffered a bad day, with several riders succumbing to the affects of an overnight stomach illness. Both John-Lee Augustyn and Ben Swift – who placed seventh on stage two – abandoned the race. Simon Gerrans was also affected, but managed to complete the stage.
Tuesday’s 2010 Vuelta a Espana stage four starts in Malaga and finishes in Valdepenas de Jaen 183.8km later. Along the way, the riders will navigate three categorised climbs.
Vuelta a Espana 2010, stage three: Marbella to Malaga, 157.3km
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 3 secs
3. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 13 secs
4. Vincenzo Niabli (Ita) Liquigas at 15 secs
5. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at same time
7. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 18 secs
8. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 19 secs
9. David Arroyo (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
10. Arthur Vichot (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at same time
13. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 19 secs
31. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 30 secs
39. Thomas Lofkvist (Swe) Team Sky at 30 secs
138. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 25-03
Overall classification after stage three
1. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 14 secs
3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Columbia at 22 secs
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Columbia at 26 secs
5. Vincenzo Niabli (Ita) Liquigas at 28 secs
6. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Columbia at 28 secs
7. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 35 secs
8. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervelo at 35 secs
9. Frank Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 36 secs
10. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo at 41 secs
14. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 46 secs
25. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 51 secs
33. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 57 secs
54. Thomas Lofkvist (Swe) Team Sky at 1-48
138. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 24-54
145. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 25-23
163. Ian Stannard (GB) Team Sky at 25-50
173. Peter Kennaugh (GB) Team Sky at 26-20
Christian Vande Velde was the victim of a slip up, but he carried on unscathed
Niki Terpstra in the escape group
Bernhard Eisel rides with pre-stage race leader Mark Cavendish
Philippe Gilbert launches his winning attack, hotly pursued by Joaquin Rodriguez
Philippe Gilbert won the stage and took the race lead
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Related links
Philippe Gilbert: Rider profile
Stage two: Hutarovich beats Cavendish to Vuelta stage win
Vuelta stage one: Cavendish leads after HTC-Columbia win team time trial
The British riders to have led one of the grand tours
Vuelta a Espana 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index