Spaniard attacks on day's final climb to win stage and also moves into overall lead...

Pablo Lastras of Movistar attacked three fellow breakaway riders on the day's final climb to win Stage 3 of the 2011 Vuelta in Totana this afternoon, and also moves into the race leader's red jersey. French champion Sylvain Chavanel of Quick Step was second, 17 seconds down, with Mark Irizar of RadioShack third. The peloton gave up the chase some 20km out. Rusian Pidgornyy of Vacansoleil-DCM was last, while Nicolas Roche of AG2R led the main bunch home, nearly 2 minutes down on the winner.

By the time the four breakaway riders, who had got away shortly after the stage start in Pedrer, entered the closing 20 kilometres of today’s stage, the peloton, with Team Sky at the front keeping leader Bradley Wiggins out of trouble, had all but given up the chase.

The leaders still had the second ascent of the Category 3 Alto de Santa to come, and it was Lastras, perhaps mindful that Chavanel would most likely prevail in a head-to-head sprint, who attacked his fellow escapees to crest that climb alone, and he would maintain his advantage to the finish.

Raising his arms to point to the sky as he crossed the line for the third Vuelta stage win of his career, Lastras explained afterwards that he was dedicating the win to team mates Xavier Tondo, who died in a domestic accident in May, and Juan Mauricio Soler, still recovering slowly from his crash in the Tour de Suisse, as well as to the late Wouter Weylandt of Leopard Trek.

The 35-year-old from Madrid is also a past winner of a stage apiece in the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, but today’s victory was his first since picking up the overall at the Vuelta a Andalucia in 2008.

On a hot afternoon, a number of riders seemed out of sorts during the 164-kilometre stage including Mark Cavendish, whose team mate Leigh Howard dropped back to help him. Their HTC-Highroad colleague Matt Goss did not finish yesterday’s stage and was the first rider to retire from this year’s Vuelta.

Vuelta Stage 3 Result 
1  LASTRAS, Pablo           Movistar              3h 58' 00''
2  CHAVANEL, Sylvain        Quick Step                 + 15''
3  IRIZAR, Markel           RadioShack                 + 15''
4  PYDGORNYY, Ruslan        Vacansoleil-DCM            + 15''
5  ROCHE, Nicolas           AG2R La Mondiale        + 1' 43''
6  BRESCHEL, Matti          Rabobank                + 1' 43''
7  AGNOLI, Valerio          Liquigas-Cannondale     + 1' 43''
8  GAVAZZI, Francesco       Lampre-ISD              + 1' 43''
9  GASPAROTTO, Enrico       Astana                  + 1' 43''
10 BAKELANDTS, Jan          Omega Pharma-Lotto      + 1' 43''
11 MOLLEMA, Bauke           Rabobank                + 1' 43''
12 FROOME, Christopher      Sky Procycling          + 1' 43''
13 WIGGINS, Bradley         Sky Procycling          + 1' 43''
14 VERDUGO, Gorka           Euskaltel-Euskadi       + 1' 43''
15 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen   Omega Pharma-Lotto      + 1' 43''
16 FUGLSANG, Jakob          Leopard Trek            + 1' 43''
17 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin       Katusha                 + 1' 43''
18 MALACARNE, Davide        Quick Step              + 1' 43''
19 NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale     + 1' 43''
20 MARTIN, Daniel           Garmin-Cervelo          + 1' 43''

Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 3 
1  LASTRAS, Pablo           Movistar              8h 25' 59''
2  CHAVANEL, Sylvain        Quick Step                 + 20''
3  IRIZAR, Markel           RadioShack              + 1' 08''
4  PYDGORNYY, Ruslan        Vacansoleil-DCM         + 1' 24''
5  FUGLSANG, Jakob          Leopard Trek            + 1' 55''
6  MONFORT, Maxime          Leopard Trek            + 1' 55''
7  NIBALI, Vincenzo         Liquigas-Cannondale     + 1' 59''
8  AGNOLI, Valerio          Liquigas-Cannondale     + 1' 59''
9  CAPECCHI, Eros           Liquigas-Cannondale     + 1' 59''
10 SIVTSOV, Kanstantsin     HTC-Highroad            + 2' 04''

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.