Vuelta Stage 3 Reaction: Pablo Lastras reflects on a day everything went right
Team Sky keep Wiggo out of trouble but Christophe Le Mevel of Garmin Cervelo is less fortunate
Pablo Lastras of Movistar says that it was his experience that helped him judge the right time to attack to allow him not only to win Stage 3 of the 2011 Vuelta in Totana today but also to take the race leader's jersey from Leopard Trek's Daniele Bennati.
It's the third Vuelta stage win of Lastras' career, but the first time he has held the overall lead in the race.
“I’m very happy because I’ve lost a few races like stages at the Giro and the Tour of Lombardy”, the 35-year-old said afterwards.
“Today it was a question of attacking at the right time. I’ve raced with a lot of respect for my breakaway companions. With the experience I have, I know that any rider in a front group can be a danger.
"I’ve always believed in myself," added the rider, who hails from Madrid. "This leader’s jersey of the Vuelta is a great reward after 27 years of practising cycling.”
Looking back on his other big wins, Lastras said: “The highlight of my career was my stage win at the 2001 Giro d’Italia [Stage 11 from Bled in Slovenia to Gorizia]. It remains the strongest moment of my career. It showed me the way to success and that I made it at the Tour de France as well. That was in 2003.
"My mum passed away four months before and I felt like quitting cycling but I remembered she said that when you fight for something, you have to fight till the end. So emotionally, that was my biggest win.”
Lastras came close to repeating his Giro win ten years on in this year's race but had to settle for second place on Stage 17 in Tirano; he was actually the third man over the line before Visconti - who will be his team mate at Movistar next year - was disqualified for shoving Diego Ulissi, who was awarded the win.
“The stage win at the Vuelta is a good replacement for the stage win I didn’t get at the Giro”, reflected Lasras.
Today's breakaway (copyright: The Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
By making his decisive move ahead of the summit of the day's final climb and then managing to stay away, Lastras headed off the prospect of a sprint finish involving fellow breakaway rider Sylvain Chavanel which the French champion would have been most people's favourite to win.
The Quick Step rider revealed however that getting into an escape today hadn't been part of his team's plan. “I wasn’t designated to go in the breakaway today but I’ve seen a nice hill and I initiated the breakaway," he admitted.
"I didn’t miss much when Lastras attacked," he continued. "I’m sorry that I didn’t win the stage. I wanted to win. But I couldn’t carry everyone on my back seat even though I was virtual leader [after the intermediate sprints]," he added, confirming the impression that he was getting little help in chasing the Spaniard down from the two other escapees, Markel Irizar of RadioShack and Vacansoleil-DCM's Ruslan Pidgorny.
"It’s annoying to be second again but I’m not blaming anyone," Chavanel went on. "Pidgorny didn’t co-operate but that’s racing. Lastras was the strongest but I also had the legs for winning. My good sensations are back, that’s the satisfaction of the day.”
Team Sky (copyright: The Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins kept out of trouble today, finishing the stage in 13th place, one behind team mate Chris Froome.
“It was good to see Brad up there," said Team Sky's Sports Director Steven De Jongh. "That was the main job today and yesterday and now we are looking forward to tomorrow which will be a day for the GC. All the boys are looking towards that stage and there is a really good atmosphere within the team.
“The team did a terrific job did all day," he added. "Thomas [Lofkvist], Froomey - all the guys actually - were giving a hand today fetching bottles. They did a lot of work throughout the day.
“It is a hard day coming up tomorrow. For GC those guys in the break are not that significant so all the big teams have said we don’t have to bring them back if it’s a reasonable gap. It was about coming home safe and it was the same for us too.
“It was really selective. It was a tough climb, especially after 140km it’s very hard. It was hot again today it went up to 38 degrees. It dropped down a bit to about 34 but it’s very hot! You have to drink a lot and it will be the same again tomorrow.”
Christophe Le Mevel on the deck (copyright: The Tour of Spain/Graham Watson)
One rider who did encounter a problem today was Christophe Le Mevel of Garmin0-Cervelo, looking to improve on his 14th place overall last year but who came down heavily some 30 kilometres from the line.
“It’s because of a Katusha rider [Yuriy Trofimov] who was looking behind him and he touched my wheel," claimed Le Mevel afterwards. "I managed to get back on time in the group of the favourites but my left hip is painful. I’m afraid to have a bad night after that.”