Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto attacked on the day's final ascent to win Stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana in Malaga this afternoon, holding on from Joaquin Rodriquez of Katusha following another long day of climbing in baking temperatures.
Serafin Martinez of Xacobeo Galicia , who had got away in an escape early on, had seemed poised to take a remarkable maiden professional victory after attacking 35km out and even appeared set to wrest the race leader's red jersey from Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia, but agonisingly for the 26-year-old he was caught on the final 1.5km kick up towards the finish.
Instead, it’s the Belgian Gilbert who takes over from the Manxman at the top of the General Classification, with Rodriguez moving up to second. Cavendish eventually crossed the line in the autobus – the name given to the group, typically including the big sprint names, for whom a day in the mountains is one to be endured rather than relished – more than 25 minutes behind the winner.
Martinez, for his part, has some consolation in the shape of taking the blue and white polka dot jersey for best climber, taking the maximum 10 points available on the Category 1 Puerto del Leon shortly after launching his attack, with David Moncoutié of Cofidis, winner of the Mountains classification last year, the second man over the summit after bridging the gap to the remaining escapees.
While he may still be waiting for his first professional win, Martinez is no stranger to leading the Vuelta’s King of the Mountains competition, which he topped for 11 days in 2007, his first year as a pro.
The breakaway that Martinez had slipped into at the start of today’s 135km stage from Marbella as the peloton immediately headed up the Category 2 Puerto de Ojen also contained Blel Kadri of AG2R-La Mondiale, Javier Ramirez from Andalucia Cajasur, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Egoi Martinez, Jelle Vanendert of Omega Pharma Lotto, Milram’s Niki Terpstra and Mickaël Chérel of FDJ.
At one point, the group had opened up a gap of nine minutes on the peloton, with HTC-Columbia showing little inclination to defend Cavendish’s overall lead, and instead it was Liquigas and Katusha that began to ratchet up the pace and start to reel in the escapees.
Meanwhile it was a disastrous day for Team Sky as illness – possibly food poisoning – swept through the team, with John-Lee Augustyn and Ben Swift, seventh on yesterday’s Stage 2, both forced to abandon.
According to the Team Sky website, the pair, as well as Simon Gerrans, were among six members of the Team Sky camp who fell ill overnight, the other three being backroom staff, and it was touch and go whether the trio would be able to start the stage in Marbella this morning.
Vuelta Stage 3 result
1 GILBERT Philippe Omega Pharma-Lotto 4h 06' 12"
2 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha + 3"
3 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi + 13"
4 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Doimo + 15"
5 BOLE Grega Lampre-Farnese Vini + 15"
6 ROCHE Nicholas AG2R La Mondiale + 15"
7 MENCHOV Denis Rabobank + 18"
8 MOSQUERA Ezequiel Xacobeo-Galicia + 19"
9 ARROYO David Caisse d'Epargne + 19"
10 VICHOT Arthur FDJ + 19"
11 POZZATO Filippo Katusha + 19"
12 TONDO Xavier Cervelo TestTeam + 19"
13 SCHLECK Frank Team Saxo Bank + 19"
14 PLAZA Ruben Caisse d'Epargne + 19"
15 BRUSEGHIN Marzio Caisse d'Epargne + 19"
16 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Columbia + 19"
17 NIEVE Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi + 23"
18 VAN GARDEREN Tejay HTC-Columbia + 23"
19 GARCÍA David Xacobeo-Galicia + 25"
20 SÁNCHEZ Luis León Caisse d'Epargne + 25"
Vuelta overall standings after Stage 3
1 GILBERT Philippe Omega Pharma-Lotto 8h 55' 56"
2 RODRIGUEZ Joaquin Katusha + 14"
3 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC-Columbia + 22"
4 VAN GARDEREN Tejay HTC-Columbia + 26"
5 NIBALI Vincenzo Liquigas-Doimo + 28"
6 VELITS Peter HTC-Columbia + 28"
7 ANTON Igor Euskaltel-Euskadi + 35"
8 TONDO Xavier Cervelo TestTeam + 35"
9 SCHLECK Frank Team Saxo Bank + 36"
10 FLORENCIO Xavier Cervelo TestTeam + 41"
11 POZZATO Filippo Katusha + 42"
12 SANTAROMITA Ivan Liquigas-Doimo + 43"
13 KREUZIGER Roman Liquigas-Doimo + 43"
14 SASTRE Carlos Cervelo TestTeam + 46"
15 CUESTA Iñigo Cervelo TestTeam + 46"
16 ARROYO David Caisse d'Epargne + 47"
17 BRUSEGHIN Marzio Caisse d'Epargne + 47"
18 PLAZA Ruben Caisse d'Epargne + 47"
19 LARSSON Gustav Team Saxo Bank + 47"
20 KASHECHKIN Andrey Lampre-Farnese Vini + 47"
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