The Vuelta reaches Spain and a calmer stage awaits, a likely sprint.
Stage 3 Review: a break and it included Thomas De Gendt. But as the first mountain stage this was going to be a nervous affair and the day’s move never got much room. Team Sky got to work, deploying their mountain train and many riders were dropped on the two final climbs. It was on the final climb to La Comella that the fireworks were lit and the lead group was thinned right down. Among those sipping a can of cola de pelotón was Alberto Contador who had the cameras tracking him on his way to losing 2m33s. Ahead Chris Froome attacked and only Esteban Chaves could match the acceleration with Romain Bardet and Fabio Aru giving chase over the top of the climb and catching the lead two. But all along a larger chase group was closing in and from this Vincenzo Nibali surged to take the stage win. There was a touch of his win in Sheffield on his way to the Tour de France but let’s remember he’d been distanced earlier.
The stage did plenty of damage with Miguel Angel Lopez, Rafał Majka, Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk losing over a minute and only 60 riders finishing within 10 minutes of Nibali, Froome et al. A hypothesis here is that the hallmark of a vintage grand tour is the number of times the leader’s jersey changes shoulders. Chris Froome is now the third leader in three days which is a promising start but the question is now whether it will change again before the race reaches Madrid.
The Route: the Vuelta reaches Spain and rides to Tarragona, the seaside resort on the Costa Dorada. There’s 198km and the day’s climb offers 13km at 2.8% average and because of yesterday’s racing the mountains jersey is secured for today at least by Davide Villela.
The Finish: Tarragona is famous as a seaside resort but the race doesn’t take the most scenic route as it sweeps into town passing by the local refuse incinerator plant and then goes straight back out to finish in a nondescript residential area, all this via many rotondas – roundabouts – and the road rises and falls in places, it’s hillier than the profile suggests – and the road rises to the line.
The Contenders: it’s back to the same sprint contenders. Based on what we saw in Gruissan, Matteo Trentin is the quickest of the lot, he was also winning the intermediate sprints and he won’t have been troubled by the mountains yesterday either and the twisting finish is fine as he has a strong team and he’s good for uphill sprints too.
Sacha Modolo (UAE Emirates), Edward Theuns and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) should be close too, with Blythe often placing well but with few wins to his name. Other sprinters in the mix include Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-Scott), J-J Lobato (Lotto-Jumbo) and Jonas Van Genechten (Cofidis).
|Sacha Modolo, Edward Theuns
|Blythe, Degenkolb, Cort Nielsen, Lobato, Van Genechten, Debussschere
Weather: a fine day for a race, sunny with a top temperature of 28°C
TV: It’s on La1 in Spain and Eurosport around much of the world and often on the same broadcaster you watch the Tour de France on. The finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.
Daily Díaz: 193 km from the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean sea. First Spanish finish of the race, or perhaps should we say Catalan? Let’s forget for a moment the conflict between institutions based in Madrid and Barcelona, and the divisions inside the Catalan society itself about whether or not the territory should become a state. It’s summer and Tarragona is a gorgeous city to visit. Let’s grab an ice cream and take a look at the Roman amphitheatre by the seaside. Time for some music: Manel is a Catalan band that has achieved some popularity outside Catalonia. Their song Al mar! (Into the sea!) is probably fit for a pleasant August afternoon. Enjoy! Spotify / Youtube
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel