Vigo to Mirador de Lobeira 185km
Looking at a profile map, Stage Three of this year's Vuelta a España looks much like Stage Two. Both are largely flat with a hill at the end. But the climb to Mirador de Lobeira, which comes 181km after the peloton rolls out of Vigo, is only 4km (2.5mi) in length and a much gentler gradient. When this Vuelta was first posted, positioning going into the last 1.5km (.9mi) was going to be crucial, as the road was barely one car width wide. But the road was widened by two meters and resurfaced, making the fight for position a bit less manic.
It's still a hill. And with hills, often come time gaps. So no matter how the stage started, the race was going to go ballistic for the finish. Cannondale Pro Cycling needed to be at the pointy end of affairs in the final kilometers to give captain Ivan Basso a shot at gaining time on the men who matter in the race.
An early break of five darted away just as the race started. Not only were the numbers against them, but so was the wind. The quintet, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural), Cyril Bessy (Cofidis), Pablo Urtasun Perez (Euskaltel) Vicente Reynes Mimo (Lotto) and Luca Dodi (Lampre), dutifully toiled ahead of the pack, with never more than a three-and-a-half minute lead, until they were caught with 37km remaining.
From here to the foot of the climb, the teams of Astana, Movistar, and Cannondale all took their turns driving the pace. Each team wanted to make sure their captain got to the climb safely and in position to do damage to his rivals.
As the field ran into the climb, Orica-Greenedge took over the lead in hopes of catapulting their man Simon Gerrans, a stage-hunter, to the win. But with three kilometers remaining, Vacansoleil's Juan Antonio Flecha attacked their train and got a gap. Flecha's dig was enough to sow confusion in the peloton. Orica sat up, as did others. Then BMC's Ivan Santoromita struck out on his own and rode right by Flecha. The field was perking up, but no one seemed ready to commit. Chris Horner of RadioShack saw the dithering and struck out on his own, passing Santoromita and stomping away.
Horner's gap looked big, and he pounded away knowing that the stage win could also give him the race lead. Behind, the leaders, after playing poker too long, started riding.
But it was too late. Horner secured the win by three seconds of Movistar's Alejandro Valverde. Basso, riding smoothly, finished five seconds behind Valverde in eighth place. Horner's gap, along with the stage victor's time bonus, was enough to put Horner in the red jersey. Basso moved up to 27th.
Tomorrow, the 186.4km stage from Lain to Fisterra has only one climb of note, the Mirador de Ezaro, but the entire day is a grinder. Constant up and down all day will make it hard for everybody. It could well favor a breakaway, as chasing over constantly-changing terrain is a challenge.
Vuelta a España 2013
Stage 3: Vigo to Mirador de Lobeira
1. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 4:30:18
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar 0:00:03
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha same time
4. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling same time
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp same time
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
10. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:00:06
62. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:01:11
89. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 0:02:59
127. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:05:40
128. Maciej Paterski (Pol) same time
130. Guillaume Boivin (Can) samet time
156. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:06:42
157. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) same time
180. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:12:55
1. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 9:37:40
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:06
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:14
4. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa)RadioShack Leopard0:00:16
5. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:23
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
29. Ivan Basso (Ita) 0:01:32
61. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:07:18
103. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 0:14:18
127. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:16:45
128. Guillaume Boivin (Can) same time
140. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 0:18:00
142. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:18:12
152. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:19:27
167. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 0:21:43