Philippe Gilbert became the second rider to wear the red leader’s jersey in the 2010 Vuelta a España on Monday after the Omega Pharma-Lotto strongman won stage 3, a short, tough leg from Marbella to Málaga.
Gilbert jumped out of the bunch just as it swarmed the sole survivor of a daylong break in the final kilometer of the 157.3km stage, overpowering Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) to to take the victory at the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
“The target was to win the stage, so getting the overall leader’s jersey is a bonus,” said the 28-year-old Gilbert, who won the Amstel Gold Race earlier this season.
Serafín Martínez (Xacobeo Galicia), who was that last unfortunate man left standing from the break, took solace in donning the KOM jersey.
A short stage, but a tough one
Stage 3 followed a fairly circuitous route and ended with a big loop around Málaga, a 1,300-year-old city of 500,000 perched on one of the most beautiful parts of the Mediterranean coast.
The stage featured two climbs, the first starting right from the gun and the second 36.9km from the finish:
- The Category 2 Puerto de Ojén started at kilometer zero and climbed 8.7km over an average grade of 4.94 percent.
- The Category 1 Puerto del León began at km 104.6 and rose for 15.8km at an average grade of 5.4 percent.
There were some tough little humps over the last 15km, too, and the stage ended with a 1.8km, 5 percent climb to the Castillo de Gibralfaro.
Kiko Garcia, a former Spanish professional from the ONCE team in the Nineties and now the voice of Radio Vuelta, said the Puerto de León could be a problem going up and going down, depending upon how hard the riders hit it.
“The downhill is more complicated than the uphill,” he said. “The road is narrow and curvy but it’s not very technical. I think it’s going to be fast and it can be a trap for someone who doesn’t descend very well.”
And then there’s that finish.
“The finish might be a surprise for many riders,” Garcia said. “It’s at the top of a 700-meter steep ramp. It’s ideal for explosive climbers. It should suit Nibali, who is very good downhill. He should be inspired by the uphill finish as well.”
Tough start for the race leader
Race leader Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) got spit out early on the Category 2 Puerto de Ojén as Niki Terpstra (Milram) led Serafín Martinez and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) over the first climb. Cav’ wouldn’t reach the top until 1:45 later, and teammate Bernhard Eisel dropped back to lend a hand with the chase.
John Lee Augustyn (Sky) had an even worse start, crashing out of the Vuelta.
Meanwhile, Egoi Martínez, Javier Ramírez (Andalucia Cajasur), Biel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Jelle Vanendert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) moved ahead of the field. Niki Terpstra (Milram), Mikael Cherel (Française des Jeux) and Serafín Martínez chased and caught on, forging a seven-man escape with a minute’s advantage on the peloton. Cav’, meanwhile, trailed by three minutes.
At 50km, the break had 2:40 on the bunch. A kilometer further along Ramirez took the first intermediate sprint ahead of Kadri and Vandenert. And Cav’ and company finally rejoined the now-settled-in peloton, which allowed the break to take heaps of time — the margin reached nearly nine and a half minutes by midrace.
With Cavendish’s stint in the leader’s jersey clearly over, HTC kept a light hand on the leash, and soon other teams came forward to keep with break within striking distance — Liquigas, Saxo Bank, Katusha and Caisse d’Epargne.
With 57km to go the deficit had been slashed to just over five minutes. The break’s advantage was down a further two minutes as Egoi Martínez led the escapees onto the lower slopes of the Category 1 Puerto del León.
The Puerto del León thins the herd
Ramírez couldn’t hold the pace and slipped out of the break as Liquigas and Saxo Bank drove the chase. Cavendish was in difficulty once more, too, dropped from the bunch and losing time.
Terpstra was next to fade, and Serafín Martínez took the opportunity to attack what was left of the break with the chase just 90 seconds behind. Then David Moncoutie (Cofidis) jumped out of the bunch, hunting KOM points.
Serafín Martínez took the top points at the summit of the Puerto del León, but Moncoutie quickly raced through the remnants of the break to become the second rider on the road. The peloton crested nearly two minutes down.
Moncoutie trailed Serafín Martínez by a half-minute on the descent, with Egoi Martínez and Mikael Cherel (Française des Jeux) chasing the Cofidis rider. Thirty kilometers from the line Serafín Martínez held a minute on his three pursuers, with the peloton at 1:43.
Caisse d’Epargne was running the show back in the bunch, which was growing as dropped riders used the descent to catch back on. The gap was holding steady at just under 90 seconds with 20km to go.
Liquigas was next to take the front, and with 12km to race Serafín Martínez still had 1:20 on the bunch, with that three-man chase caught in between at 42 seconds.
Serafín Martínez goes alone into the final climb
The Xacobeo Galicia rider clung to his slim lead going into the final 5km with that 1.8km, 5 percent climb to the Castillo de Gibralfaro awaiting his arrival. But the chase was eating into his advantage — he had only 38 seconds as the climb approached, and the Moncoutie chase had been gobbled up.
Serafín Martínez hit that final climb with just 25 seconds’ advantage, and the chase was on in earnest. Going under the red kite marking 1km to go he had less than a dozen seconds — and then he had none as the bunch swarmed him.
Nibali and Gilbert swapped attacks, and Gilbert’s was the one that stuck. Katusha’s Rodriguez launched a furious chase with 150 meters to go, but it was too late — Gilbert took the stage win and the leader’s red jersey.
- 1. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 157.3km in 4:06:12
- 2. Joaquin Rodriguez, Katusha, at 0:03
- 3. Igor Anton, Euskaltel, at 0:13
- 4. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 0:15
- 5. Grega Bole, Lampre, s.t.
- … Complete results
- 1. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 8:55:56
- 2. Joaquin Rodriguez, Team Katusha, at 0:14
- 3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov, HTC-Columbia, at 0:22
- 4. Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-Columbia, at 0:26
- 5. Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:28
- … Complete results