Vuelta a Espana 2011 stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

Pablo Lastras (Movistar) sprung a surprise by soloing to victory on the third stage of this year’s Vuelta a Espana in Totana this afternoon.

Already a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, the veteran Spaniard attacked from a four-man group containing Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), Markel Irizar (RadioShack) and Ruslan Podgornyy (Vacansoleil-DCM) with just over 10km to go, and held on to take both the victory and the race leader’s red jersey.

He appeared to dedicate the victory to former team-mate Xavier Tondo, who died in May, and Mauricio Soler, who crashed heavily in the Tour de Suisse.

Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins stayed out of trouble and finished 13th, and now sits in 41st overall, 2-37 off Lastras.

Early break never comes back
The group escaped just 10km into the stage, and initially had Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) for company, although the Frenchman was dropped shortly after a visit to the medical car.

heir lead soared to some eight minutes, and while initially keen to defend Daniele Bennati position at the top of the GC, the Leopard-Trek struggled in the searing heat to reel the escapees in.

Also in difficult was Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad), who was dropped on the third category Alto del Berro with some 50km remaining.

More big names were dropped on the final climb, the Alto de la Santa; first yesterday’s winner Chris Sutton lost contact, before Bennati was shed out the rear of the main field.

It was on the climb that Lastras attacked, and despite never amassing a comfortable advantage, a notable lack of cohesion behind was enough for him to hold on to take a fine victory, his third Vuelta stage win. Chavanel took second, Irizar third and Pydgornyy fourth.

Nicholas Roche led the peloton home, some 1-43 down as Wiggins and several pre-race favourites including defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen Van Den Broeck and Joaquin Rodriguez rode hard in the final kilometres.

By doing so, they all put time into Denis Menchov, twice a winner here, lost 1-23 to the peloton. It was a disastrous day for Andrea Kloden (RadioShack), who conceded over 11 minutes to the main field.

Results
Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage 3: Petrer-Totana, 163km

1. Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar 
in 3-58-00
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step 
at 15 sec
3. Markel Irizar (Spa) RadioShack 

4. Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukr) Vacansoleil-DCM 
all at st
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R-La Mondiale 

at 1-43
6.Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank
7. Valerio Agnoli (Ita)Liquigas
8. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita)

Lampre-ISD
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita)Astana
10. Jan Bakelandts (Bel)

Omega Pharma-Lotto
Brits
12. Chris Froome (GBr) Team

Sky
13. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky all at st
162. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky at 12-19
170. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 12-50

Vuelta a Espana 2011: General classification after stage three

1 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar 
in 8-25-59
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 20 sec

3 Markel Irizar (Spa) RadioShack at 1-08

4 Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukr) Vacansoleil-DCM at 1-25

5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trekat 1-55
6. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard-Trek at st
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 1-59
8. Valerio Agnoli (Ita) Liquigas
9. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas all at st
10. Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 2-04
Brits
40. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 2-37
41. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at st
150. Ian Stannard (GBr) Team Sky at 13-13
184. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 16-48

Pablo Lastras wins, Vuelta a Espana 2011, stage three

Bit between his teeth: Lastras takes the stage and race lead

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Related links

Vuelta a Espana 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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Vuelta a Espana 2011: previous stages
Stage 1: Leopard-Trek wins opening TTT to put Fuglslang in front

Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Teams, riders, start list
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Who’s riding?
Vuelta a Espana 2011 team list