Roglič cedes the red jersey early in the race
But now an experienced Grand Tour contender, Roglič is also a canny operator when it comes to a three-week race, which explains why he will be more than happy to hand over his red jersey after stage three.
Having taken red in the opening prologue, Roglič confirmed his status as the favourite but also placed a target firmly on his back.
More importantly he has also had to deal with the added pressure of leading the race, including the added post-race interviews and added responsibility of controlling the race the leader is obliged to perform.
Roglič has handed his lead over to Rein Taaramäe, who now tops the standings by 25 seconds to Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo), with Roglič now slipping back to third at 30 seconds.
This is an ideal situation for Roglič, who remains top among the general classification contenders but can now focus on building a strong advantage to his rivals without the pressure of leading the race.
Against all odds victory for Rein Taaramäe
Rein Taaramäe may not be a household name even in more dedicated cycling circles, but the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux is a veteran of the peloton.
Estonian pro Taramäe has bounced around teams since the start of his career with Cofidis back in 2007, racking up a list of prestigious victories.
Stage three of the 2021 Vuelta was Taaramäe’s second win in the Spanish Grand Tour and his third victory in a three-week race, coming 10 years after he won stage 14 of the 2011 Vuelta.
His breakaway victory, which saw him beat the likes of Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emiratea) and Kenny Elissonde on the slopes of Pićon Blanco, at the ripe age of 34 will be a huge moment in his career and marks an emphatic return to the WorldTour in 2021, having race for second tier squad Total Direct Energie last season.
A poised cat and mouse goes to the breakaway
The Vuelta a España is routinely the most unpredictable Grand Tour of the year, owing to its brutal parcours that never follows the traditional pattern of three-week races.
Organisers routinely drop challenging climbing stages early in the race to shake up the GC, with regular upsets in the opening few stages.
Stage three was one of those stages, as the peloton faced a challenging climbing course, finishing at the top of the daunting and picturesque Pićon Blanco climb (7.6km-long at 9.1 per cent average gradient).
There were eight riders who made it into the break on the stage, as it looked like the peloton had control of the race throughout the day even despite the eight-minute advantage they’d pulled out.
Onto the final climb the gap had fallen dramatically, but the race still hung on the balance as the stronger climbers in the escape began to attack on another.
But in the end it was Taaramäe, Dombrowski, Kenny, and Lilian Calmejane (Ag2r-Citroën) who made it to the line ahead of the bunch, securing the first breakaway victory of the 2021 Vuelta.
As the final Grand Tour of the year continues, after a hectic season for most riders, and with the heat expected to take its toll, we can expect plenty more opportunities for the break in this year.
Movistar, Ineos and Roglič amongst the strongest
As the GC group climbed to the summit of Pićon Blanco, there were some very noticeable performances on display.
Of course most notably was Primož Roglič, who very comfortably climbed his way to the top of the climb without losing any time, however he did finish solo as his team-mates Sepp Kuss, Steven Kruiswijk and Sam Oomen all suffered and were not part of the leading group.
But aside from Roglič, Movistar were also notable in their performance as all three of their leaders (Enric Mas, Miguel Àngel López and Alejandro Valverde) looked rock solid as they reached the reached the line, Valverde leading into the final few hundred metres before Mas attacked to gain a small gap on the rivals.
While the famed ‘trident’ is often the subject of plenty of mirth in the cycling world, if Movistar keep up this strength later into the race, they may be a serious threat.
Other strong performers on day three were Egan Bernal and Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers), who made it through the day with no disasters and no time losses.
Some big favourites feel the heat
While we saw some of the stronger performers, we also noted a few surprise losers, most prominent of which was Olympic champion Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), who lost around a minute to the favourites.
Carapaz has had a full schedule this season, after finishing third in the Tour and then taking the Olympic title, meaning his legs may not be as fresh as those of Bernal or Yates.
Others who lost chinks of time include Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), who lost around 20 seconds to the GC favourites, while Romain Bardet (Team DSM) was another eight seconds behind.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana), a dark horse for the GC for many), also lost time and finished with the Bardet group.
The race is far from over but with a rider like Roglič out in front time gaps like these are never easy to overcome.
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