Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) had the power to beat all the other overall contenders to the line, but due to Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) taking second on the day, he does not take the overall lead, with Roglič holding on by five seconds.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) holds onto third overall and the mountains jersey after taking third on the stage, the front three finished together with gaps to the rest.
How it happened
The race started in Lodosa and it was a fairly gentle race profile with just one category three climb of the Alto de Oncala along the 166km route that finished at the top of La Laguna Negra de Vinuesa with the final climb being 6.5km long with an average of 6.7 per cent gradient.
It was a five man group that went away in the break with Mark Donovan (Team Sunweb), Aritz Bagues (Caja-Rural), Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie), Tosh van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) and Willem Smit (Burgos-BH) getting clear, four minutes being their biggest gap.
Jumbo-Visma along with EF Pro Cycling and Israel Start-Up Nation were the team’s who were controlling the pace, as the gap to the break went right down to settle at 2-30 with around 70km to go.
Astana and Movistar took up the pacing with 63km to go and the pace started to get higher and higher and that meant the break came back very early at 57km to go with Smit staying away for a few hundred metres extra before being caught.
But with 49km to go, Ángel Madrazo (Burgos-BH) went on the attack with team-mate Jesus Esquerra along with Paul Ourselin (Total Direct Energie), Héctor Saez (Caja-Rural) and Valentin Ferron (Total Direct Energie).
Esquerra was dropped soon after and while the group pulled out 1-25 before the peloton started to up the pace once again with 30km to go.
Rain came in and out of the race and as they went on the clouds closed in again for the final ascent.
As they hit the final climb the leaders had just 15 seconds over the peloton as Movistar took control of the pacing as they looked to get a second win in as many days with 8km to go, the break was caught just a kilometre into the climb as Ineos took over.
Behind, Marc Soler was out of the back due to a bike change. He did get back in thanks to his team car and a couple of team mates.
Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers) took it up for Richard Carapaz with 6km to go and held a very high pace for his leader, forcing several riders out of the back.
With 5km to go, Esteban Cháves (Mitchelton-Scott) suffered a mechanical and took Tsgabu Grmay’s bike, while Froome peeled off the front with 4km to go and Andrey Amador took over, this put Cháves even further out the back.
With 2.6km to go, Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) went on the attack and pulled out a decent gap for a brief period before Carapaz’s team mate, Iván Sosa brought him back.
Enric Mas (Movistar) was the first GC rider to up the pace followed by Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe) but no moves went and it came down to another GC sprint to the line.
But it was Martin who opened up the sprint with around 200 metres to go with only Roglič and Carapaz able to follow the Irishman to the line.
Martin took the stage but missed out on the lead overall as Roglič took the six bonus seconds for placing second on the stage. Martin took 10 seconds with Carapaz taking four on the line.
Stage four of the Vuelta a España 2020 sees the first chance for the sprinters that had managed to lug their ways over the early mountains.
Vuelta a España, stage three: Lodosa to Laguna Negra de Vinuesa (163.8km)
1. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, in 4-27-49
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, all at same time
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain-McLaren, at 4 seconds
5. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana, at 7s
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 9s
7. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 12s
8. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cycling
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
10. Clément Champoussin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, all at same time.
General classification after stage three
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 12-37-24
2. Dan Martin (Irl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 5 seconds
3. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 13s
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar Team, at 32s
5. Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Pro Cyclcing, at 38s
6. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 44s
7. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-17
8. Esteban Cháves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-29
9. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar Team, at 1-55
10. George Bennett (NZl) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-57.