Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) brought his Grand Tour stage winless streak to an end on Monday’s stage three of the Vuelta a España, as he sprinted to the line ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).
It’s the Slovakian champion’s first win in one of the major tours after his stage win at the Tour de France back in 2013. Since then, Sagan has missed out on stage wins in two Tours and a Vuelta but finally brought one home on the 158.4km route to the finish in Malaga.
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Sagan showed no signs of hurt after being taken down in a crash on Sunday’s stage two, and was back to his classic style of heading into the sprint with no lead-out from his team, despite Tinkoff-Saxo working hard to pull back the break earlier in the day.
Degenkolb’s Giant teammates were the most active on the front as the peloton reached the final couple of kilometres in the city centre, however the German missed out to Frenchman Bouhanni and Sagan after launching his sprint early.
The day’s main break formed from the off, with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo), Walter Pedraza (Team Colombia), Martin Velits (Etixx-Quick Step), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R – La Mondiale), Omar Fraile (Caja Rural – Seguros RGA) Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka) and Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) extending a maximum gap of over four minutes.
Things began to tumble on the category one Del Léon climb, with the peloton slowly reeling the remaining riders in before making the catch with 14 km to go.
The GC teams then came to the fore as the pace seemed to clam temporarily before an inevitable sprint finish, with Team Sky guiding Chris Froome safely home as the peloton began to stretch out with the accelerated pace in the last 5km.
Orica-GreenEdge were able to protect their rider and race leader Esteban Chaves, who will continue to wear the red jersey into Tuesday’s stage.
The fourth stage of the 2015 Vuelta will see the peloton navigate a relatively flat 209.4km course from Estepona to Vejer de la Frontera, before a tricky climb coming shortly before the finish to throw a spanner in the works for any sprinters who might have hoped for another opportunity.
Vuelta a España stage three: Mijas to Málaga (158.4km )
1. Peter Sagan (Slo) Tinkoff-Saxo, in 4-06-46
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
4. Jean-Pierre Drucke (Lux) BMC
5. Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida
6. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka
7. Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
9. Vicente Reynes (Esp) IAM Cycling
10. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) LottoNL-Jumbo, all same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-Green-Edge, in 8-04-01
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 5s
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky at 15s
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin at 24s
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha at 35s
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar 36s
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 38s
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 40s
9. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha st
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) 47s