Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) sprinted to victory on stage three of the Vuelta a Espana to finally end his winless streak at Grand Tours.
The Slovakian champion, who has suffered a number of near-misses at the last two Tours, outsprinted John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) in Malaga to finally claim his stage victory.
Sagan’s victory, the eighth Grand Tour win of his career, arrived courtesy of a powerful long sprint, while Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) retained the red jersey.
The day’s break consisted of eight men, with Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros) – nursing the polka dot jersey for Chaves – in the thick of it.
Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo), Walter Pedraza (Team Colombia), Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka) and Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) completed the move but they never got too big a gap.
Orica-GreenEDGE were among the teams chasing hard, with Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin also eyeing up a bunch sprint.
The first-category Puerto de Leon disrupted the rhythm of the break too, as Fraile lead over the top to move into the mountains classification lead.
Chavanel, meanwhile, tried to inject a bit of pace into the break as he twice attacked – the second move dragging Fraile and Gougeard with him.
Velits returned to the peloton around the same time, with 69km to go, and Koshevoy also sat up as the remaining escapees re-grouped into a six-man move.
Back in the bunch, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) hit the deck for the second stage running, as his injury-hit season shows no signs of easing – Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) also tumbling.
It meant a big chase back on for the Frenchman, with team-mates for company, and despite not hiding his dejection at crashing again he caught the group with more than 30km remaining.
At the front, Gougeard and Tjallingii struck out alone inside the final 30km with a 1’30” gap to the peloton but the race was back together for the fast finale.
Giant-Alpecin and LottoNL-Jumbo led the way as the flamme rouge beckoned, but Sagan had glued himself to Degenkolb’s wheel.
And when Degenkolb opened the sprint out, Sagan took the other side of the road and had the power to hold on for the long sprint.
Bouhanni came through strong, but Sagan would not be denied a long overdue Grand Tour stage win – his first since 2013.
Vuelta a Espana 2015: stage three – result
1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo – 4.06.46hrs
2) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – Cofidis – ST
3) John Degenkolb (GER) – Giant-Alpecin
4) Jean-Pierre Drucker (LUX) – BMC Racing
5) Maximiliano Richeze (ARG) – Lampre-Merida
6) Kristian Sbaragli (ITA) – MTN-Qhubeka
7) Mitch Docker (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
8) Jasper Stuyven (BEL) – Trek Factory Racing
9) Vincente Reynes (ESP) – IAM Cycling
10) Tom an Asbroeck (BEL) – LottoNL-Jumbo
1) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 8.04.01hrs
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Alpecin +5”
3) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Team Sky +15”
4) Dan Martin (IRL) – Cannondale-Garmin +24”
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +35”
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +36”
7) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +38”
8) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +40”
9) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha – ST
10) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +47”