Vuelta a Espana 2017: Chris Froome claims race lead as Vincenzo Nibali wins stage three

Team Sky blow general classification apart on final climb, but Bahrain-Merida man snatches stage win

Chris Froome is the new leader of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana after Team Sky blew the peloton apart on stage three into Andorra, where Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) claimed victory in the sprint.

Froome finished third, with the four seconds he picked up added to two at the intermediate sprint, and the Team Sky took the red jersey as a result.

As they crested the final climb, Froome and Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) had a gap on all their GC rivals, but Nibali’s group bridged across in the final kilometre, and the Italian sprinted to stage victory.

Froome is the race leader, however – reward for Team Sky having blown the peloton apart on the final climb, with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) losing a big chunk of time, and Orica-Scott’s British twins Adam and Simon Yates ceding more than 20 seconds each.

Chris Froome is the new leader of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana (pic – Sirotti)

After no riders formed a breakaway last time out, seven riders went clear this time – Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) among them, alongside Davide Villella (Cannondale-Drapac) and Ag2r-La Mondiale duo Axel Domont and Alexandre Geniez.

Fernando Orjuela (Manzana Postobon), Fabricio Ferrai (Caja Rural-Seguros) and Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) were the ProConti riders up the road, while UAE Team Emirates’ Przemyslaw Niemiec (UAE Team Emirates) bridged across.

QuickStep Floors, with Yves Lampaert in the red jersey, brought the gap down and it fluctuated between three-and-a-half and five minutes for a large chunk of the stage.

Domont had a solo lead as the race entered Andorra, but with Team Sky taking over the pace-setting in the peloton, the gap to all the leaders rapidly diminished.

UAE Team Emirates duo Rui Costa and Darwin Atapuma attacked on the Col de la Rabassa – the upping of the pace putting paid to the break once and for all – but the main GC contenders remained in the peloton.

Froome showed his form by snatching some bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint, seemingly catching his rivals cold, and Team Sky promptly ramped things up on the final climb too.

Diego Rosa set a furious pace on the lower slopes, and Contador was among the riders spat out of the back.

Hostilities eased momentarily as Froome burned out his team-mates, before the Team Sky man kicked on with eight kilometres to race and – with only Chaves able to stick with him – opened up a gap.

Froome and Chaves led over the top, with Bardet and Aru counter-attacking behind, but Nibali and the remaining GC men could not match the pace.

Bardet and Aru caught Froome and Chaves on the descent, and formed a leading quartet, but Nibali’s group had brought the gap down to just a few seconds as they passed under the flamme rouge.

Vincenzo Nibali, ‘The Shark of Messina’, celebrates his stage three win at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana (pic – Sirotti)

Froome promptly accelerated, but Nibali’s group made the split and the Italian opened his sprint up with perfect timing to claim the stage win and ten bonus seconds.

David de la Cruz (QuickStep Floors) was second, but it is third-placed Froome who now leads overall, with a two-second lead over the Spaniard and BMC Racing duo Nicolas Roche and Tejay van Garderen.

Vuelta a Espana 2017: stage three – result

1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida – 4.01.22
2) David de la Cruz (ESP) – QuickStep Floors – ST
3) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
4) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
5) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-Scott
6) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana
7) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – BMC Racing
8) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
10) Michael Woods (CAN) – Cannondale-Drapac +25”

General classification

1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 8.53.44hrs
2) David de la Cruz (ESP) – QuickStep Floors +2”
3) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – BMC Racing – ST
4) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing
5) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Bahrain-Merida +10”
6) Johan Esteban Chaves (COL) – Orica-Scott +11”
7) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana +38”
8) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott +39”
9) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +43”
10) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +48”
11) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-Scott – ST

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