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Vuelta a Espana 2019: Sam Bennett wins Stage 3 to continue Irish dominance

Martin James
26 Aug 2019

Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter easily wins first bunch finish as Roche retains red jersey

Ireland's Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) won Stage 3 of the 2019 Vuelta a Espana, easily taking a sprint victory in Alicante after a mostly flat 188km stage around Spain's Costa Blanca region.

Bennett hit the front with little competition in the fast, straight run for the line, and finished a couple of bike lengths clear of Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo) and Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott)

After a dramatic opening road stage that put the only other Irishman in the race, Nicolas Roche (Team Sunweb), into the leader's red jersey, it was a far more routine day that always looked likely to end in a bunch sprint. 

All the main fast men were present at the end to fight for stage honours, with the exception of Fernando Gaviria of UAE-Team Emirates, who was dropped on the day's final climb and wasn't able to regain contact.

Roche kept hold of his leader's jersey as all the main contenders finished safely in the main field, including second placed Nairo Quintana, the stage winner yesterday, who remains just two seconds down overall.

Another dull stage?

Stage 3 of the Vuelta got underway with a slightly surreal feel to the GC and the race overall, purely for what had happened 24 hours before. What had appeared on paper like a lumpy but ultimately manageable road stage opener likely to end in a bunch sprint turned into a brutal selection for the overall race that nobody was expecting.

It left South Americans Quintana, Lopez and Uran well placed, put Roche in red, brought Primoz Roglic closer to his main rivals but for others it was a case of crucial seconds lost or – in the case of Team Ineos among others – minutes.

So the question was, after everyone got the forecast so badly wrong on Stage 2, did we have to reconsider the expected outlook for Stage 3 as a near-guaranteed sprint finish once the day’s break of peripheral figures had been reeled in?

Well, maybe it was partly because of the events of the day before, but from the start this one followed the script far more predictably.

The day’s main break involved just three riders, all three Spaniards and all three from invited wildcard teams – no surprise there. One of them was a familiar face, too: Angel Madrazo, who featured in yesterday’s break and started the day in the mountains jersey.

He had teammate Diego Rubio for company, presumably to lead him out for more points on the day’s pair of 3rd category climbs, and Euskadi rider Hector Saez.

And that was exactly how it played out on the opening climb too, Madrazo leading the leading trio through, with the peloton a couple of minutes back.

With still 72km to go, there was no rush to bring the leaders back, and indeed the pacemaking at the front of the main field was as much about keeping the leaders away rather than any effort to bring them back.

But with the summit of the second small climb coming 40km of almost all downhill riding from the end, even a modest gap was one the peloton didn’t seem willing to allow to stand, especially when Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) decided to roll the dice midway up the climb.

He caused a small group to split off the front and while it didn’t stay clear for long, the rise in pace brought the lead trio into sight of the peloton. Madrazo made one last push to stay clear, and with De Gendt and co back in the fold he opened up enough daylight to take the points.

The increase in pace on the climb saw the main field break apart probably more than expected, but to nothing like the extent we saw yesterday and the vast majority had rejoined with still nearly 30km to ride.

That included Deceuninck-QuickStep quick man Jakobsen, who had dropped behind on the climb, but one sprinter who didn’t make it back was Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) – despite a pair of teammates doing their best to pace him back.