La Vuelta was always going to be a very difficult grand tour, designed by the organisers UNIPUBLIC, to favour the climbers. The evidence of the Spanish Tour’s difficulty and the effect of the summer heat has appeared early on Stage 3 raced from Marbella to Malaga.
Stage 3 included the category one, 570 metre climb on Puerto del Leon at the 120 km mark and an uphill finish in Malaga. The climbs and the unrelenting Spanish heat have left many GC riders out of contention. Christian Van der Velde of Garmin-Transitions 14.10 behind the leader, Oscar Freire of Rabobank, David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) (25.03), have significant time gaps they cannot overcome.
Stage 3 la Vuelta Win to Belgian Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto
The last climb on Stage 3 was a short, sharp 1.8 km climb to the ramparts of the Castillo de Gibralfaro, a Muslim fortress built in the 8th century and rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries. The fortress is the highest point in Malaga and provides panoramic views of the city and surroundings. Gilbert had the legs for this last test on the relatively short 157.3 km stage. He won by three seconds to Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and a further three seconds to Eusakaltel-Euskadi’s Igor Anton.
Gilbert took the red jersey from Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia who has worn the leader’s jersey since the stage 1 team time trial. Cavendish, predictably finished Stage 3 in the grupetto of sprinters but still supported by his team members Matthew Goss and Hayden Roulston who finished on the same time of 25.03 minutes behind the leader.
GC Classification After Stage 3
Stage 3 did not claim the hopes of Frank Schlek who is Saxo Bank’s GC contender for la Vuelta, although his brother Andy, second placer winner of la Tour de France, who is riding la Vuelta in support, finished 14.10 behind the leader.
Frank finished 9th on the stage, 36 seconds behind and remains in overall contention. Frank broke his collarbone on the cobbled Stage 3 of la Tour and had a fragmented preparation for the Tour of Spain because of the injury and the religious blessing of his marriage on 22 August.
The GC classification after Stage 3 is Philippe Gilbert, Joaquin Constantin (Katusha), Kanstantin Sivitsov (HTC-Columbia), Tejay va Garderen (HTC-Columbia) 22 seconds, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Peter Velits (Sky) 28 seconds, Igor Anton (Euskadel-Euskadi) 35 seconds, Xavier Tondo (Cervelo Test Team) with Frank Schlek on 36 seconds and Xavier Florencio (Cervelo Test Team) 41 seconds behind the leaders.