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Stupid move changes Vuelta result
Aug 21st, 12. Movistar's Alejandro Valverde won the stage and moved into the Vuelta Espana leader's jersey as 2nd placed Joaquim Rodriguez regrets his "stupid" move.
Stage 3, the first mountain stage of this year's tour, included three mountain passes before the final ascent of the 5.5km, 7.8% gradient Cat 1 Santuario de Arrate climb - a total of 155km.
Valverde won by a mere milimetre over Rodriquez (Katusha), with GC favourites Alberto Contador (SaxoBank Tinkoff Bank) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) right behind.
The quartet launched free from a select front group of 20 riders within the last 5km - (the Movistar led peloton had chased down an eight rider break group, which included Philippe Gilbert (BMC), just before the final climb).
After a volley of attacks from Contador and with 500m to go, Rodriguez took to the front of the group and looked to have the stage in hand - but he was passed by Valverde at the absolute last moment.
"I'm really angry," said Rodriguez, "I lost a stage I was virtually holding in my hands. I knew the profile of the stage, especially I knew in the end I had to stay ahead because of two difficult downhill corners. In fact I was perfect: but in the last 5m I stopped pedalling and Valverde passed me by a bunch of millimetres.
"I expected today the favorite riders to be at the same standard and I have very good feelings about my shape, but in this moment I'm so pissed against myself that I don't really care. I can only think I lost a stage not because I was weakier, but because I was stupid".
The chasing group finished 6sec behind.
Thanks to his win, Valverde took the red leader's jersey from his teammate Jonathon Castroviejo. Another Movistar rider Benat Intxausti is now 2nd on GC +18s, Rodriguez 3rd +19s, Froome 4th +20s and Contador 5th +24s.
Valverde also moved to the top of the Points and Combination classifications.
"It's always a mystery how the first mountain stage can do, especially with this heat that could pay off for us," said the new Vuelta leader. "I started the climb a bit behind into the group, but as soon as I could overcome the bunch and reach the front, I attacked."
"I knew the Arrate climb, but it had been three years since I had climbed it; Purito [Rodriguez] remembered it better since he was this year at the Vuelta al País Vasco, and that made him take the first place.
"I was a bit scared, but I knew that I could get past him, he went a bit overconfident, stopped pedaling and I could squeeze my force and push my bike to the line."
The two Kiwis in the peloton, Hayden Roulston (RadioShack Nissan Trek) and Julian Dean (Orica Greenedge), finished 11min back.
Tomorrow sees the peloton face another mountain stage and another mountain-top finish: Valdezcaray (13km / 5%), after a 160km trek from Barakaldo.
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