Elia Viviani has won stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana.  The Italian won the bunch sprint for the line, taking the win ahead of Giacomo Nizzolo and Peter Sagan.  George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo finished safely in the bunch, losing no time on overall race leader Michal Kwiatkowski, and actually moving up 1 place on GC to 17th.

 

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Today’s stage from Mijas to Alhaurín de la Torre presented the sprinters with their first opportunity for stage honours.  At 178.2km the stage featured one first category climb that peaked at 45.5km but was otherwise virtually challenge free for the sprinters apart from a couple of rolling climbs to navigate.  Everything was primed for a bunch sprint as long as the peloton could control matters sufficiently early on.

 

Sprint teams keep close rein on breakaway

 

A breakaway predictably went up the road, containing Luis Angel Mate of Cofidis, Hector Saez of Euskadi-Murias and Pierre Rolland of EF Education First-Drapac.  Along with them came Nans Peters of AG2R La Mondiale, Antonio Molina of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and Jordi Simon of Burgos-BH.  The break’s lead climbed quickly up to 4.08mins after 34km but it never got higher than that.

Quick-Step Floors for Elia Viviani and BORA-Hansgrohe for Peter Sagan were careful to keep a close rein on the breakaway and with a little over 100km covered the break’s advantage had come down to a meagre 1.23mins.  The break’s advantage held at the 1.20-1.25min mark for several kilometres, dipping down to a minute at 53km to go.

Despite surely knowing the futility of their efforts out in front the break were still able to function well together but it was with 45km to go that the race enjoyed a new dynamic as an attack went up the road courtesy of Jordi Simon of Burgos-BH.  As he attacked the close proximity of the break to the bunch lured an attack from out of the peloton, and Victor Campenaerts of Lotto Soudal, Alexis Gougeard of AG2R La Mondiale and Lukas Postlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe bridged across to the remnants of the break and joined them.  Simon was still 11 seconds up the road, with Quick-Step Floors at 50 seconds to Simon, but the rest of the break made their way up to Simon with 39km to go.

George Bennett emerged safe and sound in stage 3, moving up a place to 17th overall, photo Sirotti

Postlberger seizes opportunity, Campenaerts crashes

 

The gap was slender at just 36 seconds as Team Sky made their way forwards to join Quick-Step Floors, but the break were keen, and Simon in particular.  He attacked again with 28.3km remaining to try and salvage something from the day but he was back in the group 2km later.  Simon’s attack was beginning to spell the end of the break’s cooperation as Victor Campenaerts tried to attack, but then crashed on a sweeping right hand bend.

Movistar led the peloton that quickly swept him up, but the rest of the break were still up the road and Lukas Postlberger was the next to attack.  The Austrian national champion got a gap on the rest of the break and decided to try and go solo.  He held a lead of 16 seconds with 18km remaining and valiantly held on as Movistar began to wind things up.  They were beginning to enjoy company in the form of Trek-Segafredo moving up on one side and BORA-Hansgrohe on the other; and this served to dent Postlberger’s chances.  With 8km to go his advantage was down to a shade over 10 seconds.

Finally the Austrian was caught with 6km to go and the sprint was on.  Quick-Step Floors, however, were conspicuously absent from the front of the race.  Peter Sagan and his BORA-Hansgrohe team were right in the mix though, and with 3km to go they had some control over the field, although Cofidis were also getting involved to try and set up Nacer Bouhanni.  

 

Viviani emerges in messy sprint, Kwiatko retains lead

 

With 1km to go LottoNL-Jumbo had the lead of the pack with Alejandro Valverde among the best-placed for the sprint.  Groupama-FDJ launched a late attack, but with no team in full control it was going to be a very interesting finish.  Danny van Poppel opened up the sprint, but it was a kick by the Italians Viviani and Nizzolo that saw them pull away, with Peter Sagan boxed out.  Viviani had enough in the legs to just get the better of his compatriot and take the stage with Nizzolo second and Sagan third, with Nacer Bouhanni and Simone Consonni of UAE Team Emirates completing the top five.

George Bennett finished 32nd on the stage, with the same time as Viviani, as Michal Kwiatkowski retained the red leader’s jersey for Sky.

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