Van Garderen up for Vuelta GC fight
Tejay van Garderen's last two appearances at the Vuelta a España has ended with a DNF against the American's name. Three stages in to the 2017 edition of the race and the BMC rider sits fourth overall and just two seconds behind race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky).
For van Garderen, it's a pleasant place to be after his GC titls at the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia have come unstuck in recent years. While van Garderen's 20th place overall at the Giro was down on his personal expectation, he saved his race with a stage win. The 29-year-old now finds himself within touching distance of his first Grand Tour leader's jersey and confident of sustaining a GC fight for the three weeks.
"It seems like everyday is a one day race. The TTT is always nervous, crosswinds yesterday, and today was already high mountains," said van Garderen. "I think me and (Nicolas) Roche we've shown that we were ready for the GC fight although we still have a long three weeks to go.
"Today showed that we're going well as a team. It would have been nice to take the red jersey but I'm only two seconds back after a few tough stages and we've already gained some time on some other rivals. It's certainly a good place to be."
Winners of the opening day team time trial, BMC enjoyed a day in red with Rohan Dennis while Daniel Oss and Nico Roche enjoyed stints as the respective leaders of the combination and mountain classifications. Roche is tied on time with van Garderen and sits third overall but was disappointed to have missed on the race lead.
"After winning the team time trial, I was hoping that today was the day that I could have taken the red jersey. I had that in the back of my mind. Yesterday, losing those precious seconds was a big pain for today," said Roche.
Kruijswijk hit by a cold at Vuelta a Espana
Coming into the Vuelta a Espana with a cold, Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) was hoping to have come good by the first test for the GC men on stage 3. However, the Dutchman is still feeling the affects and conceded over a minute to his main rivals in the battle for the red jersey.
Kruijswijk crossed the line 1:14 minutes down on stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in 24th place with the sole consolation of improving his placing from 56 to 24th.
"I got it just before the start of the Vuelta. I had hoped it would have been over by Saturday," Kruijswijk said. "Suffering from a cold does not help in stages like today's. I felt that I would not be able to cross the top amidst the favourites today. I raced up as fast as possible, along with Wilco Kelderman."
Leaing the Giro until stage 18 of last year's Giro d'Italia, Kruijswijk crashed and would eventually finish fourth overall in Turin. Since then, his Grand Tour's have been of misfortune with a bollard causing him to crash and break his collarbone at last year's Vuelta while illness forced him out of the Giro in May. Despite the setbacks, Kruijswijk knows it's a long way to Madrid on September 10 and is still dreaming of his first top-ten result at the Vuelta.
"This cold must disappear. Then the right shape will return. It’s annoying, but stages like today's prove that there is a lot of potential in this Vuelta. I'll keep trying."
Dimension Data lose King to illness
Dimension Data will have to do without Ben King for the remainder of the Vuelta a Espana with the American withdrawing due to illness. King was a non-starter on stage 3 having come down with a viral infection as team doctor Nicolas Theron explained.
"Unfortunately Ben King has come down with a viral infection. He was fine during the time trial but before yesterday's stage he started to complain of muscle pain and a general feeling of being unwell," Theron said. "Through the stage and overnight his condition didn't improve, he couldn't eat properly and felt very weak. Usually this would only take 2 or 3 days of bed rest to recover but obviously due to the nature of the sport, that did not help Ben's situation as the race continued today. We are treating him now and hope he can come back strong for the final races of the season."
The 2017 Vuelta a España was King's third in succession and the fourth Grand Tour of his career after his 2014 debut at the Tour de France. Having finished the previous Grand Tours, the 2017 Vuelta is the first time King has had to abandon a three-week race. The Vuelta is just the second race that King has failed to finish in his first year with Dimension Data with Amstel Gold Race the other.
More contract extensions at AG2R-La Mondiale
French WorldTour team AG2R La Mondiale has secured the future of three more riders, announcing contract extension for Alexis Vuillermoz, Mikaël Chérel, and Gediminas Bagdonas. Lithuanian Bagdonas has earned a one-year deal with the team who has been with since 2013 while Chérel and Vuillermoz will continue for at least two more seasons.
"I am pleased that the team's backbone has been consolidated for the next several seasons. This is important for the team's overall sporting development," explained general manager Vincent Lavenu.
The extension continues a good week for Vuillermoz after he secured the overall Tour du Limousin victory. Chérel hasn't raced since the Tour de Romandie due to a training accident but has shown his importance to the team and been rewarded by management.
The team has also extended with Romain Bardet, François Bidard, Pierre Latour, Oliver Naesen, Ben Gastauer and Axel Domont while signing Tony Gallopin and Clément Venturini.