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Vuelta a España 2011: Stage 3

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews.com live coverage of stage three of the Vuelta Espana from Petrer to Totana.

It's another hot day in Spain for this short but intense stage. 

The stage has been fast but controlled so far, with a five rider move going clear after just ten kilometres.

The five breakaways opened a big gap with only Leopard Trek really interested in doing the hard work.

Sadly for Edet, he was stung by an insect and has been dropped after seeing the race doctor.

The race is close to the final climb of Alto de la Santa. The race is heating up and will soon be as hot as the weather.

The riders are actually on the Alto del Berro, with the Alto de la Santa coming soon after that.

46km remaining from 164km

The Alto de la Santa comes just 12km from the finish.

Mark Cavendish has been gapped on the Berro climb and is a little isolated. He needs some help from a teammate but HTC-Highroad lost Matt Goss yesterday due to a stomacg problem.

Cavendish now how Australia's Leigh Howard with him to help set the pace on the climb.

Stuart O'Grady is now on the front setting a good pace to help Bennati hold onto his red race elader's jersey.

The climb eases and the peloton starts the descent. The breakaway riders are already diving down the road.

40km remaining from 164km

Leopard Trek has five riders on the front of the peloton. They will have to work hard all the way to the finish if they want to catch the break.

The descent is snaking through the trees, testing the riders' descending skills.

Markel Irizar Aranburu (Team RadioShack) was first over the Berro climb. Ruslan Podgornyy (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team) was second, with Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep Cycling Team) third.

The gap is falling quickly but it's not sure if the break will be caught. Chavanel is surely to go on the attack on the last climb in the hope of getting away alone. however Lastras is always a tough rider to crack.

32km remaining from 164km

The gap is down to 4:10 now.

32km remaining from 164km

The gap is down to 4:10 now.

Riders are gradually getting back onto the peloton after the fast descent.

30km remaining from 164km

Crash!

 

There is a Garmin rider down.

The Garmibn rider is Christophe Le Mevel. He's limping and is in pain.

Yury Trofimov (Katusha Team) went down first and Le Mevel hit him and landed on his hip at speed. 

Fortunately they were the only two invovled amnd both are back on their bikes.

Cavendish is in a chase group. He has little chance of getting back on but will surely have problem making it to the finish, despite the heat.

Lampre-ISD and Team Sky are now on the front, perhaps hoping their sprinters can make it over the final climb and contest the sprint.

24km remaining from 164km

The peloton seems to have lost interest in chasing the quartet.

The break is going through the finish area and fighting for the intermediate sprint.

Here comes the peloton and the time gap is exactly 3:46.

Team Sky is on the front, carefully keeping Bradley Wiggins out of trouble.

The quartet is pushing on, with Chavanel doing the most work. If they stay away, he will take the red leader's jersey from Bennati.

Lastras is actually better placed overall than Chavanel by a single second but Chavanel wil lbe hoping to take the jersey and gain as much time as possible so he can hold it for as long as possible.

Wiggins is in second place as the peloton begins the final climb.

Riders are being dropped from the back of the peloton now. Stage 2 winner Chris Sutton (Team sky) has been dropped too.

13km remaining from 164km

The gap is coming down to close to 2 minutes but the four will surely stay away.

The big name GC riders are all massing on the front of the peloton.

Bennati has beendistanced and has surely lost his red jersey now.

The four breakaways are now attacking each other, with Lastras gonig clear over the top of the climb.

Lastras is diving down the descent, cutting corners at speed.

Nibali, Scarponi, Brajkovic, Wiggins and Anton are all there, looking at each otehr and testing each others form.

It's going to be a super fast dive to the finish in Totana.

Lastras looks very good and is totally committed to making his attack work.

6km remaining from 164km

Lastras has victory in his sights. The three chasers don't have the legs to close the gap.

The Movistar team is trying to break up the chase in the peloton, so that Lastras gains as much time as possible.

Chavanel did a big turn and reduced the gap slightly but the other two riders seem unwilling to do their share.

Lastras is tucked over the bars, trying to get as aero as possible.

Chavanel does a big turn again and chips another two seconds off the gap.

Lastras shakes his legs before a sweeping right turn. He accelerates again, touching 50km/h.

2km remaining from 164km

The trio are not convinced they can catch him.

Lastras looks fast and smooth while the three begin to think about second place.

1km remaining from 164km

The gap is widening. Lastras will soon be able to celebrate winning the stage and taking the red leader's jersey.

Lastras waves to the sky and gestures emotionally as he crosses the line.

Chavanel takes the sperint for second but has missed out on the glory. 

Lastras was only 14 seconds down overall and so takes the jersey from Bennati.

Nicolas Roche (Ag2r-La Mondiale) brings the peloton home but almost two minutes down on Lastras.

The veteran spanish domestique will have a significant lead and could hold the race lead for several days if his team want to work to achieve that goal.

A second chase group finishes three minutes back.

Lastras dedicated his victory to Xavier Tondo, Wouter Weylandt and the serioyusly injured Mauricio Soler.

Lastras leads Chavanel by 20 seconds in provisional results, with Irizar third overall at 1:08.

First Vuelta leader Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) is fifth at 1:55.

Provisional results:

1 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team
3 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack
4 Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukr) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale

General classification after stage 3
1 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
2 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:20
3 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Team RadioShack 0:01:08
4 Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukr) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:25
5 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:01:55

That's it for today's live coverage of the Vuelta Espana. join us tomorrow for Stage four from Baza to Sierra Nevada. The 170km stage includes an early climb and ends with a Cat 1 finish on the Sierra Nevada. It wil lbe the first real mountain stage of this year's race.

We'll have a full report, results and a gallery of images very soon on Cyclingnews.com.

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