Hello and welcome to stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera.
Starting from the Don Juan Carlos I the peloton have just set off through the neutralized zone and ahead of them just under 200km of racing. The sun is out, there's not too much of a breeze and the conditions are currently perfect for racing.
It's a day for either the sprinters or a break and a lot will depend on how Movistar wish to defend their race lead.
With four third category climbs on the route, a break could well make it to the finish. Alejandro Valverde currently leads the race but Movistar may wish to save their efforts for the second and third week. Here's how the GC stands after two stages of racing in this year's Vuelta.
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 4:15:43
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team
3 Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team
4 Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Movistar Team
5 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar Team
7 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:06
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge
9 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale
10 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale
Although we're only two stages into the race, about to start the third, a number of potential GC riders have already lost time. Laurens Ten Dam is over a minute and a half down on Valverde. Betancur, who has had poor form for a number of months has lost almost two minutes, while Pinot is close to three minutes off the race lead.
Ahead of the Vuelta a Espana inCycle TV caught up with ten Dam to talk about his career, and his hopes for the next few years of racing. You can watch that video, right here.
Javier Guillén says: "Starting in Cadiz harbour on the aircraft carrier Don Juan Carlos I will be a homage to the Spanish navy, to the reign of the former king and a show of support to the new king. it ties in with our desire to innovate and offer something original to the sport."
One potential GC rider for the race is American Andrew Talansky. The Garmin rider crashed out of the Tour de France and says he's here to support Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal. All three riders have the potential to ride into the top ten or even top five here.
“I got to go to the Tour and the team supported me there but Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal have been focused on this race since the Giro so I’m here and I’m happy to support them,” Talansky said. “These guys have been focused on the Vuelta since the Giro, so you can’t really put a limit on what they can do," says Talansky.
You can read the full story here.
In other news, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the small bunch sprint to take victory at the Vattenfall Cyclassics on Sunday in Hamburg. You can read the full report, right here.
The peloton are still riding through the neutralized zone but the race should start in the next few minutes. Movistar, with Valverde, are near the front.
And the racing has begun, with a number of early attacks coming from the bunch.
Race radio comes alive and there are four riders clear from the bunch after 10 km of racing.... make that five riders.
This already looks like the main break of the day because they have 3:30 over the peloton after 13km of racing. The five leaders are Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN – Qhubeka), Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM Cycling), Jerome Cousin (Team Europcar).
177km remaining from 197km
Twenty 20km into the stage and the gap to the break has moved out to over five minutes with Movistar reluctant to take up any form of chase too soon. There are certainly no GC threats in the break, and with so many tough stages to go the Spanish team may wish to give the race lead to another squad. No such dilemmas for Tinkoff or Sky, who can simply sit back and watch on as Valverde's team are faced with their first issue of the race.
Wyss, one of the most experienced riders in the break, takes a turn on the front. The Swiss rider turned pro with BMC after a short appearance with Saunier Duval at the end of 2007. He was part of the BMC team in last year's Vuelta, where the team managed to put a rider in every major move the race.
The gap to the main field is currently holding at around the 5:40 mark and we've raced nearly 28 km.
Keeping up the Saunier Duval, link, that's where Mas Bonet started out too, although in the team's amateur ranks. He's moved around a few teams and was fourth in last year's Tour of China. This is his first grand tour though.
Jacques Janse Van Rensburg is another Grand Tour debutant in the race break. The 26-year-old was on the attack yesterday and he’s flying the flag once again for the MTN team. The South African rider has already had a decent year, mind, with sixth overall in Langkawi, and the overall win in the Mzansi Tour.
150km remaining from 197km
Just over 150km of racing left and the break are holding at 5:30.
The GC Contenders:
1. Alejandro Valverde
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana s.t
25. Rigoberto Uran 11 seconds
34. Alberto Contador 19 seconds
35. Wilco Kelderman 19 seconds.
41. Samuel Sanchez 21 seconds.
44. Cadel Evans st.
52. Chris Froome 27 seconds.
77. Joaquin Rodriguez 38 seconds.
85. Andrew Talansky 41 seconds.
147km remaining from 197km
As the gap to the break moves out to 8 minutes after 50km of racing. The sprinters' teams still have plenty of time to pull this all back together though.
At the front of the peloton Movistar look pretty relaxed. They're looking to put the chase pressure all on the sprinters' teams at this stage. The plan is working because Orica GreenEdge have moved a few of their men to the front. FDJ and Giant Shimano are also thinking about organising a chase. There's still a long, long way to go in the stage though.
Alasdair Fotheringham and Barry Ryan have travelled over the last 5km of the stage finish. It's far more than just a flat run-in for the sprinters and could really cause a few surprises.
"The biggest worry for most of the favourites, though, will be avoiding crashes. Up until three kilometres to go, the stage’s main challenge is perhaps the heat and the four third category climbs in the Sierra de Grazalema on some poorly surfaced roads. But then the finish is almost within sight when, 2.6 kilometres from the line, the ‘fun’ starts with a fast descent to a narrow bridge and sharp right hand-turn across the River Guadalete," writes Fotheringham.
For the complete low down on the finish, click here.
117km remaining from 197km
After 80km of racing the gap has dropped to five minutes. Meanwhile the temperature is on the rise, peaking just above 30 at the moment.
The five man break are now on the first climb of the day, the alto del Picacho. Whatever happens today, we'll have a new leader in the Mountain classification.
The gap to the break has dipped under five minutes for the first time today. It's currently running at 4:30, with Orica GreenEdge continuing to work on the front of the peloton.
Cousin is top at the first climb but the break continue to lose time and the gap to the break is at four minutes.
More pressure from Orica as they look to lay down the path for Matthews. The Australian is certainly a favourite for the stage but he won't have it all his own way with Sagan and Degenkolb also in the mix. Gilbert might also contest the sprint as well.
Cousin is top at the alto Alcornocales, so has taken maximum points on the first two climbs. The Europcar rider now leads the King of the Mountains competition.
88km remaining from 197km
Over the top of the climb and the five leaders are still working well together but the sprinters' teams are raising the pace and the pressure is starting to tell. The gap is down to 3:10 with 88km to go.
Two more climbs to come and Cousin has now dropped back to the team car for both food and advice. He'll want to take the next climb just to make sure of his lead. The heat is a problem out there though as we see Bonet and van Rensburg share a bottle of water.
75km remaining from 197km
Into the final 75km of racing and the gap is down to 2:30 as Fumeaux takes his turn on the front. The IAM rider looks slightly laboured in his style but he's plugging away as the road starts to climb once again.
Meanwhile Orica have moved most of their team to the front of the bunch, they're really keen on setting up the finish for Matthews, who could also take the race lead.
Meanwhile Orica have moved most of their team to the front of the bunch, they're really keen on setting up the finish for Matthews, who could also take the race lead.
Fumeaux is in trouble, and he's losing ground to the rest of the break with 72km to go. The gap is at 10m, now 20. He just has to tap out a decent pace and then try and chase on the descent.
Bonet has attacked from the break and he's clear and pushing on. Cousin has to chase this one but he'll need help.
Bonet has pushed his lead out to over four minutes ahead of the peloton. With 66km to go he still has a gap over the three chasers too as Movistar move to the front of the bunch.
Bonet has just over 50 seconds on the chasers, and four minutes on the Orica-led field.
Bonet is going for glory but from a long, long way out. He takes on a gel and his lead is still growing as it moves out to 4:45 over the peloton.
Bonet now has over a minute on the three chasers with one more climb to come. He's 55km from the finish.
It's GreenEdge who continue to set the pace at the front of the peloton. The Australian team need to make sure that they save something for the technical finish, just as a way of supporting Matthews right up until the sprint.
The three chasers: van Rensburg, Cousin, and Wyss are working well together but they're not bringing back the Caja Rural rider, who is once again climbing. Bonet is on the last categorized climb of the day.
50km remaining from 197km
Into the final 50km of racing and Orica's strength in numbers is paying off, as they start to bring the race back together.
The peloton are within three minutes of Bonet with the rest of the break in the middle. There's now a long downhill section but Bonet need to get over the top of the last climb first.
Bonet is close to the top, and continues to drive on, his jersey unzipped as he pushes down on the pedals.
Tinkoff has moved up to the front, just behind Orica with Alberto Contador looking to keep out of trouble. Today's climb might be a test for him today, considering the time he took off the bike and his injury. As we see a dog run into the road, luckily he turns around and doesn't cause any harm.
The gap to Bonet is down to 2:20 as we see a number of riders dropped on the climb, including Cancellara.
Bonet still leads and is descending well through the corners, cutting perfect lines, his jersey now zipped up.
41km remaining from 197km
41km to go as the bunch close in to 2:12.
The Caja Rural rider is holding his own at the moment but the real rest will come on the flat roads between here and the finish, and of course when any sharp climbs are thrown in.
And the road rises once ore and it's easy to see how Bonet is struggling now. He just doesnt have the kick of acceleration he had earlier. He's getting cheered on by the fans on the side of the road but he just looks forward, concentrating on the task at hand.
33km remaining from 197km
Bonet's gap is at 1:35 with 33km to go.
The lone leader is onto a flatter section of the stage, and instantly he loses twenty seconds, his advantage down to 1:10 with 29km to go. It's all Orica GreenEdge on the front of the peloton.
Tinkoff and Team Sky are moving up, Froome glancing down at his gears briefly as Kennaugh sits by his side.
The gap is down to just 30 seconds, the peloton can see the lone leader out in front. He's been away for most of the stage but it's almost all over.
A quick wave to the TV cameras, and it's done, the catch has been made and with 25km to go we're all together. FDJ, they have a man on the front at the moment as well. Bouhanni fancies his chances despite the tough finish it seems.
It's FDJ and Orica on the front, Sky and Tinkoff on the far right as we see a few Cannondale riders gather on the other side. No sign of BMC or Katusha at the moment.
Movistar realise that they're on the backfoot and begin to organise as well. They have to look after both Quintana and Valverde today. The latter a favourite for the win.
20km remaining from 197km
Matthews still has strength in numbers, despite all the work his team have down today. Into the final 20km of racing.
Contador looks confortable, the pace has eased slightly, before the final rush for the line. The Spaniard just needs to keep out of trouble today, the finish is dangerous and tight and you know that one of the GC riders is going to lose time.
And there's a crash and two Movistar men are down.
Castroviejo and Malori, they are both on their feet but that's a blow for the Spanish team.
That crash happened just by Froome and Bouhanni, both riders could have easily fallen too.
Into the final 14km of racing and the stage, and potentially the overall, are up for grabs. Orica have done all the work today, and Movistar, bar that crash for two of their riders, have had the perfect day so far.
Lampre, they're organising near the front and so are Katusha. It's still Orica on the front though.
And there's an attack from Lotto, and it's Adam Hansen.
He's 52 seconds down on GC so not a direct threat but to the current lead but he's quickly opened up a gap of around 10 seconds.
Riding in his tenth straight Grand Tour, Hansen has 22 seconds on the field with 11km to go.
And now Orica are swamped as Sky, Garmin and Omega roll to the front of the peloton with 10km to go. The gap is at 13 seconds.
Sky lead with Knees on the front. He's got Froome and two more teammates with him.
Hansen has nine seconds with 9km to go. It's not going to be enough.
They're on a really rapid descent and Knees is telling the moto to speed up.
The bridge at the bottom of the descent is going to be key and they're racing at 90kph.
Over on the right Katusha try and squeeze out Movistar but there are so many teams trying to hit the front all at once. Tinkoff seem to have lost out a bit here. Giant are coming up as well now.
Contador and his men have a bit of work to do here.
It's all Giant on the front, Hansen caught, and we have 5.7km to go. Tony Martin is on the front now for Omega.
It's getting more and more technical on the run in as Giant lead.
Into the final 5km and the entire bunch is strung out.
Omega and Giant are both on the front and trying to control affairs but more and more squads are trying to get back on terms.
BMC are trying to get things together but have they left it too late? as Katusha now lead.
Contador is back to the front again. Is that Sagan moving up as well?
And they make it around the bridge safely.
Degenkolb is well placed, so is Matthews. 1.7km to go.
The road starts to rise as we hit the climb, Giant on the front and here come Katusha. Contador is fourth wheel.
Katusha one two on the front, then a rider from Cannondale and then Contador.
Katusha are pushing on with 500m to go.
And Caruso is clear.
It's Dan Martin who catches him, but does he have enough to hang on as he sprints for the line because that's Matthews on his wheel.
Dan Martin is holding him off but Matthews kicks again and he's going to take it.
Matthews takes the win, just, from Dan Martin.
Martin had a great turn of speed but he didn't have enough to hold off Matthews on the line. Ther was a gap to third place.
Rodriguez third, then Kelderman. Evans and Froome also inside the top ten.
That should be enough for Matthews to take the race lead, but we'll just wait for the official confirmation from the race organisers.
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 5:12:14
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha
4 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
5 Paul Martens (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
7 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
9 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha
10 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
Confirmation that Matthews now leads the race from Quintana. That's the second grand tour the Australian has led in 2014.
General classification after stage 3
1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 9:27:53
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:04
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:11
4 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:15
5 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:00:17
6 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge 0:00:17
7 George Bennett (NZl) Cannondale 0:00:20
8 Julian David Arredondo Moreno (Col) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:20
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:20
10 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:22
Thanks for joining us today. You can find our report, race images and results, all right here.
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