Ireland’s Dan Martin battled to victory on stage three of the Vuelta a Espana on the summit finish at Laguna Negra to close on race leader Primoz Roglic.
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider timed his attack to perfection as he hit the front of the breakaway with just 300 metres to go following the end of a gruelling 166.1 kilometres on the category one mountain.
Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) edged out Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) to cross in second place, but Martin’s time bonus saw him cut the deficit on the Slovenian down to just five seconds in the general classification standings.
Etapa 3 – Stage 3 | #LaVuelta20
— La Vuelta (@lavuelta) October 22, 2020
Birmingham-born Martin, who has two Tour de France stage wins, was delighted to have finally finished top of the podium again following plenty of near misses and recovering from a fractured bone in his lower back at the Criterium du Dauphine in August.
“I have come so close to winning this year. I just really wanted to win a stage for this team because they have been so good to me,” the 34-year-old told reporters afterwards.
“The sponsors have supported us all through Covid, Sylvan Adams and Ron Baron, the owners, there were no salary cuts or anything like that. The team were really motivated during lockdown because of that, to train harder.
— Israel Start-Up Nation / Israel Cycling Academy (@YallaIsraelSUN) October 22, 2020
“Obviously with the injury at the Tour, I couldn’t win a stage, but I was really determined to win a stage today. The team were amazing, and every single one of them played their part in the victory.
“This win is partly for them and then partly for my wife because this is the first time I have won a race since my kids were born and it is really special.”
Mitchelton-Scott rider Esteban Chaves was the only general classification contender to lose significant ground, having suffered mechanical problems during the final climb which cost him just over a minute as he slipped down to eighth in the standings.
The overall standings after stage 3 ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/g6Cn6xwyxL
— Team Jumbo-Visma cycling (@JumboVismaRoad) October 22, 2020
Carapaz is 13 seconds off the leader, while British rider Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) sits 38 seconds behind Roglic.
Britain’s Chris Froome, riding his final race for the Ineos Grenadiers, had been more than 11 minutes off the pace following Tuesday’s opening stage.
The four-time Tour de France winner produced a better display on stage three, hitting the front himself during the final climb, before crossing in the bunch.
Froome moved to 75th place overall, now just over 37 minutes down.
— Équipe Cycliste Groupama-FDJ (@GroupamaFDJ) October 22, 2020
Thibaut Pinot, meanwhile, had earlier pulled out of the race ahead of Thursday’s stage.
The Groupama-FDJ team leader was one of the big hopes for the Tour de France, but sustained a back injury following a crash on the opening stage which has not properly cleared up.
“Despite the rest period he observed, the two first stages of the Vuelta have shown Thibaut Pinot continues to suffer from the back pain he experienced after his crash on the first day of the Tour de France in Nice,” Groupama-FDJ said on social media.
“With regard to the next season, priority is given to his complete recovery: he will not take the start of the third stage this Thursday and will no longer compete in 2020.”