Michael Matthews beat Dan Martin in a final sprint for the line in Arcos de la Frontera, riding himself into the leader’s Red jersey thanks to a 10″ time bonus on the line.
It was an unusual start to a Grand Tour stage, with the peloton starting the day on the decks of aircraft carrier Don Juan Carlos I in a tribute to the recently abdicated King of Spain.
The beginning was neutralised and after just 10km of racing a break of five riders was established. The five in the break were Danilo Wyss (BMC), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Jerome Cousin (Europcar) and Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural). It also included Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, the MTN Qhubeka rider featuring in his second successive breakaway.
Bonet attacked his breakaway companions on the third climb and rapidly establishing a gap between the peloton and the rest of the breakaway. On the fourth climb the peloton reacted but by then Bonet had amassed a lead of 2’20″and secured the King of the Mountains jersey for the wildcard team, and was glad to be absorbed by the group with 25km to go.
There was a scare for Froome, Bouhanni and Malori as Malori got tangled in a musette from a support team by the roadside and went down along with former race leader Castroviejo. Froome and Bouhanni narrowly avoided the same fate but stayed upright.
Adam Hanson attacked with 13km to go, but the pace applied by Sky to keep leader Chris Froome safe before a pinch point in at 2.5km put paid to his effort.
This pinch point was a bridge where the peloton was thinned to single file, and the rest of the approach to the finish included a number of difficult, technical turns. Orica Greenedge put a lot of effort into making sure they were near the front – along with Sky and Garmin – to have a shot at the stage victory.
With 1km to go Katusha’s Caruso darted clear but couldn’t sustain the pace and was soon passed by Matthews with Dan Martin clinging onto his wheel. Martin went early but couldn’t hold off the Australian who darted round him to take the victory; Martin slamming his bars in frustration.
Matthews now leads a Grand Tour for the second time this season, after spending five days in the Pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia earlier in the season.
Nairo Quintana was the only Movistar rider to finish with the same time as Matthews, with Alejandro Valverde finishing 7″ down and complaining of a back problem which could cause him GC problems.
Alberto Contador finished with the same time as Matthews but admitted that he was lacking on the hills, making his recovery of the top form he had in the mountains of the Giro d’Italia seem unlikely.
Tomorrow’s stage is another hilly venture, from Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba for 164.7km.
Stage 3 Results – Cadiz > Arcos de la Frontera
1. Michael Matthews (Aus – Orica Greenedge) 5:12:14
2. Dan Martin (Ire – Garmin)
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa – Katusha)
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned – Belkin)
5. Paul Martens (Ger – Belkin)
6. Cadel Evans (Aus – BMC)
7. Lloyd Mondory (Fra – AG2R)
8. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra – FDJ)
9. Daniel Moreno (Spa – Katusha)
10. Chris Froome (Gbr – Sky)
1. Michael Matthews (Aus – Orica Greenegde) 9:27:53
2. Nairo Quintana (Col – Movistar) +4″
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa – Movistar) +11″
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col – Omega Pharma) +15″
5. Damiano Caruso (Ita – Cannondale) +17″
6. Esteban Chaves (Col – Orica Greenedge)
7. George Bennett (NZl – Cannondale) +20″
8. Julian Arredondo (Col – Trek)
9. Haimar Agirre (Spa – Trek)
10. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita – Omega Pharma) +22″
12. Alberto Contador (Spa – Tinkoff Saxo) +23″
17. Chris Froome (Gbr – Sky) +31″
20. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa – Katusha) +38″
22. Pete Kennaugh (Gbr – Sky) +38″
27. Fabio Aru (Ita – Astana) +41″