Michael Matthews wins 3rd Vuelta stage, takes lead
ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA, Spain -- Michael Matthews of Australia sprinted to victory on a hot and sunny third stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Monday to take the overall lead of the three-week grand tour.
Matthews passed Daniel Martin at the finish line to claim the hilly 197.8-kilometer (122.9-mile) ride from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera in 5 hours, 12 minutes, 14 seconds. Joaquim Rodriguez crossed third.
Matthews' win gave him the red leader's jersey from Alejandro Valverde.
Matthews' Orica GreenEdge team took charge of the peloton during a long stretch to reel in a small breakaway before setting up the stage winner.
"It makes the win so much sweeter to be able to win when your whole team has absolutely smashed themselves for you," Matthews said. "The heat was the main factor today and then the climb in the final was very hard but I had the team to put me in the perfect position and from there it was up to me to deliver for them."
Matthews opened a four-second led over Giro d'Italia winner Nairo Quintana. Valverde fell to third in the general classification, 11 seconds behind Matthews.
Two-time winner Alberto Contador trails by 23 seconds, while Chris Froome is 31 seconds back followed by Rodriguez another seven seconds behind.
The stage, which saw temperatures rise to near 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), started with the cyclists riding off the Spanish aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I docked in Cadiz.
Valverde and two other Movistar teammates crashed with less than 20 kilometers to go when Jonathan Castroviejo fell while trying to grab a bag of water bottles from a team worker.
Valverde took a blow to the back but all three got back on their bikes and finished in the group.
"I started the climb well behind and because of that, I'm happy with the time I lost," Valverde said. "It's nothing. My back hurts a bit after the crash, but I hope it's not serious and I can recover well."
Tuesday's fourth stage is a 164.7-kilometer (102.3-mile) ride from Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba featuring one category-two climb.
The race ends in Santiago de Compostela on Sept. 14.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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