Nicolas Roche: It was nice to wear the white jersey today, even if it was on loan
Published 25/08/2015 | 02:30
Monday, August 24, Stage 3: Mijas to Malaga (158.4km)
As we drove into the team bus enclosure at the start in Mijas this morning, we were handed our daily package from the race organisation containing the previous day's results, the team car cavalcade numbers and our race numbers.
Having finished third on yesterday's stage, I began this morning third in the overall standings, third in the points classification and fifth in the mountains competition, so there was an extra package handed to the bus driver for me.
The combined classification is based, as the name suggests, on a combination of your placing in the overall, points and mountains categories, and as the two riders ahead of me in this competition, Esteban Chaves and Tom Dumoulin, would be wearing the red jersey of race leader and green jersey of points leader respectively, I was given the white jersey for the day.
Although it was only on loan, it's always nice to wear a classification leader's jersey in a Grand Tour, even if a size 'small' was a bit optimistic.
While one of the team carers swapped it for a medium, the guys from our helmet suppliers, Kask, presented me with a nice new white helmet to match my new jersey.
The white jersey is usually reserved for the best young rider in most Tours, though, so I got a bit of stick from some of the guys in the peloton as I lined up for the start.
"Are you not a bit too old for that, Nico?"
Despite the fact that Vincenzo Nibali had been thrown off the race for holding onto his team car on yesterday's stage, there was very little talk of it this morning and the stage began as if nothing had happened.
An eight man breakaway group jumped clear in the opening kilometres and had built up a decent lead before we got to the third-category climb of Alto de Mijas after just 8km.
It was a lot harder than it looked on the profile and I think a lot of the riders were happy the break was gone as Chaves' Orica GreenEdge team set a steady tempo up it.
With the break around three minutes up, we headed towards the biggest climb of the Vuelta so far, the first-category Puerto de Leon, after 60km.
Our team was supposed to have a roadside feed arranged at the bottom of the climb but our carers got caught up in traffic and didn't make it on time, so Christian Knees and Ian Boswell went back to the team car for fresh bottles, which were much appreciated in the 35 degree heat as we climbed.
The tempo was pretty steady on the 16km ascent until the Giant Alpecin and Tinkoff-Saxo teams came up and picked up the pace near the top in the hope of reeling in the escapees and setting the stage up for their respective sprinters, John Degenkolb and Peter Sagan.
Having gone back for another supply of bottles on the undulating descent, 'Boz' was caught up in a massive crash here but luckily escaped serious injury and regained contact.
A block headwind in the last 20km slowed things down a little bit, but as we hit a three-lane highway heading towards the finish we were quite worried about a repeat of yesterday's big crash happening, so our Belarusian strongman Vasil Kiryienka brought us to the front in an effort to keep us out of danger.
Vasil is absolutely rock-solid on the front of the peloton so Chris Froome and I couldn't help but smile when he drifted back to us 6km later, looking disappointed to be given a hand at the front by 'Kneesy'.
Vasil went back up with 10km to go before 'Kneesy' took over again and Geraint Thomas led us into the first of three tunnels 5km later.
I lifted my glasses up in an effort to adjust my eyes until we came out the other end of each one before drifting back through the bunch in the last 3km to give myself a bit more room in case of incidents in the finale and finishing safely in the middle of the bunch as Sagan won the gallop for stage victory.
Nothing much changed in terms of the overall standings today, so I am still third overall heading into stage four tomorrow, where another tough little uphill finish awaits.
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