Nicolas Roche climbs to third at Vuelta after strong performance in stage three
Nicolas Roche jumped up to third place overall as Vincenzo Nibali won the mountainous third stage of the Vuelta a Espana into Andorra la Vella.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome takes over the leader’s red jersey with a two-second advantage over Quickstep’s David De La Cruz in second, Roche in third and the Irish rider’s BMC team-mate Tejay Van Garderen in fourth.
Froome and Colombian Esteban Chaves pulled clear on the third and final climb of the day, but Roche and a select group of six other general classification contenders chased down their attack on the descent towards the line.
After 158km of racing the 33-year-old opened up the sprint but Nibali stole a march on his rivals to take the stage win. Roche crossed the line in seventh place but loses the climber’s jersey he held for the last two stages to Cannondale-Drapac’s Davide Villella.
"Coming into the finish we were a few seconds off Froome on the top," said Roche.
"Tejay van Garderen came back to me on the descent and we rode with them in the final kilometer. I tried to anticipate the sprint once we caught them but I was going nowhere and they counter-attacked straight away so I tried to maintain the same time as them.
"After winning the team time trial, I was hoping that today was the day that I could have taken the red jersey. I had that in the back of my mind. Yesterday, losing those precious seconds was a big pain for today,” he added.
Alberto Contador, in the final Grand Tour of his career, was the big loser of the day finishing over two-and-a-half minutes behind Nibali.
American Larry Warbasse was first man home for Aqua Blue Sport, over seven minutes off the pace, but the Irish team will be eyeing up Tuesday's stage, with a relatively flat finish suited to their British sprinter Adam Blythe, who finished third in Sunday’s stage.