It's already race day 4.
Didn't know that, eh? Not surprised - for most people the Vuelta de España is the lost, unviewed sequel to the Tour de France. I've always liked the VdE, though. Its mountains are as tough, and the heat and the altitude bring out other qualities in riders than those demanded of the competitors in the TdF. No question, however, that the teams don't bring their "A"-squad to the Vuelta. You won't see the podium finishers in Paris mentioned here...
This year's Vuelta has gotten off to a riotous start with three flat stages in the provinces of Galicia and Asturias in northwestern Spain: a time trial Saturday in the city of Vigo (no, not the "Master of Evil" from Ghostbusters 2); a 145km flat stage Sunday from Allariz to Santiago de Compostela (home of the patron saint of Spain, Saint James - not only cyclists race to get here since Santiago has been a pilgimage destination since medieval times) and a 155km flat stage Monday from Viviero in Galacia to Luarca in Asturias. Today is the first day in the mountains (unlike the Tdf, where the whole first week seems a chowchow of sprints and crashes on the flats) with a big climbing finish on the Lagos de Covadonga.
The first three days - after a nice time trial win by Daniele Benatti of team Lampre' - have been a battle of the sprinters, with Oscar Freire of Rabobank (who won on Saturday) battling Paolo Bettini of Quickstep, who had the better of the day Monday. Throw in a monster crash Sunday and the beginning of the mountains today and it's shaping up to be a fun Vuelta.
I'll continue to blog the results for those interested, but the comprehensive coverage is over here at Cyclingnews.
Right now Oscar Freire is wearing the mailliot oro...but not comfortably. The mountains are ahead and he is bunched in with a number of excellent riders including Zabel of Milram, Cadel Evans and Beltran of Liquigas. Surely today will see some fireworks, and the "gold jersey" may find another wearer at the summit of the Lagos.
Overall, after Stage 3
1 Óscar Friere (Sp), Rabobank, 11:22:54
2 Leonardo Duque, (COL), Cofidis, s.t.
3 Erik Zabel, (GER), Milram, s.t.
4 Rene Mandri, (EST), Ag2r Prevoyance, s.t.
5 David LÓpez, (ESP), Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
6 Cadel Evans, (AUS), Predictor-Lotto, s.t.
7 Manuel BeltrÁn, (Sp), Liquigas, s.t.
8 Xavier Florencio, (Sp), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
9 Ezequiel Mosquera, (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
10 J. Ángel GÓmez Marchante, (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.