Bennett wins 3rd stage, Roche keeps Spanish Vuelta lead

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Sam Bennett won the third stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Monday, with fellow Irishman Nicolas Roche keeping his overall lead ahead of Nairo Quintana.

Bennett dominated the final sprint in the 188-kilometer (117-mile) mostly flat stage from Ibi to Alicante, beating Edward Theuns and Luka Mezgec to the finish line.

“I knew it would be a very fast sprint so I really wanted to kick first,” Bennett said. “I’m delighted to get a Grand Tour victory. I’m delighted we are giving the Irish fans something to cheer for.”

It is the first time that Ireland has had both the stage winner and overall leader at the Vuelta on the same day.

There were no major changes to the overall standings as Roche and Quintana finished in the main peloton. Roche will keep a two-second lead going into Tuesday’s 175-kilometer (109-mile) ride from Cullera to El Puig on Spain’s eastern coast.

“Today has been more stressful than we thought. The team did a great job on keeping ourselves at the front,” Roche said. “It was a fast finish, so it was important to be on your toes for the final kilometers. I’m happy for myself to be able to keep the jersey.”

Quintana, the 2016 Vuelta winner, was briefly held by a mechanical issue early in Monday’s stage but easily recovered to rejoin the peloton.