Geniez wins 3rd Vuelta stage, Fernandez takes over lead

BY foxsports • August 22, 2016

MIRADOR DE EZARO, Spain (AP) Alexandre Geniez of France held off an attack by the title favorites on a brutal final climb to win the third stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Monday.

The FDJ rider completed the hilly 176.4-kilometer (109.6-mile) ride along the Atlantic coast finishing at the Mirador de Ezaro summit in 4 hours, 28 minutes, 36 seconds. It was Geniez's second career win at the Spanish grand tour.

Spaniard Ruben Fernandez crossed 21 seconds later and took the overall lead. He claimed the red jersey after leading a late charge by Movistar that shook up the times among the contenders, and dropped Alberto Contador even further off the lead.

Alejandro Valverde was third, just ahead of Tour de France champion Chris Froome and fellow race rivals Esteban Chaves and Nairo Quintana.

Valverde, the 2009 Vuelta winner, moved into second overall at seven seconds behind Fernandez. Froome is 11 seconds back, followed by Chaves and Quintana at 17.

Three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador couldn't stay with that bunch on the last ascent, which had a gradient that reached 30 percent.

Contador began the day 52 seconds behind after his Tinkoff riders struggled during the team time trial on the opening day. After losing more ground, he will start Tuesday's stage 1 minute, 31 seconds off the lead.

Fernandez looked like he had the legs to catch Geniez, but the Spaniard let up momentarily when it appeared Quintana and Valverde couldn't keep up. When Movistar released him from pulling his leaders up the ascent, it was too late to catch Geniez.

''The idea was to work for Nairo and Alejandro, but at the end they told me to go for it,'' Fernandez said.

Warren Barguil became the first rider to withdraw from the race, quitting because of a sinus infection.

Astana's Miguel Angel Lopez crashed in the middle of the peloton before the final climb. Lopez was named the team leader after 2015 Vuelta winner Fabio Aru didn't return for this edition.

Tuesday's stage remains in the hilly northwestern coast, with a 163.5-kilometer (101.5-mile) ride from Betanzos to a summit finish at San Andres de Teixido.

The 21-stage grand tour ends in Madrid on Sept. 11.