Rein Taaramae claimed a surprise victory on stage three of the Vuelta a Espana atop Picon Blanco to take the red jersey from Primoz Roglic.

Monday's demanding 202.8 kilometer route saw the first summit finish and Taaramae, whose only stage win at the race came in 2011, saw off some strong climbers to come out on top.

The 34-year-old finished 21 seconds ahead of Joe Dombrowski and Kenny Elissonde was a further 15 seconds back in third as the general classification standings were shaken up.

Previous race leader Roglic drops to third overall after finishing seventh on Monday, 30 seconds behind Taaramae, who is 25 seconds better off than the second-placed Elissonde.

Taaramae is the first Estonian to secure the red jersey after getting the better of an eight-man breakaway. Dombrowski and Lilian Calmejane, who eventually came fourth, took it in turn to attack but Taaramae had the legs to see the job through.

Hugh Carthy, who finished third in this event last year, lost 21 seconds on favourite Roglic, while Olympic road race champion Richard Carapaz is over two minute adrift of the new leader after failing to keep up with the chasing pack.

"Yesterday evening me and my team spoke about winning this stage and taking the leader's jersey," Taaramae said. "I believed in myself today because I'm in a good state. 

"Today was all about whether the peloton would catch us or not. When I saw that we could do it then I had questions about how good Joe Dombrowski and Kenny Elissonde

"They are all good riders but Joe and Kenny are really good so I don't know if I can beat them, but I believed it because I already did it many times.

"Red is a big achievement because I'm 34 and I don't have many years left to try to do this. I have a stage in the Vuelta and Giro but I dream a lot about a leader's jersey in a Grand Tour – at least for a few days."

STAGE RESULT

1. Rein Taaramae (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 05:16:57 
2. Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) +0:21
3. Kenny Elissonde (Trek–Segafredo) +0:36
4. Lilian Calmejane (AG2R Citroen Team) +1:16
5. Enric Mas (Movistar) +01.45

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Rein Taaramae (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 09:25:44
2. Kenny Elissonde (Trek–Segafredo) +0:25
3. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) +0:30

Points Classification

1. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 50
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 50
3. Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech) 50

King of the Mountains

1. Rein Taaramae (Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert) 10
2. Kenny Elissonde (Trek–Segafredo) 7
3. Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) 6

What's next?

Tuesday's stage spans 163.9km from El Burgo de Osma to Molina de Aragon and will once again favour the sprinters.

Fabio Jakobsen timed his sprint finish to perfection to win stage two of the Vuelta a Espana.

Alpecin-Fenix rider Jakobsen edged out Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) in Burgos on Sunday at the end of a 166.7-kilometre flat stage that started in Caleruega.

Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) took third place as 23-year-old Belgian Jakobsen claimed his second Vuelta stage win after being led out brilliantly by his team-mates.

Primoz Roglic retained the red jersey with a lead of four seconds over Alex Aranburu following the defending champion's time-trial triumph on the opening stage.

Sprinter Jordi Meeus was among the Bora-Hansgrohe riders who were involved in a crash four kilometres from the end of the second day.

Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Sergio Martin (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) made an early break on a hot, draining day for the riders.

Rubio looked the strongest of that breakaway trio and he tried to go solo, but was caught with a little over 20 kilometres to go to set up the sprint finish that was anticipated.

Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates) hit the front with 200 metres remaining, with Matthews on his wheel, but it was Jakobsen who nipped in front to take the victory.

He said: "It's incredible. Yesterday someone put it in our team group chat [that they could win the first sprint of all three Grand Tours] and for sure it was a dream but I didn't want to think about it because the chance is always less high than it would be true.

"It just shows how everyone from team is really motivated. It was a team effort and we can be really proud. It was amazing to see all my team-mates there and everyone on the front line. I had a lot of support and this is how we can win sprints.

"Each of us can be very happy tonight and we start this Grand Tour in a good way."

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 03:58:57
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
3. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange)
4. Juan Sebastian Molano (UAE Team Emirates)
5. Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 0:08:32
2. Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech) +0:04
3. Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) +0:10

Points Classification

1. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 50
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) 50
3. Alex Aranburu (Astana-Premier Tech 50

King of the Mountains

1. Sepp Cuss (Jumbo-Visma) 3
2. Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) 2
3. Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) 1

What's next?

A first high-altitude finale in Picon Blanco awaits the riders, who will start a demanding 202.8km third stage in Santo Domingo de Silos.

Primoz Roglic started the defence of his Vuelta a Espana title in style as he took the lead after a short time trial on stage one.

Fresh from claiming Slovenia's first Olympic gold medal in any cycling discipline, Roglic – who has triumphed at the Vuelta in the previous two years – was the last man out in Burgos.

The 31-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider set a blistering pace around the 7.1kilometre route, which he completed in just eight minutes and 32 seconds – six seconds clear of nearest challenger Alex Aranburu (Astana-PremierTech).

Aranburu had held top spot for much of the stage, but has to settle for second heading into stage two. Jan Tratnik, of Bahrain-Victorious, rounds out the top three, trailing Roglic by eight seconds.

Roglic was forced to abandon the Tour de France after a brutal first week but headed to Spain on a high following his success in Japan, and is aiming to become the first rider to win the Vuelta three times in a row since Roberto Heras in 2005. He is also bidding to draw level with Tony Rominger and Alberto Contador on three triumphs should he keep hold of the red jersey.

"It's a beautiful start, I'm enjoying it, and we hopefully can enjoy it as a team in the upcoming days," said Roglic.

Giro d'Italia champion Egan Bernal skipped the Tour and is considered Roglic's prime challenger, but the Colombian suffered on Saturday and lost 27 seconds to his rival.

Tom Piddock, who won a mountain biking gold for Great Britain in Tokyo, made his grand tour debut for INEOS Grenadiers, clocking in 36 seconds slower than Roglic.

"That was horrible. I've basically had three weeks of holidays," said Piddock.

STAGE RESULT

1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 0:08:32
2. Alex Aranburu Deba (Astana-Premier Tech) +0:06
3. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) +0:08
4. Tom Scully (EF Education-Nippo) +0:10
5. Josef Cerny (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:10

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 0:08:32
2. Alex Aranburu Deba (Astana-Premier Tech) +0:06
3. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) +0:08

Points Classification

1. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) 20
2. Alex Aranburu Deba (Astana-Premier Tech) 17
3. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) 15

King of the Mountains

1. Sepp Cuss (Jumbo-Visma) 3
2. Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-Up Nation) 2
3. Rui Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) 1

What's next?

The Vuelta rolls from Caleruega to Burgos, a 166.7km flat route with a sprint finish, giving the sprinters an early opportunity to shine.

Primoz Roglic will start his quest for a hat-trick of Vuelta a Espana titles when the final Grand Tour race of the year starts in Burgos on Saturday.

Team Jumbo-Visma rider Roglic has won the Vuelta in each of the peast two years and is favourite to continue his dominance of the race.

Giro d'Italia champion Egan Bernal will be expected to mount a strong challenge after skipping the Tour de France, while the Colombian's INEOS Grenadiers team-mates Richard Carapaz and Adam Yates could have a big say.

This 76th edition of the race will have eight mountain top finishes, with 11 stages featuring mountains, including the Picon Blanco with a gradient in some sections of the climb at 17 per cent.

Stats Perform picks out the big stories and standout Opta facts ahead of a race that will finish in Santiago de Compostela on September 5.
 

OLYMPIC CHAMPION ROGLIC TARGETING RARE TREBLE

Roglic put his Tour de France woes behind him to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics last month, claiming Slovenia's first gold medal in any cycling discipline.

The 31-year-old abandoned the Tour after a brutal first week but should start the Vuelta on a high from his heroics in Japan.

Roglic will be bidding to move level with Tony Rominger and Alberto Contador on three Vuelta triumphs if he wins the red jersey – one shy of Roberto Heras' record.

He would also become the first rider to win the race three times in a row since Spaniard Heras in 2005.

 


BERNAL LEADS INEOS CHALLENGE

Bernal claimed his maiden Giro title this year after winning his first Grand Tour crown in the 2019 Tour.

The 24-year-old sat out the 2021 Tour and has been training at altitude in his homeland ahead of a bid to complete a clean sweep of Grand Tour titles.

Bernal could become only the third Colombian to win the race, with Nairo Quintana being the last in 2016.

INEOS have a strong hand as Carapaz and Yates plot a title challenge.
 

LANDA HOPEFUL OF ENDING SPANISH DROUGHT

No Spanish rider has triumphed in the previous six editions of the race on home soil. If that extends to seven, it will be an unwanted record drought.

But Mikel Landa is hopeful of topping the podium after winning the Vuelta de Burgos following his recovery from a broken collarbone and several broken ribs suffered in a Giro crash.

He told the Deia: "Winning the Vuelta de Burgos was unexpected, but it was a great morale boost after so long out injured.

"Now I am going to the Vuelta with optimism. At the end of the day, I haven't competed much this year and I have the bit between my teeth after the Giro. I know I have to be careful, because I am still lacking a bit of form, but I am very motivated."

Primoz Roglic eased to an emphatic time trial victory to clinch gold at the Tokyo Olympics, claiming Slovenia's first gold medal in any cycling discipline.

Roglic was pipped to the post in the 2020 Tour de France, when compatriot Tadej Pogacar stole a march on him in the final time trial.

The Jumbo-Visma rider's attempts to wrest the title away from Pogacar proved fruitless this year, as he suffered a huge crash early on in the race and was eventually forced to abandon.

He did not make the podium in Saturday's road race, Pogacar taking that honour for Slovenia, but Roglic hit back with a supreme display on Wednesday.

The 31-year-old finished the 44.2km course in a time of 55:04, more than a minute ahead of his nearest rival, Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands.

Roglic was never out of the top two. He led by 0.04 seconds after 15km, yet had dragged that lead out to 42.34 seconds at the 37km time check.

Rohan Dennis got the bronze, becoming the second Australian to win a medal in both road and track cycling, after Kathy Watt in 1992.

Dumoulin, a Jumbo-Visma team-mate of Roglic, became the first Dutchman to win two Olympic medals on the road, following his time trial silver in Rio.

Pre-event favourite Wout van Aert of Belgium was unable to keep the pace and finished down in sixth, while world TT champion Filippo Ganna had to settle for fifth.

TWO UP FOR SLOVENIA

Pogacar decided not to push himself for Wednesday's event, making Roglic Slovenia's hope, and he certainly delivered with what was a brilliant display of power.

Roglic's gold was Slovenia's first in cycling and the European nation's second at these Games, following Benjamin Savsek's success in the men's canoe slalom on Monday, equalling their best tally at a Games, which came in Sydney 21 years ago.

Dumoulin's silver, meanwhile, brought up the Netherlands' seventh medal of Wednesday. It has equalled their most successful single day (August 11, 1928) at a Games.

Team GB's two-time gold medallist Geraint Thomas finished 12th, capping a frustrating week after he crashed out of the road race.

"It was tough," the Welshman told BBC Sport. "I tried to start at a pace that we thought would be there or thereabouts for a medal. Then I heard I was 50 seconds down on Roglic which wasn't great for morale.

"It's been a super hard five weeks and it just seems to be one thing after the next. I just need to stay positive and try to keep going."

VAN VLEUTEN GETS GOLD, VAN DER BREGGEN GOES OUT ON A HIGH

Two of Dumoulin's countrywomen contributed to the Netherlands' medal count on Wednesday, with Annemiek van Vleuten finally claiming gold.

The 38-year-old thought she had won the road race on Saturday, but was mistaken. However, there was no such error on this occasion, as she won by over a minute on the 22.1km course.

She is the third-oldest woman to win an Olympic gold for the Netherlands, after dressage rider Anky van Grunsven (aged 40 years, 230 days) and rower Marit van Eupen (38y, 326d), with that duo winning in Beijing in 2008.

After her silver medal on Saturday, Van Vleuten is the sixth female cyclist to claim a podium place in the road race and the individual time trial at the Games.

Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten finally has an Olympic gold medal after obliterating the field in the time trial.

She won by nearly a minute over the 22.1km course, with Switzerland's Marlen Reusser in silver and Van Vleuten's team-mate Anna van der Breggen claiming the bronze.

Marlen Reusser of Switzerland finished second, while Anna van der Breggen boosted the Netherlands' count with a bronze – her third Olympic medal.

A surprised Van der Breggen was initially disappointed with her effort, but it was enough to ensure the Netherlands claimed multiple medals in a cycling event at the Games for the first time.

"There's not so much of a story. The time trial did not feel so good. It was not my best time trial. I thought it was nothing, and in the end it was a bronze medal, so I'm really happy to have a medal," she said.

The medal caps off a stellar career for Van der Breggen, who is retiring at the end of the season.

"A bronze medal is a great way to finish this all. It's my third Olympic medal and that makes me proud," she added. "I can look back on many great races and on a great career."

Primoz Roglic has elected to abandon the Tour de France after a brutal first week.

The 2020 runner up – a pre-race favourite to take the famous yellow jersey – endured an opening eight stages marred by crashes and injuries.

He fell twice during the first three stages, badly bruising and grazing almost the entirety of his left side during an incident on stage three.

In a gruelling first Alpine stage on Saturday, Jumbo-Visma rider Roglic crossed in 175th, third to last, having dropped 35 minutes on the leaders, and on Sunday he decided to call time on his campaign.

"We took the decision altogether with the team. It doesn't make sense to continue the way it was going at the end," Roglic said in a statement from his team.

"Now we'll definitely try to recover and focus on the new goals."

Roglic came across the finish line on Saturday alongside 2018 winner Geraint Thomas, who has also seen his general classification hopes dashed after finishing 33 minutes off the pace.

Tadej Pogacar is now the clear favourite for the yellow jersey, following a remarkable ride from the 22-year-old defending champion on Saturday.

Matej Mohoric triumphed in a gruelling stage seven of the Tour de France on Friday, as Primoz Roglic dropped more time in the battle for the yellow jersey.

The 249-kilometre route from Vierzon to Le Creusot, the longest stage of the race, featured five challenging climbs in the final 100km stretch, and saw the general classification contenders start to separate themselves from the chasing pack.

Mathieu van der Poel stayed in yellow as he increased his overall lead to 30 seconds, with the Alpecin-Fenix rider managing to keep pace with a 30-man breakaway.

Having gone clear alongside Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) and Jesper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Mohoric – of Bahrain Victorious – stole a march 19km from the finish line when he powered away on the Signal d'Uchon.

While Mohoric raced clear on the final climb to claim a third stage win in a Grand Tour, following successes at the Vuelta a Espana in 2017 and Giro d'Italia in 2019, there was drama in the peloton as Richard Carapaz picked his moment to try and claw back time on Tadej Pogacar, who won Wednesday's time trial but here slipped from second to fifth in the GC standings.

Meanwhile, Roglic, the 2020 runner-up who was involved in a huge crash on stage three this year, lost further ground as he was dropped by the peloton altogether.

Ultimately Carapaz's efforts proved fruitless as he was swallowed up by the peloton just before the line, while, like Roglic, four-time champion Chris Froome also struggled in the heat.

It was Mohoric's day, and the Slovenian was in tears as he celebrated the most prestigious stage win of his career.

"I didn't think I could make it into the last climb. I was just riding for the jersey and said why not? Kilometre by kilometre I was still feeling OK. I couldn't believe it," said Mohoric, who also takes the polka dot jersey.

"I won in the Giro and the Vuelta but this is something else. It's the longest stage and I won the longest stage in the Giro and Vuelta. I am good on the long stages, not such a brutal effort, I can keep pace in these stages."

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish, who won stages four and six, kept hold of the green jersey thanks to winning the intermediate sprint.

 

STAGE RESULT

1. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) 5:28:20
2. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) +1:20
3. Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) +1:40
4. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) +1:40
5. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1:40

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 25:39:17
2. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) +00:30
3. Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1:49

Points Classification
1. Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 168
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 103
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) 102

King of the Mountains
1. Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious) 11
2. Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5
3. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4

What's next?

After taking on the Tour's longest stage, the riders do not have life any easier on Saturday, as they head into the mountains for a 150km stage from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand.

Geraint Thomas, Primoz Roglic and Peter Sagan were among the big names to crash during an incident-packed Stage 3 of the Tour de France, one that saw Tim Merlier take victory.

Aided by the work of his Alpecin–Fenix colleagues, Merlier was able to come out on top in a sprint finish, crossing the line ahead of team-mate Jasper Philipsen at the end of the 182.9-kilometre journey from Lorient to Pontivy.

"I'm living the dream, I think," the Belgian said in his post-stage interview.

"After the Giro d'Italia I wasn't really very happy, but now I've won a stage on the Tour - the biggest race in the world - I can't believe it."

Having won on Sunday, Mathieu van der Poel was seventh this time around as he retained the yellow jersey, making it a double celebration for the Alpecin-Fenix squad.

However, there was little to cheer about for 2018 winner Thomas, who suffered a shoulder injury following a heavy fall in the early going that saw Robert Gesink forced to retire from the race.

That was far from the end of the drama, though. Roglic came a cropper with just under 10km remaining, leading to him losing over a minute in the standings.

Defending champion Tadej Pogacar's progress was then delayed by a mass pile-up not long after the breakaway group was caught, while Sagan's spillage came when he tangled with Caleb Ewan in the closing metres.

Pogacar sits in sixth place in the general classification, now 38 seconds behind Van der Poel. Julian Alaphilippe remains in second, while Richard Carapaz is up to third, sitting on the same time as Wout van Aert.


STAGE RESULT  

1. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:01:28
2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic)
4. Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
5. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious)

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS 

General Classification 

1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 12:58:53
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +00:08
3. Richard Carparaz (INEOS Grenadiers) +00:31

Points Classification 

1. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) 80
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 62
3. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 50 

King of the Mountains 

1. Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 4
3. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) 3

Tadej Pogacar emulated Eddy Merckx with his historic Tour de France victory last year and could face an epic battle with compatriot Primoz Roglic this time around.

Tour debutant Pogacar became the first Slovenian to win the race last September, on the eve of his 22nd birthday.

The UAE-Team Emirates rider is the favourite as he attempts to go back-to-back in a race that starts in Brest on Saturday, but Roglic is a man on a mission after missing out on the 2020 title to his countryman in dramatic fashion.

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, will go in search of a second Tour triumph and Richard Carapaz could also mount a challenge, with Egan Bernal not in the INEOS Grenadiers line-up following his Giro d'Italia triumph.

Chris Froome, winner of the general classification on four occasions, will play a support role in the Israel Start-Up Nation team for Michael Woods, while Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the big stories and standout Opta facts ahead of the 108th edition of the prestigious Grand Tour race, which finishes in Paris on July 18.

 

REFRESHED ROGLIC BIDS TO TURN TABLES

Pogacar went down as the second-youngest winner of the Tour last year behind Frenchman Henri Cornet way back in 1904.

A sensational time-trial ride on the penultimate stage up the Planche des Belles Filles saw Pogacar snatch the yellow jersey from Roglic.

Pogacar won the Tour of Slovenia this month, while Roglic should be refreshed as he will line up for the Grand Depart having not raced for two months.

The defending champion was the first rider to win the yellow jersey, polka dot jersey (mountains classification) and white jersey (young rider classification) in the same Tour de France and will have to deal with a weight of expectation over the new few weeks.

Roglic looked to have the title in the bag last year until Pogacar produced the ride of his life to leave his fellow Slovenian shellshocked.

 

DAUNTING MONT VENTOUX DOUBLE, TWO TIME TRIALS

There will be six mountain stages, three of which will end with high-altitude finishes in a race that will see the riders head to Andorra.

A double climb of Mont Ventoux during the 190-kilometre stage 11 from Sorgues to Malaucene will provide a huge test.

There will also be two individual time trials, on stage five from Change to Laval and the penultimate stage from Libourne to Saint-Emilion.

A 249.1km stage seven from Vierzon to Le Creusot will be the longest in the Tour for 21 years, finishing with a demanding ascent of the Signal d'Ucho and with 3,000 metres of elevation to tackle overall.

 

WORLD CHAMPION ALAPHILIPPE TO FLY THE FLAG

Julian Alaphilippe will be the first Frenchman to compete in the Tour as world champion since Laurent Brochard in 1998.

The world champion was one of the main protagonists at the Tour de Suisse this month but does not expect to mount a challenge to become the first French winner of the yellow jersey since Bernard Hinault in 1985.

Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Alaphilippe said: "The main goal at Le Tour will be to get a stage victory. To raise my hands there, at the biggest race in the world, with the world champion jersey on my shoulders, would be something really special.

"The first week is going to be an important one, with several opportunities. We will give our best there, as we always do. A successful Tour for me would be a beautiful victory and to show some good things together with the team."

 

LATE CALL FOR CAVENDISH

Mark Cavendish was given a late call-up to end a three-year wait to compete again in the Tour.

The 36-year-old was on Monday named as Deceuninck-QuickStep's lead sprinter after 2020 green jersey winner Sam Bennett was ruled out due to injury.

Cavendish hinted that he might be ready to retire after the Gent-Wevelgem last year, but he has been resurgent in 2021.

Only the legendary Merckx (34) has more Tour stage victories than Cavendish's tally of 30.

 

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