Chris Froome claims Vuelta red jersey, as Vincenzo Nibali wins stage three
Vincenzo Nibali claimed a stunning victory on the third stage of the Vuelta a Espana, but Team Sky's Chris Froome sits top of the general classification with the red jersey after Monday's mountain stage.
Bahrain-Merida rider Nibali hunted Froome down in a spectacular finish in Andorra, claiming 10 bonus points in the process, after outpacing David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) to win the stage.
Froome was just behind the pair in third place and the Tour de France champion is narrowly clear in the GC after forcing the pace with a break for the line eight kilometres out from the 158.5km stage's conclusion.
Alberto Contador was among those who could not cope with Froome's pace in the mountains and, even at this early stage, the Vuelta looks like being a head-to-head clash between pre-race favourites Froome and Nibali.
"I have suffered a bit because of Sky's sky-high pace, I do not know how I regained positions to get to the sprint, but luckily I was able to win," Nibali said after his victory.
Froome's race experience was on full show as he put his foot down to claim three bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint, with Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) initially the only rider to go with him.
Chaves eventually finished fifth behind Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) after a nine-man finish, with Froome and Chaves chased down by Nibali and company in the final kilometre of the stage.
Nibali was 22 points behind Froome after Sunday's stage but the Italian has cut his rival's GC advantage to just 10 seconds, making a shark's fin gesture as he crossed the line in front of the pack.
And the speed Nibali showed in his sprint finish, breaking clear of the field with around 400m to go, was an ominous sign for Froome's chances of following up his fourth Tour title with Vuelta glory and becoming the third cyclist to win both races in the same year.
GOOD DAY/BAD DAY
Claiming the red jersey made it a good day overall for Froome, but he would have been hoping for a bigger lead from his main contenders and Nibali is right on his tail, with Astana's Fabio Aru also well in contention.
But this year's Vuelta looks a race too far for veteran Spaniard Contador after the Trek-Segafredo rider struggled to keep pace when Froome pushed hard on a climb late on Monday - he is already a full three minutes back.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 4:01:22
2. David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors)
3. Chris Froome (Team Sky)
4. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
5. Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 8:53:44
2. David de la Cruz (Quick-Step Floors) +2s
3. Nicolas Roche (BMC Racing) +2s
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) 31 points
2. Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) 25 points
3. Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) 24 points
A mostly flat 198.2km stage starts on the border between Andorra and Catalonia and offers a rare opportunity for a big sprint finish in this year's Vuelta - it should be an explosive battle between Froome and Nibali.