A decade after his first (and last) stage win on the Vuelta, and five years after he last tasted success on a Grand Tour at the Giro, Rein Taaramae got the better of his breakaway companions to secure a double-whammy: victory and the red jersey on the first summit finish of the race.
Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert veteran Taaramae proved the strongest of an eight-man move on the double-digit ramps of Picon Blanco, the Vuelta a Burgos climb being used for the first time in the Spanish tour. After a series of attacks from the American Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates) and France’s Lilian Calmejane (AG2R-Citroen) caused an initial shake-out, 34-year-old Taaramae took off with two kilometres remaining to take his first WorldTour win in five years.
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Dombrowski, winner of the Giro’s opening summit finish in May after starring alongside Taaramae in the breakaway of Stage 4 in Italy, crossed the line 21 seconds down for second place. Frenchman Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) took third at 36 seconds ahead of compatriot Calmejane, the last of the initial eight escapees to evade capture by the returning peloton.
Spain’s Enric Mas (Movistar) darted clear of the red jersey group to cross the line 1:45 down for fifth place, three seconds ahead of a group that included his teammates Miguel Angel Lopez and Alejandro Valverde, overnight leader Primoz Roglic, Ineos Grenadiers duo Adam Yates and Egan Bernal, the Spaniard Mikel Landa and Italy’s Giulio Ciccone.
After what appeared to be a tactical roll of the dice, Jumbo-Visma’s Roglic – the winner of Saturday’s opening time trial – conceded the maillot rojo to Taaramae, who becomes only the second Estonian in history to lead a Grand Tour after Jaan Kirsipuu in the 1999 Tour de France.
Taaramae holds a 25-second lead over Elissonde, with Slovenia’s Roglic 30 seconds down in third, Calmejane fourth at 35 seconds and Mas fifth at 45 seconds. Elissonde will start Stage 4 in the polka dot jersey despite Taaramae also going into the lead of the mountains classifications with 10 points pocketed from his winning ride on the Cat.1 ascent of Picon Blanco.

Vuelta a España: Stage 3 Highlights as Taaramae navigates summit finish to claim red jersey

Britain’s Hugh Carthy (EF Education-Nippo), Russia’s Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana-PremierTech) and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were among the big losers on the first GC test of the 76th edition of La Vuelta.
Third last year, Carthy conceded 21 seconds to Roglic and the other red jersey contenders, while Vlasov lost 28 seconds, and Carapaz, the Olympic road race champion and last year’s runner-up, exactly one minute after yo-yoing on and off the back on the final test. The Ineos Grenadier rider was later given an additional 20-second penalty for an illegal feed on the final climb.
After a cagey opening to the 202.8km third stage, a move of eight formed off the front featuring Taaramae, Dombrowski, Elissonde and Calmejane as well as Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Fenix), Jetse Bol (Burgos BH), Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural) and Antonio Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Elissonde led the break over the summit of the Cat.3 Puerto de Manquillo before the break managed to stretch its lead to almost nine minutes over rolling countryside to the east of Burgos in northern Spain. But the gap came tumbling after the Cat.3 Alto de Bocos which preceded the final test.
What looked to be a shoo-in for the break suddenly became less certain, forcing Frenchman Calmejane to take matters into his own hands as the advantage came below the four-minute mark with 15km remaining. The Frenchman was caught at the start of the Picon Blanco, where Bayer, Bol, Amezqueta and Soto were quickly tailed off and swallowed up by the pack.
The Bahrain Victorious team of Mikel Landa – a previous winner on the final climb during the Vuelta a Burgos – set the tempo on the front of the pack, although it was Ineos Grenadiers who then took the initiative through Britain’s Yates, whose pacing saw teammate Carapaz soon struggling off the back.

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Landa was unable to repay his teammates for their hard work – although the Basque climber avoided losing time to his rivals. It was his compatriot Mas who made the only move, darting clear of the red jersey group after he and his Movistar teammates Valverde and Lopez came to the front ahead of the final kilometre.
By now Taaramae had written the latest – and most unexpected – chapter in his career’s story, the Estonian getting the better of his fellow escapees to secure a hat-trick of stage win, red jersey and polka dot jersey for Intermarche-Wanty-Gobert.

'I've dreamt about the red jersey': Vuelta a España stage 3 winner and new race leader Rein Taaramae

“Today was all about whether the peloton would catch us or not,” Taaramae said. “When I saw that we would do it then I had questions about how good were 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.
“When I won a stage of the Giro, Joe was in third up there with me and now we were fighting again each other. So I believed in myself very much today.
"[The red jersey is] very big because I'm 34 years old 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 some days to enjoy and feel how it's going to be. I was so close in the Giro this year when, actually, Joe won the stage, but today I did it and I'm very, very happy."
The Vuelta continues on Tuesday with a 164km Stage 4 from El Burgo de Osma to Molina de Aragon which should reopen the doors to the sprinters and reignite the battle for green – with Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen, the Stage 2 winner, tied on 50 points with Dutchman Jakob Philipsen and Spain’s Alex Aranburu.
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