Post Stage Analysis

Sprint Win for Henderson
Columbia-HTC rider wins his first grand tour stage, Cancellara remains overall leader

Rolling through Holland during Stage 3 and the best weather so far
9 Big Photos from Stage 3sirotti

Greg Henderson of Columbia-HTC won today's stage of the Vuelta a España. The stage finished in a chaotic sprint, which Henderson read to perfection. Borut Božič of Vacansoleil jumped early just before the final turn and held on for second, while Oscar Freire of Rabobank crossed the line third. The big name sprinters, Tom Boonen, Tyler Farrar, and Daniele Bennati, did not figure in the sprint today, enabling Fabian Cancellara to hold the leader's jersey for yet another day. In the general classification, Cancellara leads Henderson by 6 seconds and yesterday's stage winner Gerald Ciolek of Team Milram by 8 seconds.

The Vuelta enjoyed warm weather today after racing the first two stages under rainy conditions. Three riders formed the early break for this flat stage through the Netherlands and Germany. Jesus Rosendo of Andalucia-Cajasur, Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil, and Lars Boom of Rabobank built up a healthy eight minute gap, though a sprint finish was all but inevitable. Local boy Boom, a former World Champion in cyclocross, scooped up the intermediate sprints and moved into the top ten in the general classification. Boom is riding his first grand tour at this Vuelta a España.

With 35 kilometers to go, the gap to the break had fallen to under a minute as the sprinters' teams began to work on the front of the main field. At 30 kilometers to go, the break held just over 30 seconds, but Boom continued to push hard on the front of the break. With the catch imminent, the Rabobank rider scooted up the road to win the Solidarity Sprint, which awards a cash prime. Following the sprint, Boom sat up, while Rosendo and Hoogerland continued on. Soon, it was Rosendo off the front alone. A small crash involving Chris Horner of Astana and a few others interrupted the momentum of the main field, and inside 20 kilometers to go, Tyler Farrar flatted, slowing the Garmin-Slipstream chase. With 15 kilometers to race, Rosendo remained out in front.

Not for long. With Columbia-HTC, Quick-Step, and Garmin-Slipstream contributing to the chase, the gap fell precipitously and at 10 kilometers to go, it was all back together. The main sprint teams gathered at the front, Quick-Step for Boonen, Columbia-HTC for Greipel, Garmin-Slipstream for Farrar, and Liquigas-Doimo for Bennati. Despite their efforts to organize, the field remained bunched up and spread gutter to gutter across the road. Dutch roads are well-furnished with traffic islands and roundabouts, and the field constantly split and reformed around the obstacles.

Inside 5 kilometers to go, the road narrowed and Columbia-HTC went to the front to fire up their train. The field remained bunched-up and a sweeping right hand bend just outside 1 kilometer to go reshuffled the front of the bunch. Vacansoleil, the wildcard team from the Netherlands, saw opportunity in the disorder. Just before the final bend, two Vacansoleil riders accelerated. Greg Henderson on lead-out duty for André Greipel at Columbia-HTC, meanwhile, lost Greipel in the final bend. After looking in vain for Greipel, Henderson decided to have a go for himself. With a nice turn of speed, Greg Henderson took his first career grand tour victory. Borut Božič of Vacansoleil held on for second, while Oscar Freire sprinted for third.

After the stage, Henderson explained, "I was out in front to lead-out Greipel, as that is my role. But after a dangerous corner at 600 meters to go, I did not see him on my wheel." The New Zealander looked for his sprinter, but with the finish line rapidly approaching, couldn't find him. "I looked for him for a few instants, but then when I couldn't find him, I decided to do my own sprint," he said. Henderson's quick-thinking paid off with a stage victory. Henderson now sits just 6 seconds behind Cancellara in the general classification.

Cancellara expressed surprise after holding the Gold Jersey for another day. "I was well-protected by the team and we did not have to be at the front to work too much today. I'm somewhat surprised still to be wearing the jersey but it's good for the team and I really enjoy being the leader of the race," the Saxo Bank rider said after the stage. The top fifteen riders sit within 20 seconds of Cancellara in the general classification, and could take over the race lead by winning tomorrow's stage which offers a time bonus of 20 seconds. With time bonuses also available at the intermediate sprints and a hilly course, the jersey could change hands tomorrow.

Here is the current general classification:
Fabian Cancellara Saxo Bank
Greg Henderson Columbia-HTC :06
Gerald Ciolek Milram :08
Tom Boonen Quick-Step :09
Tyler Farrar Garmin-Slipstream :12
Jens Mouris Vacansoleil :14
Lars Boom Rabobank :16
Daniele Bennati Liquigas-Doimo :16
Roman Kreuziger Liquigas-Doimo :17
David Garcìa Xacobeo-Galicia :18

The Vuelta a España pays tribute to the Ardennes classics with tomorrow's hilly stage between Venlo and Liège. The course looks made for the classics riders in the bunch, but the long flat run-in following the Côte de Saint-Nicolas might lead to a bunch sprint in the end. For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

Stage 3: Zutphen - Venlo

Terrain Type: Flat.
GC Importance: Sprinters party!

The Dutch town of Zutphen hosts the start of this third stage of the Vuelta a España. From Zutphen, the course heads directly south, and the Vuelta makes a quick trip into Germany. After passing through Emmrich Am Rhein, the race returns to the Netherlands. The stage finishes in Venlo, which sits on Holland’s eastern border with Germany, and a sprinter will almost certainly celebrate the stage win.

Zutphen sits in the dunes on the eastern bank of the Ijssen River, one of three main Dutch branches of the Rhein. Situated in northeastern Holland, the city dates from the eleventh century and retains one of the few surviving medieval libraries in Western Europe. During this stage, the Vuelta crosses the Rhein river, the massive waterway linking the Swiss Alps with the North Sea. Then, it’s on to Venlo, a city in the Dutch province of Limburg. Venlo sits on the Muese river and developed as an important trading post during the time of the Roman Empire. It received city rights in 1343, though as a consequence of heavy fighting in the area during World War II, few of the Venlo’s historical buildings remain standing.

Profile Details

There are no categorized climbs on profile for this stage, and it is impressive in its flatness. With a succession of hard mountain stages on the menu later in this Vuelta, the sprinters will be happy to enjoy these early flat stages. Bold prediction: This stage will end in a sprint.

The course travels directly south from Zutphen, passing through Toldijk before crossing into Germany. The Vuelta rides for approximately 20 kilometers on German territory and will race through Emmrich Am Rhein and Nutterden. As the course passes back into Dutch territory, there is a short, uncategorized climb. Then, it’s all flat to the finish, as the race passes through Ottersum and Tuindorp. The stage finishes in Venlo on the Meuse river at an elevation of 20 meters above sea level.

Who To Watch

Watch for a hotly contested sprint in Venlo, as the sprinters take their chances before the Vuelta hits the high mountains later in the race. Tyler Farrar is currently on a hot streak and is a leading favorite in these opening stages of the Vuelta. But the other sprinters aren’t going to give anything away. Look for Tom Boonen, Daniele Bennati, Oscar Freire, Matti Breschel, André Greipel, and Gerald Ciolek to battle in the final kilometer in Venlo.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->