De La Cruz comes close to another Vuelta a España win
On the first mountain stage, the Spaniard finished runner-up and is now a mere two seconds off the leader's jersey.
Quick-Step Floors is the team of the opening days of the Vuelta a España, with one stage victory, three second places and a stint in the red and green jerseys. In fairness, all these results can't be regarded as surprise, considering the fact that our outfit is the most successful this season in Grand Tours, with 11 stage victories, three secondary classifications and with a rider in the top 10 overall of both Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
Most recently, David De La Cruz took a strong second on the third stage of his home Grand Tour, after a day of climbing, suffering and attacking, from Prades to Andorra la Vella, which hosted for the first time in history a stage that didn't finish with a mountain summit.
Quick-Step Floors controlled the race in the first part of the day, amassing the entire team at the front and protecting red jersey wearer Yves Lampaert, before the GC teams stepped in and rode a furious pace on Coll de la Rabassa; under their impetus, the escapees got reeled in and the peloton reduced considerably before the final ascent of the day.
Alto de la Comella (4.3 kilometers, 8.6%) signaled the start of the hostilities, as Chris Froome (Team Sky) attacked and gapped all his rivals, before Fabio Aru (Astana), Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) countered and scratched off the deficit, joining the Brit before cresting the top and changing turns at the front on the descent. David De La Cruz was just a few seconds off the pace, but the Catalan put in a smooth ride on the fast descent to Andorra la Vella, and together with a strong group made the junction inside the final kilometer.
De La Cruz, a stage winner at the previous edition after an entire day spent in the break, came from the back of the group as Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) surged clear 400 meters from the finish, taking the stage victory. De La Cruz, one of the few GC contenders with a strong sprint, concluded the day as runner-up and thanks to the bonifications snatched on the line, he climbed to second in the overall rankings, just two seconds behind the new leader.
"I'm a bit sad, because I wanted the red jersey here in Catalunya, in front of my fans and family. But there's still a long day to go, I am motivated, and who knows, maybe I'll get the jersey eventually. I am confident for the Vuelta; I'm not thinking about finishing in the top 3, top 5 or top 10, I just want to show that I can be again an important player in the general classification. I have a strong team around me and this gives me even more motivation to push myself and be up there when it matters", said 28-year-old David after the first test of the race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele