Matthews pips Martin on third day

Michael Matthews pipped Dan Martin in a sprint finish to win the third stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Monday and claim the leader's jersey.

Michael Matthew crosses the line to take the stage win (AP)
Michael Matthew crosses the line to take the stage win (AP)

Ireland's Martin had looked set to snatch the stage himself but Australian Matthews battled past in the closing metres to take the 197.8-kilometre ride from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera in a time of five hours, 12 minutes and 14 seconds.

That also saw Matthews, boosted by a 10-second time bonus, inherit the leader's red jersey from Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, the 2009 Vuelta winner.

The 23-year-old Matthews, who signed a new two-year deal with Orica-GreenEdge last week, is now four seconds ahead of r ace favourite Nairo Quintana, who in turn is seven seconds clear of Valverde in third.

Former Tour de France winners Alberto Contador of Spain (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Britain's Chris Froome (Team Sky) are 23 and 31 seconds behind Matthews in 12th and 17th places respectively.

Contador, who is also a two-time winner of the Vuelta, and Froome were both in the chasing pack behind Matthews on Monday and clocked the same time as the winner.

After a neutralised start which saw the competitors ride off the aircraft carrier Juan Carlos I, a five-man breakaway formed that included Jacques Janse van Rensburg, who was also involved in the early attack on Sunday.

Alongside the MTN-Qhubeka rider were Danilo Wyss, Lluis Mas Bonet, Jerome Cousin and Jonathan Fumeaux, and between them they built a lead of over eight minutes by the 50-kilometre mark.

The peloton would not let them escape much further though, and soon started eating into their lead.

They were eventually all swallowed up with around 17km to go before Adam Hansen tried a solo break, which proved short-lived.

That set things up for a thrilling finish involving most of the big guns in an ended that included a technical bridge crossing, where the riders had to squeeze around a tight right-hand bend.

Katusha's Giampaolo Caruso made his move first and opened up a small gap, but as the Italian faded he was overtaken by Martin.

Martin could not hold onto the lead either, though, and he was passed on the finishing straight by Matthews who crossed the line first with arms aloft, around a bike's length ahead of the Irishman.

It was Matthews' third stage victory on the Vuelta, having won two last year.

Joaquim Rodriguez was third on the day, ahead of Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens.