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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: What the stars said after the first mountain stage

Here's what Joe Dombrowski, Primož Roglič, and others said after finishing on the steep slopes of the Picón Blanco.

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Rein Taaramäe of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux won stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España and in doing so took over the lead of the general classification from two-time Vuelta winner Primož Roglič.

The last remaining rider of an initial eight-man group, the Estonian last won a stage at the Vuelta in 2011, and he and his sport director had been planning this win for less than 24 hours.

While the winner of the 2019 and 2020 Vuelta Roglič was the sole Jumbo-Visma rider to stay in the front group, as even climbing ace Sepp Kuss and superdomestique Steven Kruijswijk both lost time in the final 8km climb up the Picon Blanco.

Even the Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist and Tour de France runner-up Richard Carapaz of the Ineos Grenadiers found the final climb challenging.

Here’s what the stars said after stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España:

Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux), stage-winner

Rein Taaramäe won stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España.
Rein Taaramäe won stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

Rein Taaramäe last won a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2011 while racing under Cofidis colors.

The 34-year-old recognized he does not have too many years remaining as a professional cyclist and was thrilled to execute a plan devised the previous evening to win a stage at the Vuelta.

“Yesterday evening we spoke and we said we would try to win the stage and try to take the leader’s jersey,” he said. “I don’t have that many years left to try to do this. I dream a lot about a leader’s jersey in a big Tour at least for some days.

“Today I did it. I’m very happy,” Taaramäe added.

Joe Dombrowski (UAE-Team Emirates), 2nd at :21

Joe Dombrowski was second on stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España.
Joe Dombrowski was second on stage 3 of the 2021 Vuelta a España. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

American Joe Dombrowski is a capable climber and won stage 4 of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, taking the KOM jersey for two stages until he ultimately had to abandon after a crash.

“I thought today’s stage could offer good opportunities for a breakaway, being similar to the stage that I won this season in the Giro d’Italia,” Dombrowski said. “The GC teams didn’t seem too worried, so I believed I could play my cards for a good result, also because we reached the last climb with a good gap we knew we were going for the win.”

“I am a bit disappointed to have taken second place. Maybe I was too aggressive on the final climb, but my intention was to take advantage of the steepest sectors of the ascent to get away.

“Taaramäe today was very strong, I gave my best, now I will try to take advantage of other opportunities that this Vuelta will offer,” Dombrowski said.

Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), 41st at 3:15

Felix Großschartner may be Bora-Hansgrohe's best GC hope, even minutes behind the overall leader Taaramäe.
Felix Großschartner may be Bora-Hansgrohe’s best GC hope, even minutes behind the overall leader Taaramäe. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

As Bora-Hansgrohe’s top GC rider, and with the team handicapped with the stage crash of teammates Max Schachmann, Jordi Meeus, and Patrick Gamper, the young German ceded bucket-loads of time on the first climbing test, just three stages into the three-week grand tour.

Großschartner remained positive and will be looking to regain time and go for stage wins over the next 18 days of racing.

“I didn’t really feel too bad. On the last climb, my legs gave out a bit, but I kept fighting in spite of this. And sure, it looks a bit depressing at first sight, but if we look at it in perspective, I’m now 1:10 behind being in the top ten in the overall standings.

“There is still a long way to go until the last stage and I hope that I will get better day by day. We also have to accept that today’s stage didn’t run perfectly. But as I said, the day is over now and we’ll see how it continues,” said Großschartner.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), 7th at 1:48

Primoz Roglic was satisfied with ceding the race lead with 18 stages remaining.
Primoz Roglič, in red, was satisfied with ceding the race lead with 18 stages remaining. Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images,

Primoz Roglič won the 2019 and 2020 editions of the Vuelta a España and kicked off the 2021 edition by winning the individual time trial.

He wore the leader’s jersey on stages two and three but seemed perfectly OK with letting it slide off his shoulders in a controlled fashion.

“It went fine on the road and I am satisfied”, Roglič said. “There was a lot of wind on the climb, which even made it a bit cold. Especially after the heat of the last days, it took some getting used to.

“The fact that we have lost the jersey is actually good for us. It was a steep and tough climb, but the result does not say much. There are still many tough stages to come,” he said.