Alejandro Valverde takes overall lead at Spanish Vuelta after winning third stage - Sports Illustrated

Valverde takes lead at Spanish Vuelta after winning third stage

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EIBAR, Spain (AP) -- Alejandro Valverde of Movistar took the overall lead at the Spanish Vuelta on Monday after winning the third stage in a photo finish.

Valverde edged fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez at the end of the 96-mile mountain stage from Faustino V to a summit finish in the Basque town of Eibar.

"Both of us deserved to win," Valverde said of Rodriguez, who looked like he was headed for victory when Valverde made his last push.

"At the end I was able to come back and win," he said. "He let up a little at the end and I managed to stick my wheel out in front."

Christopher Froome of Team Sky and Alberto Contador of SaxoBank were next, followed by a group of riders six seconds behind the four front runners who clocked a time of three hours, 49 minutes, 37 seconds.

Valverde, who won the 2009 Vuelta before serving a two-year doping ban, took the red leader's jersey with a 19-second lead over Rodriguez. Froome is 20 seconds back, while Contador is 24 seconds off Valverde's pace.

Contador, who returned from a doping ban earlier this month, tried to break free several times on the final climb, only to be followed by the other contenders.

"It was a pity not to win, but my goal is Madrid," said the two-time Tour de France winner.

Tuesday's fourth stage is a 99-mile ride from Barakaldo to Estacion de Valdezcaray.

The 21-stage race finishes on Sept. 9 in Madrid.