Lastras of the Movistar team celebrates victory on the third stage of the Spanish Cycling Tour [EPA] 

Veteran Spanish cyclist Pablo Lastras won the third stage of the Tour of Spain and took the overall leader's red jersey on Monday on a 164-kilometre ride from Petrer to Totana.

The 35-year-old Movistar rider - whose last stage win in one of the three major tours was in the 2003 Tour de France - took the red jersey off Italy's Daniele Bennati, finishing in a swift descent following a well-timed break in the hills of southeastern Spain.

"I rode a classic race. My experience as a veteran helped me a lot today," he said at the finish.

"This is the sixth time I have taken part in the Vuelta. I think it was my turn. It was a solid victory and a deserved one."

He crossed the line 15 seconds ahead of Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel who finished second, Spaniard Markel Irizar in third, and Ukrainian Ruslan Pydgornyy in fourth.

The peloton rumbled in one minute and 43 seconds after Lastras with Irishman Nicolas Roche at its head in fifth place overall.

"This is the sixth time I have taken part in the Vuelta. I think it was my turn. It was a solid victory and a deserved one"

Pablo Lastras

The lanky Lastras - winning his third stage in the Spanish "Vuelta" after winning two in the 2002 edition - chalked up the first stage win for a Spanish rider in this year's race, and posted a 20-second lead over Chavanel in the overall standings.

He said he was dedicating his stage victory to his fellow Spanish cyclist Xavi Tondo, who died in May in an accident at his home.

Lastras was among a small pack of riders that broke away from the peloton from early on in Monday's third stage, one of the shortest of this year's race, with just one category-three mountain climb where he made his breakaway.

Tuesday sees the first mountain stage of this year's Vuelta, a challenging ride of more than 170 kilometres from Baza to Sierra Nevada with a finish at 2,110 metres' altitude.

Source: AFP