Arcos de la Frontera - Australian Michael Matthews has claimed victory in the third stage of the Vuelta a Espana and the overall race lead as he prevailed in a sprint finish ahead of Irishman Dan Martin and Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez on Monday.
The 23-year-old Orica GreenEdge rider, who won two stages in the Vuelta last year, crossed the line in a time of 5hr 12min 14sec to take the 197.8km stage from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera.
The 10 bonus seconds on offer to winners of a stage allowed Matthews to move ahead of race favourite Colombian Nairo Quintana into the overall lead by four seconds.
"I can't ask any more of the team. The victory depended on them because they gave everything for it," said Matthews.
"I didn't think I could do it but the team gave 100 percent for me."
Matthews was forced to pull out of this year's Tour de France due to a hand injury suffered in training just a week before it got underway.
And he admitted wearing the leader's red jersey was a huge bonus given he hadn't planned on even riding in Spain this year.
"I didn't even expect to participate this year in the Tour of Spain, only in the Tour of France because I wasn't in form.
"But sometimes when you work hard you can get back to your best level and if you believe in yourself you come back even stronger.
"To wear the red jersey is a dream come true. I adore the Tour of Spain."
Overnight leader Alejandro Valverde came home seven seconds down on the stage leaders to slip to third place overall.
However, two-time winner Alberto Contador and Chris Froome showed no ill effects on their return from the injuries that forced them to retire from the Tour de France as they finished among the leading pack to remain in contention.
Saxo-Tinkoff's Contador trails Quintana by 19 seconds with Sky's Froome a further eight seconds back.
On the first stage of the race involving any serious climbing, an early breakaway group consisting of the Swiss duo Danilo Wyss and Jonathan Fumeaux, Spain's Lluis Mas Bonet, Jerome Cousin of France and South African Jacques van Rensburg built up an early eight minute lead.
That was whittled down to five minutes before the first of four category three climbs, though, and despite an attempt to breakaway on his own by Bonet, he was swallowed up by the peloton with just under 30km to go.
There was then a scare for Froome as two Movistar riders Jonathan Castroviejo and Adriano Malori crashed centimetres away from the 2013 Tour de France champion, but thankfully both avoided a collision with anymore riders and were fine to complete the stage after a brief delay.
After the peloton briefly bunched together, there were then a number of attacks on the slight climb to the line and Garmin Sharp's Martin looked like he would reel in Matthews but just left himself too much to do as the Australian added to his two stage wins in last year's Tour of Spain.
Results from the third stage of the Tour of Spain, a 197.8km ride from Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera on Monday:
1. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) 5hr 12min 14sec
2. Daniel Martin (IRL/GRS) same time
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) s.t.
4. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BLK) s.t.
5. Paul Mertens (GER/BLK) s.t.
6. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) s.t.
7. Lloyd Mondory (FRA/ALM) s.t.
8. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ) s.t.
9. Daniel Moreno (ESP/KAT) s.t.
10. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) s.t.
1. Michael Matthews (AUS/ORI) 9hr 27min 53sec
2. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) at 0:04sec
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:11
4. Rigoberto Uran (COL/OPQ) 0:15
5. Damiano Caruso (ITA/CAN) 0:17
6. Esteban Chaves Rubio (COL/ORI) 0:17
7. George Bennett (AUS/CAN) 0:20
8. Julian David Arredondo Moreno (COL/TRe) 0:20
9. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 0:20
10. Gianluca Brambilla (ITA/OPQ) 0:22