Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) is the new overall leader of the week-long tour with a top-ten finish after race officials overturned a Stage 2 decision giving Movistar the teams time trial victory despite a pushing offense.
The change in decision by officials, which applied a one-minute time penalty to the entire Movistar team, gave the overall lead to van Garderen's BMC team-mate Ben Hermans but he quickly lost it on the slopes of the final climb on Stage 3.
“I prefer not to further opine on what happened yesterday, everyone could see the images. Inwardly, we know we won that stage and we did it fairly" - Alejandro Valverde.
Movistar disputed the change prior to the stage start, saying in a statement that it was in "complete disagreement towards the sanction received."
"It's a penalty due to an infringement which we consider absolutely non-existent. The rider performing the action does not "push" his team-mates, but touches the back of them with his right hand to warn them that they must take his position into the team row, a fact that doesn't influence the race's outcome at all," the statement said.
"We deeply regret that a sporting event sees its results distorted by the application of a rule which punishes pushing between team-mates, something which, as shown by the images, was not the case yesterday. We consider this sets a dangerous precedent for the future since any touch between riders from now on will have to be punished."
Valverde now sits in 4th place overall, 45 seconds behind race leader van Garderen and less than a handful behind BMC’s Samuel Sanchez and Geraint Thomas of Team Sky.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) finished second on the stage and Orica-Scott's Adam Yates was third.
"It was a very fast start before the break went finally away. The last 50km were also really hard, too," Valverde said.
“Sky made it harder with a strong pace through the entire finale, but the team kept me protected perfectly and [Marc] Soler was excellent controlling all moves into the last kilometres. Part of this victory is his, too.
“To be honest, I just had to make sure I sprinted properly. When Daniel Martin attacked, I went on his wheel quickly. I knew it would be difficult for him to beat me because such uphill finishes really suit me well.
"We must continue to ride focusing on one stage at a time. get through Thursday first and then see how we're feeling for Lo Port, which will be a really steep finish.
Stage three featured three mountains, and the break, which took over 60km to form, was caught on the final climb which culminated in Valverde claiming the win.
Most of the main contenders for the title including Sky's Chris Froome and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) were just a few seconds adrift of Valverde.
BMC lost a key man when Australian powerhouse Rohan Dennis was forced to withdraw due to illness.
"Rohan Dennis was managing a respiratory tract infection coming into this race, and we were monitoring his condition from when he arrived in Catalunya," team doctor Daniele Zaccaria said.
"We were able to manage the problem for the TTT which was a main objective for us. Now, with the colder weather in the mountains, it was better for him to stop racing as we look at the bigger picture and the upcoming Giro d'Italia."