Francesco Gavazzi has won the third stage of the Vuelta a Pais Vasco narrowly edging out a late surge by Oscar Freire, who was second for the third time in three days. Today’s 187km stage to Amurrio was again a hilly affair, as is so often the case in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, and the breakaway led by Egoi Martinez got the camera time they deserved for being away from the pack for what seemed like an eternity.
As the peloton reformed with about 4 kilometers remaining, Lampre, Sky, HTC-Columbia and Caisse D’Epargne were controlling the pace. In an awkwardly developing sprint Gavazzi jumped early off the corner and cut right, holding his line on the inside and forcing Velits to hold up and come around which opened the opportunity for Freire to snatch second place and nearly the win with his late push to the line.
What could be frustration for Freire with his third second-placing in three days has translated into the overall leaders jersey as Valverde finished 2 seconds back with the larger bunch after the final sprint. Canadian Ryder Hesjedal occupies third place in the overall standings a further one second off the leaders GC pace. Other favorites Andy Schleck and Damiano Cunego are also just three seconds off the leaders pace.
Tomorrow’s stage is a very mountainous 166km from Murgia to Eibar. Likely the decisive stage of the race, look for the main GC contenders such as Valverde, Rodriguez, Schleck, Sanchez and Cunego to try to assert themselves before the undulating fifth stage and the final TT on Saturday.
Stage 3 results
1. Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre)_ 4:49:52
2. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)_____s.t.
3. Peter Velits (HTC – Columbia)_s.t.
General Classification after three stages
1. Oscar Freire (Rabobank)______________14:41:30
2. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D’Eparnge)___2″
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin – Transistions) __3″