With numerous crashes marring the third stage of the 92nd Giro d’Italia, including one at 10km to go, it was no surprise that race leader Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia) lost his pink jersey on the way to Valdobbiadene. Luck was dictating much of the racing dynamic throughout the day and Cavendish was having none of that. Alessandro "Ale-Jet" Petacchi made it two-in-a-row with a powerful sprint that put him two bike lengths ahead of Garmin’s Tylar Farrar and into the pink leader’s jersey as well.
Staying out of trouble and riding with the other general classification favorites was important to Team Astana today. Asked if he felt good keeping up with Ivan Basso’s Liquigas team, Lance Armstrong replied, "I don’t know if it felt good. It actually hurt a little bit. We were just trying to stay out of trouble. We again had a dangerous circuit. The best place to be is in the front, if you can, to avoid crashes. I was not involved in a crash. I heard a couple but missed them all, thank goodness."
After only a few minutes of racing a group of five went away at mile 6 and stayed there for most of the race. Included were Giuseppe Palumbo (Acqua e Sapone) and Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha. The riders all contributed to the effort to stay away and built a gap of seven minutes while LPR and Liquigas kept the peloton rolling at a rapid pace to ensure a timely catch.
Just before entering the two finishing circuits the break was brought back as organization fell apart on the climb and the peloton was all together as they made the first pass through the finish line in front of a massive crowd of cheering fans. The Liquigas team of GC contender Ivan Basso pushed the pace up the climb, hoping to split the group before the finish. On the descent riders attacked and Team Astana’s Levi Leipheimer made the right move to go with the other nine riders. As this situation developed in the front a massive crash occurred in the peloton, bringing many riders to a complete stop while wheels and handlebars were separated and riders attempted to remount and continue to the finish. Cavendish was one of the many held up and despite the best efforts of his team to pace him back to the front to retain the race lead, he never again made contact with the front of the peloton and both the leader?s jersey and the white of Best Young Rider slipped off his back.
Petacchi was active in the leading group as they approached Valdobbiadene. First Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) tried to escape and then ISD’s Giovanni Visconti, who was almost able to pull off the win, missing by just a few hundred meters near the line. Petacchi held his powerful sprint to claim his 26th Giro victory and wears pink for the 7th time in his career.
Tuesday’s stage four takes the peloton to their first taste of the mountains with an uphill finish to San Martino di Castrozza. Asked what he knows about the stage, Armstrong said, "I only know what I hear from the other guys. They say it’s difficult but not hors category. It will be good to test the climbing legs. We’ll try to stay in front. The day after will be more dangerous. It will be steeper." He continued, "It’s the first big climb in a big Tour! That’s exciting. Today on the climbs there were so many people. It is a beautiful atmosphere." Asked if he was nervous about beginning the climbs, the seven-time Tour champion replied, "Nervous? No, frankly I have no pressure for tomorrow. I am pretty relaxed. Nobody expects me to ride away tomorrow or later."
Race Note: Luck certainly wasn’t on the side of the Garmin team as teammates Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie were involved in a crash that sent the former off to the hospital. We wish a speedy recovery to Christian.
Website: Astana Cycling Team