Damiano Cunego of Lampre-NGC was left surprised by yesterday's País Vasco stage three to Eibar, Spain, having expected a harder finish. Alberto Contador (Astana) won the day, attacking five kilometres out, with Cunego finishing fifth at 28 seconds back. He is in the same spot in the overall and with the same time gap, behind Contador.
Cunego let Contador go on the final climb of Arrate and on the last section, three kilometres from the finish, he lost the wheels of Antonio Colom (Katusha) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
"On the first passage of the last climb I was confused because I was expecting it to be a lot harder," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "It didn't suit me, and realised the win wouldn't be mine. They took advantage of my work a little bit. Then they attacked hard on the lighter gradient sections and I suffered slightly. Left on my on the descent, I couldn't do much. Certainly, if the gradient had been greater the situation would have been different."
Cunego won a stage in last year's. Like last year, he is using this event as preparation for the Ardennes Classics -- Amstel Gold (April 19), Flèche Wallonne (April 22) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 26). He won the 2008 Amstel Gold.
"The race is less selective than the years before. However, my work here is going well in light of the Classics."
The six-day race ends with a 24-kilometre time trial on Saturday.