Lastras takes Andalucía lead

Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) has taken over the general classification lead at the 54th Vuelta a...

Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) has taken over the general classification lead at the 54th Vuelta a Andalucía (Ruta Ciclista del Sol), after finishing Stage 3 in the lead group of 25 riders. Lastras entered the stage 51 seconds behind Clément L'Hottelerie (Skil-Shimano), but the lead group containing the Spaniard finished 1.39 minutes ahead of the Frenchman on stage four.

"Third the first day, second after the second stage and the first today," noted Lastras of his rise up the general classification. "It is true that I feel very well and that I can count on a very strong team, which supports me since the first day."

The Spaniard finished sixth on the 174.5 kilometre stage to Jaén, with Alessandro Petacchi (Team Milram) out pacing Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) for the stage victory in a small bunch sprint.

Lastras explained that the group of 25 attacked on the day's final climb, the category three climb up Alto de la Guardia. "The ascent was very hard and we went very quickly," he said. "I believe that L'Hottelerie paid for the efforts he did the previous days and that he was therefore not able to follow our rhythm, which enabled me to climb on the podium and receive the red jersey."

Lastras, who is in his fifth year with the Spanish ProTour team, won the Eneco Tour's sixth stage in 2007. The 32 year-old thanked his team-mates' for their efforts in helping him take over the leader's jersey heading into today's penultimate stage.

"I am very happy, because I like this race and hoped to achieve something nice here," he said. "I particularly want to stress my team-mates' spectacular work, and in particular David Arroyo, Alberto Losada, Luis Pasamontes and Joaquím Rodríguez, who gave it all in the final of the stage to increase the gap and to give me this possibility to lead the overall classification.

"It will not be easy to maintain this position 'till Cordoba where the race will finish on Thursday, but I hope that we will find allies of circumstance with the teams of the sprinters and that the team Caisse d'Epargne will be able to celebrate a new triumph," he concluded.

The event continues today with the 173.5 kilometre stage from La Guardia de Jaén to Écija before concluding the following day with a 155.2 kilometre stage from Antequera to Córdoba.

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