On another scorching hot day in southern Spain, Alessandro Petacchi turned on the jets to win the third stage of the Vuelta between Cordoba and Puertollano. But Petacchi's winning sprint was not as impressive as his team, which clicked into gear with four kilometres to go to lead out their man to perfection. Petacchi came off Marco Velo's wheel at 180m out and held off Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) to the line.
The race lead remained with Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux), who capitalised on his sprint to take another 10 seconds in intermediate bonuses today, and increase his lead to 32 seconds over Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) and 39 over Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Fassa Bortolo).
The stage was ridden at a hard pace, given the temperature and the fact that it contained a fair degree of uphill. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Comunidad Valenciana) escaped after 70 km, built up a lead of 3'44, but couldn't resist the power of the bunch and was caught with 25 km to go. Thomas Ziegler (Gerolsteiner) had a go at 17 km out, and managed to gain 30 seconds before he came back at 4 km to go, just in time for Fassa to hit top speed for the bunch sprint.