46th Vuelta al Pais Vasco - PT
Spain, April 3-8, 2006
Double for Sanchez
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) has scored his second stage victory in a row in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, beating Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Alberto Contador (Liberty Seguros) in a small group sprint. Sanchez keeps the leader's jersey, but the lack of bonus seconds means that he is tied on time with Contador, and Rebellin, Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) and Leonardo Bertagnolli (Cofidis) are all just two seconds back.
How it unfolded
The third stage was between Segura and Lerín over 170 km, and featured an uphill sprint on a cat. 3 climb. The start was at 12:40 with 170 riders signing on. It was cooler than yesterday, with temperatures of 15 degrees at the start. After Bichot (FDJ) and Serrano (Kaiku) commenced the hostilities, it was eventually Sandy Casar (FDJ) who was first to the top of the cat. 2 Alto de Ortzuarte (km 14) ahead of Bellotti (Credit Agricole) and Marzano (Lampre). A crash took out Maxime Monfort (Cofidis), who was taken to hospital, before the peloton hit the cat. 1 Alto De Urbasa, the hardest climb of the day.
There were several attacks on the climb, and it was Ivan Parra (Cofidis) over the summit first ahead of Daniel Navarro (Liberty), Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Caisse d'Epargne), Egoi Martinez (Discovery) and Juan Jose Cobo (Saunier Duval). The five managed 25 seconds after the first hour was covered at 37.5 km/h. There were more abandons at this stage, including Frank Schleck (CSC), Maruisz Sabaliauskas (Lampre-Fondital) and Thomas Ziegler (T-Mobile).
Euskaltel settled into a tough controlling tempo, allowing the leaders 48 seconds by km 50. Up front, Parra and Martinez attacked their companions and got away, building their lead to 3'21 after 102 km. That gave Martinez the virtual lead, but when the pair reached the cobbled cat. 3 Alto de Lerin - also the finishing climb - the gap began to go down again. At the top, it was 2'54 with Parra crossing first ahead of Martinez and Dupont the next rider bunch over.
Saunier Duval started to chase as the wind split the peloton, and the two breakaways were recaptured after 132 km. After the Alto de Sesma (km 137), Poilvet (Credit Agricole) and Visconti (Milram) attacked, and gained 20 seconds, but were chased hard by Euskaltel and Caisse d'Epargne and came back with 15 km to go.
Liquigas kept the tempo up for Di Luca in the final kilometres, before the last climb to the finish served to split the peloton. On the cobbles of the Alto de Lerin, it was Samuel Sanchez who was the best ahead of Rebellin and Contador.
Tomorrow's fourth stage is between Lerín and Vitoria-Gasteiz over 172 km, containing one cat. 1 climb and three laps of a finishing circuit with a cat. 3 climb each lap.