Freire battles back from puncture to go three-for-six

Spaniard Óscar Freire is on a roll, having won not only two consecutive stages in the Ruta del Sol, but also three of the six races he has ridden this season. His 2010 tally is already more victories than the Rabobank rider had all of last season, when he won just two stages at the Tour de Romandie.

The Spaniard won the Ruta's third stage on Tuesday the hard way, coming back from a puncture with around 30km to go. Milram attacked on the penultimate climb of the day, splitting the peloton, and although six Rabobank riders were able to go with them, Freire's puncture broke the momentum.

Only Bauke Mollema stayed in the first group, while the others were ordered to wait for their captain. Freire took a wheel from teammate Paul Martens and continued on. Both he and Martens were able to rejoin the lead group with 15km to go.

Martens then turned lead-out man for Freire. The Spanish rider obliged his Dutch colleague's efforts to cross the finish line first, by a half a bike length, on an uphill finish in Benahavis.

As Freire's fortunes continue to improve, so has the condition of his teammate Laurens ten Dam. The Dutchman suffered a cracked pelvis in a crash near the end of the second stage Monday. He was able to leave the hospital in Córdoba on Tuesday and joined the team at their hotel that evening. Ten Dam is expected to return to the Netherlands on Wednesday for further examination and to begin his rehabilitation.

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