Bono sprints to soggy stage win

Lampre's Matteo Bono took the win on a dismal, rainy stage three of the Tour de Romandie. Bono, who helped form a three-man escape that left the peloton at kilometre 4 with Discovery Channel's Fumi Beppu and T-Mobile's Marco Pinotti, out-sprinted Beppu on the difficult run-in to Charmey. Pinotti took third, having spent his energy on a solo attack which was brought back by his companions on the final climb. Pinotti, the best placed rider on GC in the break just barely missed taking the yellow jersey from Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) by four seconds.

Disappointed to have missed out on the lead by such a small margin, Pinotti said, "I shouldn't have let myself get involved in the game playing at the end, but just pulled on through. That is what cost me the deciding seconds" according to his team's website, "In the last 1000 meters, I noticed that my strength was gone and that I couldn't win the stage."

Bono's win was his second season win and also the second pro win for the 23-year old. "It was hard all day and I didn’t think at the beginning that the bunch would let us go," said Bono. He said he felt sure that he would take the sprint, "In the final sprint, I was pretty confident because Pinotti was tired from his effort and I had beaten Beppu in sprints in the amateur ranks."

Overall classification leader Paolo Savoldelli spent a large part of the day out of the virtual leader's jersey, but was unphased by the escape. "It was our plan to let a break go and to control the finale to retain the yellow jersey. Everything worked as planned," said Savoldelli, who has worn the jersey since the opening prologue.

The final outcome of the Tour de Romandie is expected to be decided in Saturday's demanding 155 km-long fourth stage to Morgins, which includes four first category climbs. "It is still a little difficult to know precisely what how my form is. We'll see tomorrow," said Savoldelli.

How it unfolded

Four riders were not at the start Friday afternoon in Moudon - Enrico Gasparotto (Liquigas), Leonardo Duque (Cofidis), Jose Rubiera (Discovery) and Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom).

Only four km down the road, what turned out to be the deciding escape group of Beppu, Bono and Pinotti got away. The peloton let them go, and by km 60, they had a lead of 14 minutes. John Gadret of AG2R and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) crashed around km 70 but were able to continue.

At the top of the Giblous, the only Cat. 2 mountain on the stage, Pinotti took the points ahead of Bono and Beppu, with Brochard sprinting out of the peloton some 13 minutes later to claim the last points in defense of his mountain trikot. The peloton tore down the mountain in a long line, with Liquigas' Michael Albasini doing a lot of the lead work. With 40 km to go, the trio still had a lead of 12'20, and while the peloton was moving fast, it was still not making a concerted effort to reel in the escapees

The lead started dropping, slowly but steadily, and when the peloton hit the 38 km mark, Astana evidently realized that it might still be possible to defend Savoldelli's yellow jersey and stepped on the gas, showing itself unified at the front of the peloton.

Pinotti, who came into the day in 98th place, 4'01 behind the leader, took the intermediate sprint, and then with about 20 kilometres to go, the Italian jumped away from his companions and set out on his own. He climbed up the second mountain of the day alone, some nine minutes ahead of the peloton.

It looked as if he had the stage win and the leaders's jersey firmly in hand, with his lead holding at 8'20 as the peloton hit the mountain top. However, as Pinotti started up the final climb, the rain came down, and his lead began to wash away. Bono and Beppu made their way back up to Pinotti with 4 km to go, but all three were suffering from the length of their escape. Beppu led the final kilometre, while Bono patiently waited for the final 200 metres. With the line in sight, Pinotti tried to attack first, but could not get ahead of the Lampre rider, and Bono handily took the sprint ahead of Beppu.

The peloton crossed the line 3'51 after Bono, with Christophe Moreau taking the bunch sprint ahead of Rabobank's Thomas Dekker. Groups of riders continued to straggle in for up to fifteen minutes, with Lampre's Jaime Castaneda finally making it in at 25'48.

Stage 4 should see the final shakedown within the peloton. It is the race's Queen stage, featuring four Cat. 1 climbs, including a moutain-top finish in Morgins, at an altitude of 1270 meters. the 155,9 km course features a total of 3,405 climbing meters.

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