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58th Vuelta a España - GT

Spain, September 6-28, 2003

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Stage 3 - Monday, September 8:  Cangas de Onis - Santander, 154.3km

Complete Live Report

Commentary by Chris Henry, with additional reporting by Hernán Alvarez Macías

Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 13:55 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:30 CEST

14:15 CEST    
Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of Vuelta Stage 3. Today's stage covers 154 km from angas de Onis to Santander. This is a day for the fast finishers. With only two Cat. 3 climbs (Alto de la Montaña and Alto de la Rebollada) to disrupt the peloton, the sprinters' teams will be keen to keep the group together for the run into Santander. Following the Vuelta's move toward shorter stage distances, today's parcours should see fast racing and an even faster finish, with three intermediate sprints to keep everyone on their toes.

The ONCE-Eroski team still controls the race after yesterday's early introduction to the Vuelta's mountains, however leadership changed hands from Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano to Joaquin Rodriguez.

14:45 CEST    
The weather is not cooperating in the north of Spain. The temperature is mild at 19 degrees, but the rain is falling and the skies are dark.

The day's first breakaway is off and running, with four riders out ahead of the rest. Angel Vicioso (ONCE-Eroski), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Constantino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca), and Beat Zberg (Rabobank) went clear on the descent of the first climb.

Fassa Bortolo took up the initial chase, thinking more of Petacchi in the sprint than Gonzalez and the general classification.

14:49 CEST    
Fassa Bortolo continues to lead the chase, with the help of a lone Phonak rider. ONCE-Eroski and race leader Joaquin Rodriguez are sitting comfortably behind.

The four leaders currently have 2'42 on the peloton.

14:56 CEST    59 km/95 km to go
The four leaders are going well and sharing the work, and their lead is going up, but slowly. The gap is now 2'57. Naturally with Vicioso up front, ONCE need only keep its leaders out of trouble but the chase will be the responsiblity of the sprinters' teams today.

ONCE also has some reason to be happy today, as Marcos Serrano celebrates his 31st birthday.

15:04 CEST    64 km/90 km to go
Italian Nicola Gavazzi of the Saeco abandoned the race, the second from the team and third Vuelta abandon thus far.

The gap from the four leaders to the peloton is up to 3'07, but they'll need a much bigger advantage to have any hope of staying away to the finish.

15:14 CEST    
Status quo for the moment. The break has 3'20 as Fassa Bortolo continues to keep the gap under control, but is not mountain an all-out chase. The rain is still falling and the pace in the peloton is not too high.

A fourth abandon: David Plaza (Bianchi) has been forced to retire.

15:18 CEST    75 km/79 km to go
Zaballa has taken the intermediate sprint at San Vicente de la Barquera, in the same order over the line as the day's first sprint:

1. Zaballa, 2. Zberg, 3. Etxebarria, 4. Vicioso

15:29 CEST    82 km/72 km to go
Eusktaltel's Iñaki Isasi is getting a little technical assistance with his radio from teammate Gorka Arrizabalaga. The wet weather surely isn't the best for race communications.

Up front, three of the four leaders are riding but Vicioso is not concerning himself with taking turns at the front since his team is currently leading the race. The gap has fallen back below the three minute mark as Fassa Bortolo continues to monitor the advance.

15:37 CEST    
The peloton has just passed through the feed zone, and Fassa Bortolo is down to one man up front as the rhythm was disrupted somewhat. Lampre is also beginning to take interest in the chase and has sent a few guys forward. Conditions are still rather wet and unpleasant, with a fairly stiff breeze blowing.

15:44 CEST    94 km/60 km to go
The gap from the four leaders is hovering around the 3 minute mark, though the pace in the peloton looks to be steadily increasing, with a longer single file line forming at the head of the field. The break has 60km to race as it passes through Cabezon de la Sal.

15:54 CEST    
Patches of blue sky are appearing as the four leaders make their way to Santander. The situation remains the same, with the momentum slowly building in the peloton. The gap is now 2'30.

16:01 CEST    104 km/50 km to go
Juan Jose de Los Angeles is leading the field for Fassa Bortolo with the help of the Phonak and Lampre teams. The sun is out, to the reflief of the riders, and surely the chance to dry out and up the pace will spur the field on to the finish.

Riders are removing rain gear and sending jackets back to the team cars via their domestiques. The pace in the peloton is modest for the moment, bunched up at the front.

The leaders' gap is down to 2'06 as Zberg takes another pull.

Meanwhile, Alessio's Denis Lunghi tries to take advantage in the lull and attacks the main field. He gets a small gap on a descent but promptly sits up, realizing he's going nowhere.

16:10 CEST    111 km/43 km to go
The crowds are quite big in Torrelavega, home of ONCE director Manolo Saiz, as well as his rider Isidro Nozal.

Thanks also to Oscar for writing in to inform us that Constantino Zaballa, currently in the four man break, is another local rider today. He is from Cabezon de la Sal and having already passed through his home town he'll surely be inspired to try to keep the break alive until the finish.

Things are starting to get serious now, as the peloton is steadily pulling in the leaders and are within 1'30 of the break.

16:15 CEST    116 km/38 km to go
The gap is tumbling now as the leaders- and the field- hit the Alto de la Montaña. The leaders have just over a minute now and their chances of survival are slim. Zaballa is putting in big turns at the front, and Etxebarria takes over to grab a few king of the mountain points ahead of Zberg, Zaballa, and Vicioso.

The peloton crosses the summit just 1'01 behind, led by a Saeco rider.

16:21 CEST    
A small group has moved off the front of the field but the peloton pulls them back quickly. George Hincapie is making an appearance at the front.

The break is down to a 42" advantage, trying to hold off the field but the leaders must know their time is just about up.

16:25 CEST    124 km/30 km to go
The break just picked up a few extra seconds as the pace in the main field slowed noticably. They're back up to 58" ahead, but now the attacks are starting in the peloton because of the easing of the pace. Nobody's getting away, however, and the stop and start pace will help the break hang on for a little while longer.

16:30 CEST    
The peloton has the leaders in sight now, with three teams working in the chase: Fassa Bortolo, Telekom, and Alessio. Not long ago Erik Zabel (Telekom) was at the back of the field, but he should be moving into position soon if he is to contest an eventual sprint finish. No sign of Petacchi yet, but the sprinters have a little time to get the leadout trains going.

16:35 CEST    131 km/23 km to go
Who will make the first counter-attack as the peloton reels in the four leaders? The junction has just about been made, with 23km to go.

16:37 CEST    132 km/22 km to go
Done. The field is all back together after a day-long break by Zaballa, Etxebarria, Zberg, and Vicioso. Unless somebody has the strength (and timing) to foil the sprinters' teams, a bunch finish is all but inevitable now.

16:39 CEST    
The field has a nice tailwind for the moment and the pace is only going to get faster as Santander approaches. There is one more intermediate sprint to contest at km 143 before the finish. The field is cruising at 60 km/h right now.

16:45 CEST    
There's been a crash at the back of the field with two Kelme riders (Gutierrez and Zaballa), along with Telekom's Bobby Julich. All three are up and chasing. Julich had nobody to wait for him since his team will be setting up the sprint for Zabel. It'll be a fast, tough chase for the American.

David Navas of Fuenlabrada is now trying his hand at an attack and has a small gap.

16:47 CEST    140 km/14 km to go
Navas is promptly caught by the peloton. The next attack on a false-flat comes from Saunier-Duval's David De La Fuente. He's got a decent gap at the moment and the peloton is completely stretched out behind.

16:52 CEST    
The chase has become disorganized and several riders are spread out over the road behind De La Fuente, who is putting his time trial skills to good use up front.

In due time, however, the field has pulled itself back together and De La Fuente's move has ended. The rain is coming down once more with a very strong wind. ONCE has moved several riders back to the front of the field.

Another crash. Gerrit Glomser (Saeco) is down alone, and back on his bike quickly, but clearly not too panicked about starting the chase.

And once again, another attack up front, this time Milaneza's Renato Silva is driving into a healthy thunderstorm.

16:54 CEST    145 km/9 km to go
Inside 10km to go, Silva has been reeled in and placement in the field is everything now. Benoit Joachim has moved to the front in an effort to keep Postal leader Roberto Heras up front and out of trouble.

ONCE is still up front leading the peloton through the outskirts of Santander.

16:57 CEST    148 km/6 km to go
Erik Zabel has moved himself nicely up front, behind the ONCE train and US Postal's George Hincapie. The pace is high and the riders appear nervous. Alessio has also moved up for either Furlan or Moreni in the sprint.

16:59 CEST    150 km/4 km to go
US Postal's Max Van Heeswijk now takes a turn at the front. US Postal has moved several riders up to the front. Is Hincapie thinking of having a go at the sprint, or is the team merely looking out for Heras?

The roads are very wet and some riders may prefer not to take too many risks in a dangerous bunch sprint.

17:01 CEST    
Petacchi is now up into position, with Zabel on his wheel. Petacchi only has one teammate in front of him, and his German rival behind. Not an ideal finish for the Italian sprinter, but don't count him out yet.

Saeco's Astarloa has suffered an untimely puncture.

17:03 CEST    153 km/1 km to go
There's been a fairly large crash in a gentle turn in the road, with around seven riders going down.

Into the final kilometre, Fassa Bortolo is leading the field with Petacchi in third position and Zabel still on his wheel.

17:04 CEST    
Petacchi gets the win with no problem ahead of Erik Zabel and Tom Boonen, launching the sprint and winning by a bike length. Petacchi has now won stages in all three grand tours this year.


1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo              3.24.13
2 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step-Davitamon
4 Julian Dean (NZl) Team CSC                          
5 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Domina Vacanze-Elitron 
6 Angel Edo (Spa) Milaneza-MSS
7 Jan Svorada (Cze) Lampre             
8 Alexandre Usov (Blr) Phonak Hearing Systems

General classification after stage 3

1 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski             7.24.00
2 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                   
3 Isidro Nozal (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                           
4 Marcos Serrano (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski                              
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor             0.10
6 Roberto Heras (Spa) US Postal-Berry Floor                         
7 Aitor Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com                           0.24
8 Unai Osa (Spa) iBanesto.com                                       
9 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) iBanesto.com                              
10 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) iBanesto.com                          

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