iBanesto's Basque rider Aitor Osa outsprinted Cofidis' Bingen Fernández to take stage 3 of the "Tour of the Basque Country" (Vitoria-Alsasua 170 km.) and capture the Overall leadership ahead of Fernández himself.
Once again, the stage was marked by several early attacks, first featuring Italy's Pietro Caucchioli (Alessio) and France's Cedric Vasseur (Cofidis). They put two minutes on the main bunch, but were later caught. In the Alto de Urbasa descent a leading group of 15, containing also Abraham Olano, Bingen Fernández, Aitor Osa and UK-born Italian Dario Cioni formed, but soon later, at the km. 81 mark., Venezuela's Unai Etxebarria rode clear of them. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider, runner-up in the previous stage (he was beaten on Tuesday by César García Calvo) was followed only by Spain's Gustavo Toledo and in less than 20 kms. the duo managed to put a dozen minutes on the main bunch containing overall leader Beat Zberg.
Soon later Etxebarria dropped Toledo, but was at his turn caught and dropped by two Basques: Aitor Osa and Bingen Fernández, who succeeded in separating themselves from the rest of chasers, regained the leader and took the flyer. They kept working together to each one's advantage, and an important gap quickly formed: 4 minutes on the main peloton over the top of the third and last climb of the stage (la Cadena). The perfect collaboration between the two was no big surprise at all, as both had the chance to become the new Overall Leader. All they needed was to win the stage.
And in the end more experienced Osa didn't miss the chance to grab his first victory of the year and wear the race leader's jersey. The peloton had reacted in the final part of the ride, and partially reduced the gap, but before them was the next chasing group, led home by Rabobank's Bram de Groot, who came in 1'29" behind the winner, just ahead of another promising iBanesto.com rider: Francisco "Patxi" Vila, currently third overall behind Osa and Fernández, but more than two minutes down on GC. So the overall victory, with two stages to go, runs the risk to become a two-man affair only.
The first test for their overall chances will definitely be tomorrow's fourth and penultimate stage, a gruelling 154-km. ride going from the Navarran town of Alsasua to Villabona, and containing no less than 5 KOM Primes: Zuarrarrate (Cat. 2), Alto de Huitzi (Cat. 3), Larraitz (Cat. 3), Alkiza (Cat. 2) and once again Alkiza (Cat. 2).
RESULTS - TOP 10 PLACES:
1. Aitor Osa (Spa - iBanesto.com) 4h15'28" (39,9 km-h)
2. Bingen Fernández (Spa - Cofidis) - s.t.
3. Bram de Groot (Hol - Rabobank) - at 01'29";
4. Francisco Vila (Spa - iBanesto.com)- at 01'29";
5. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita - Alessio) - at 01'29";
6. Abraham Olano (Spa - ONCE-Eroski) - at 01'29";
7. Mario Gustavo Toledo (ARG - Jazzztel-Costa de Almeria) - at 01'30";
8. Dario Cioni (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 02'18";
9. Aitor Garmendia (Spa - Team Coast) - at 02'27";
10. Igor Flores (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 02'27";
OVERALL RANKING after Stage 3 (Top 10 Places):
1. Aitor Osa (Spa - iBanesto.com) 12h56'43";
2. Bingen Fernández (Spa - Cofidis) - s.t.;
3. Francisco "Patxi" Vila (Spa - iBanesto.com) - at 03'14";
4. Abraham Olano (Spa - ONCE Eroski) - at 03'17";
5. Pietro Caucchioli (Ita -Alessio) - at 03'17";
6. Beat Zberg (Swi - Rabobank) - at 03'45";
7. David Etxebarria (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 03'45";
8. Samuel Sánchez (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 03'45";
9. Gonzalo Bayarri (Spa - Jazzztel-Costa de Almeria) - at 03'45";
10. Mario Aerts (Bel - Lotto-Adecco-ABX ) - at 03'45"