Lampre-Daikin's "ideal domestique" Juan Manuel Garate for once turned into a team leader and a winner, as the Spanish climber took Stage 3 of Giro del Trentino, going from Foresta di Lagundo to Coredo over 156 km., and also including two KOM primes.
The boy in pink and blue soloed to victory, while two of yesterday's protagonists had one more good performance: Mapei's Stefano Garzelli took second, while Fassa's Francesco Casagrande ranked third and kept the Overall Leadership of the race with just one stage to go. Also Gilberto Simoni and Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio gave a further proof of the fact their condition is improving by the day ...
Stage Narrative: Once again, the stage got off to a fast start, and after 5 km. of riding the first attack came by local rider Domenico Gualdi (Mobilvetta). His attempt was short-lived, while Belgian Bert Scheirlinckx (RDM Flanders) was a little more lucky, as he stayed clear for some 40 km. (from km 9 to 49 more precisely).
But the first decisive move came at the km. 67 mark, when a leading group of 11 formed, containing the future stage winner, as well as teammate Mariano Piccoli, Elio Aggiano (Ita - Mapei), Bram Tankink (Hol - Domo), Oscar Mason (Ita - Saeco), Fabiano Fontanelli (Ita - Mercatone), Brendolin, Bulgarelli (Ita - Colpack Astro), Rafael Mateos Perez (Spa - Colpck Astro), former U23 World Champion Leonardo Giordani (another member of Colpack) and once again the brave Scheirlinckx.
After Brendolin won the Intermediate Sprint at Mezzolombardo (km. 78), on the Sabino ascent the leaders advantage on the chasing group (which was splitting into different small bunchs) went up to a maximum of 2'22".
Later the breakaway group lost a member (Fontanelli was dropped) but also got a new one, as Colombia's Félix Cardenas (stage winner in last year's TdF) joined the leaders a little before the Ronzone KOM prime (23 km. to the finishing line). The prime was won by Garate, ahead of
Giordani and super-active Scheirlinckx, with the chasers narrowing the gap to about one minute only.
On the following descent Mariano Piccoli, who couldn't stay on his break mates whels during the previous climb, soon regained the leading group and immediately launched his own attack. The Lampre local rider (he's from Trentino indeed) initiated a solo escape which lasted until about 6 kms. to the finish line when, at the start if the final ascent, Garate said goodbye to the remaining chasers (Aggiano, Brendolin, Cardenas, Giordani, Scheirlinkx, Bulgarelli and Mason) and caught his teammate. Then Piccoli spent all of his (few) energies to help the Basque (from Irun close to San Sebastian-Donostia) rider, and subsequently got dropped and swallowed by the chasers.
A different destiny for Garate, who made it to the finish line. The main group caught all other escapers, but couldn't bring the Spaniard back, despite partially bridging the gap halfway through the climb (an ascent with an average gradient of some 5-6%, and a max. gradient going up to about 8%).
In the very last kilometres of racing, a group of about ten chasers formed, including all the main contenders, from Simoni to Casagrande, from Garzelli to Pérez Cuapio and surprising Russian Faat Zakirov. But Simoni looked like being more interested in dropping Casagrande than catching the escapee, although his couple of tries proved unsuccessful, and in the very final, less step part of the ascent, Garate gained some 10 seconds on the chasing. No wonder if you think that it was small Mexican Pérez Cuapio who set the pace in that "false flat" section. So not only the chasers were unable to reel in Garate, but were even joined by further riders, including Figueras and Acqua e Sapone's Max Gentili.
Garate could easily raise his arms in triumph (for the second time in his pro career, after the stage victory he got at Vinaroz during the 2001 Tour of Spain), while the chasing bunch was led home by Garzelli who outsprinted Casagrande, and another man you'd better watch out for in the coming Giro (Austria's Peter Luttenberger) came in fourth.
STAGE 3 RESULTS - TOP 8 PLACES :
1. Juan Manuel Garate (Spa - Lampre - Daikin);
2. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 28";
3. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 28";
4. Peter Luttenberger (Aut - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) - at 28";
5. Giuliano Figueras (Ita - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 28";
6. Max Gentili (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo-RDZ) - at 28";
7. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 30";
8. Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio (Mex - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 30";
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Cantina Tollo-RDZ) - at 30";
10. Faat Zakirov (Rus - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 30"
OVERALL RANKING AFTER STAGE 3 - TOP 10 PLACES :
1. Francesco Casagrande (Ita - Fassa-Bortolo) - 12h44'40";
2. Julio Alberto Pérez Cuapio (Mex - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 28";
3. Gilberto Simoni (Ita - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 45";
4. Peter Luttenberger (Aut - Tacconi Sport-Emmegi) - at 53";
5. Stefano Garzelli (Ita - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 56";
6. Tadej Valjavec (Slo - Fassa-Bortolo) - at 1'02";
7. Faat Zakirov (Rus - Panaria-Fiordo) - at 1'02";
8. Andrei Teteroiuk (Kaz - CCC-Polsat) - at 1'11";
9. Gerhard Trampusch (Aut - Saeco-Longoni Sport) - at 1'21";
10. Massimo Codol (Ita - Lampre-Daikin) - at 1'26"
Post race interviews: GARATE - "I'm very happy now. Yesterday I got dropped and lost about a dozen minutes, but it was no pre-tactics at all. I simply was unwell. Today things went differently. I followed Mariano's wheels when he tried to get into the good breakm and seems we did it. Both Mariano (Piccoli) and me in the break, just like it happened in Vinaroz, when I took my first pro vicitory at last year's Vuelta in Septmeber.
I'm going to take part in the Giro too. As for Pvel Tonkov, I don't know much about his current conditions, but I think he's quite well now, after he had some health probs during the Belgian races, such that he had to get back home and take some antibiotics. But I'm sure he'll be back in good shape at Tour of Romandy.
FRANCESCO CASAGRANDE - "I must thank my teammates. They did a perfect work for me. Valjavec in particular, who kept riding tempo for me in the final ascent. I wasn't going for stage victory anyway, just controlling the closest challengers was enough. My next races before the Giro ? Well, first ... I'll be racing tomorrow stage, and later I'll be taking part in GP Larciano and Giro della Toscana".
Tomorrow's fourth and final leg, starting in Fondo Valle di Non, will take riders into Austrian territory, as the finishing line is located in the city of Lienz. Shall we see a second consecutive overall victory for Francesco Casagrande ? We'll tell you tomorrow. On the Daily Peloton, as usual.