Acqua e Sapone's Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero notched up another win for the "Zebrato" team. On Friday afternoon the sprinter from Madrid took Stage 3 of the "Bicicleta Vasca" ("Euskal Bizikleta"), from Zeanuri to Agurain over 185.3 km. The Spaniard won the bunch sprint from Euskaltel's David Etxebarria, at the end of a stage marked by a long 12-man break, that started some 18 km. after the gun and was brought back at just 3-4 km. from the finish line, with also a few attempts by more than one rider in the break to ride clear of his breakaway mates.
No changes in the General Classification, where ONCE's Mikel Zarrabeitia retained the Overall Leader's blue jersey.
Stage Narrative: The third leg of the "Basque Bicycle" stage-race kicked off at 13h10, under not so sunny skies this time. 123 riders took the startline (all Thursday's finishers but Jazztel's Pedro Diaz Lobato).
The "break of the day" came after just 12 km., first from three Spanish riders: Mikel Pradera (Once-Eroski), Tino Zaballa (Kelme-Costa Blanca) and Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi). But a few kilometres later, the trio was joined by 9 more guys: Christian Charriere (Swi - Phonak Hearing Systems), Valentino Fois (Ita - Mercatone Uno), Aleksandar Nikacevic (Yug - Alessio), Eladio Jiménez(Spa - iBanesto.com), Jon Odriozola (Spa - iBanesto.com), Mariano Piccoli (Ita -Lampre-Daikin), Miguel Rui Sousa (Por- Milaneza MSS), Pablo Soler (Spa -Mercatone Uno), Igor Flores (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) and a leading bunch of 12 formed.
The rest of the stage was marked by the amount of the gap those riders opened on the peloton, which went up to a maximum of some 4'30" at the km. 100 mark, and the KOM Primes and Intermediate sprints results. Zaballa was the first at the top of "Alto de Barrerilla", ahead of Pradera and Rui Sousa. Combative Mariano Piccoli took the "Meta Volante" in Murgia (km. 64.4) with Sousa and Zaballa just behind him, and the chasing peloton 3'10" down on them. The Lampre's rider from Trentino repeated victory in the following Intermediate Sprint (Arkaute, km. 112) now ahead of Landaluze and Zaballa.
A few kilometres later, Sardinian Valentino Fois (Mercatone Uno) got away from his break companions and put some 40" on them. He took the second-category KOM Prime at Alto de Opakua, with Zaballa taking second at 38", just ahead of Piccoli, and the peloton trailing 2' behind.
With some 25 km. to go, Fois was caught. Then it was time for Spain's Eladio Jimenez (iBanesto.com), to make a move, but his effort was vain and his solo escape try short-lived. With less than 4 km. to go the whole breakaway group was brought back by the peloton, anyway, and with Acqua e Sapone and Euskaltel setting a fast pace in the last km., it all came down to a bunch sprint, with former Vitalicio Seguros rider Martin Perdiguero claiming victory (his third in 2002, after Stage 4 at Setmana Catalana in March and Stage 3 at Vuelta a Asturias some weeks ago) ahead of Etxebarria and Martin Elmiger.
STAGE 3 RESULTS - TOP 10 PLACES :
1. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa - Acqua e Sapone-C. Tollo)
2. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi)
3. Martin Elmiger (Swi - Phonak)
4. David Fernandez (Spa - Relax-Fuenlabrada)
5. Oscar Freire (Spa - Mapei-Quick Step)
6. Serguei Smetanine (Rus - Jazztel-Costa de Almeria)
7. Angel Edo (Spa - Milaneza-MSS)
8. Massimiliano Mori (Ita - Mercatone Uno)
9. José AngelVidal Martinez (Spa - Kelme-Costa Blanca)
10. Mikel Artetxe (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi)
OVERALL RANKING after STAGE 3 - TOP 20 PLACES :
1. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Spa - ONCE-Eroski) - 13h14'03"
2. Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukr - Acqua e Sapone-C. Tollo) - at 4"
3. José Javier Gomez Gonzalo (Spa - Kelme-Costa Blanca) - at 9"
4. Martin Elminger (Swi - Phonak) - at 15"
5. David Etxebarria Alkorta (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 15"
6. Massimiliano Gentili (Ita - Acqua e Sapone-C. Tollo) - at 15"
7. José Azevedo (Por - ONCE-Eroski) - at 15"
8. Raimondas Rumsas (Lit - Lampre-Daikin) - at 15"
9. Bingen Fernandez (Spa - Cofidis) - at 15"
10. Rubén Lobato (Spa - Acqua e Sapone-C. Tollo) - at 15"
11. Marcos Serrano (Spa - ONCE-Eroski) - at 15"
12. Santiago Blanco (Spa - iBanesto.com) - at 15"
13. Iban Mayo (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 15"
14. Remmert Wielinga (Hol - De Nardi-Pasta Montegrappa) - at 15"
15. Leonardo Piepoli (Ita - iBanesto.com) - at 15"
16. Nicolas Fritsch (Fra - FdJ) - at 15"
17. Daniel Atienza Urendez (Spa - Cofidis) - at 15"
18. David Vazquez (Spa - Relax-Fuenlabrada) - at 15"
19. Ricardo Valdes (Spa - Jazztel-Costa de Almeria) - at 15"
20. Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz - Cofidis) - at 23"
23. Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa - Acqua e Sapone-C. Tollo) - at 1'28"
40. Charles Wegelius (Gbr - Mapei-Quick Step) - at 1'29"