Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan, 21, won the third stage of the Tour of Sardinia in Lanusei today to take back the race’ overall lead. He finished ahead of José Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).

Team Liquigas-Cannondale’s Sagan won the opening stage two days ago and took his first victory of the season. Yesterday, though, Damiano Cunego took the second leg and marked his season’s first win.

Cunego’s last victory was in 2009, 17 months ago. The winner of the 2004 Giro d’Italia raced last season without a single win.

“I am working without pressure,” Cunego told La Gazzetta dello Sport after yesterday’s win. “I knew I needed to return to be the true Damiano.”

Cunego started working at the Mapei centre last autumn with noted trainer Aldo Sassi. Sassi passed away in December due to brain cancer. Cunego dedicated his win to Sassi.

“When I met him, he put his hand on my back and said, ‘Try to win in a hurry, because I don’t have much time left.'”

The 29-year-old’s last win came at the 2009 Vuelta a España, where he won two stages. Franco Ballerini took him to the World Championships after the Vuelta as the leader, but Cunego was unable to match eventual winner Cadel Evans.

Sagan’s win today and on Tuesday confirm his stunning debut season last year. He won stages at Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandy and Tour of California.

This year, he has bigger dreams.

“I have still not raced San Remo, Flanders, Amstel Gold or Liège,” said Sagan. “Up until now, I’ve only raced Roubaix, and I am crazy for it. Sooner or later, I will win it.”

In the 2008 junior edition, Brit Andrew Fenn stopped Sagan from winning. Sagan rode solo for most of the day, but Fenn pulled him back in the last kilometre. Sagan raced the professional version for the first time last year, but a crash in the Arenberg Forest forced him eventually to abandon.

The Tour of Sardinia continues tomorrow with a 174-kilometre stage to Oristano. The race finishes Saturday.

Sky’s Geraint Thomas is racing as part of a British national team after competing at the Manchester World Cup. The team includes Pete Kennaugh, Ben Swift, Ed Clancy, Andrew Tennant, Luke Rowe, Steven Burke and Sam Harrison.

Results
Tour of Sardinia 2011, stage three
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale

2. José Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD

General classification after stage three
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale

2. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD
3. José Serpa (Col) Androni Giocattoli

Related links

Tour of Sardinia 2011, stage one: Sagan off to another winning start