Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has won his second straight sprint in the Tour of Andalusia, on a deceptivey difficult uphill finish at Benahavis. Slovenian Grega Bole (Lampre) was second, whilst Sky's Simon Gerrans took third.
Stage three was a hilly 162.5 kilometre trek between Marbella and Benahavis, with three second category and two third category climbs in the sierras above Malaga combining with galeforce winds and heavy rainshowers to make it a tough day's racing.
A 45 man move sheered off early on, then when that was brought in, the four-man break of the day formed. Tour de France stage winner Brice Feillu (Vancasoleil) and Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Andalusia-Cajasur) were the last to be caught, with about 25 kilometres to go.
Rabobank upped the pace for Freire, well aware that for the last six kiometres the road steadily dragged uphill, sapping the legs of most of the sprinters already made weary by the neverending succession of climbs that had preceded the finale.
Three times World Champion Freire, however, is having one of the best early seasons of his career and with 200 metres to go the Spaniard was already at the head of the field.
Clad in his blue points jersey, the Spaniard crossed the line with more than a bike's length to spare over Bole, then Gerrans, then a field almost completely split apart in what - thanks to the climb - looked like a slow-motion sprint.
"Greg Henderson [sixth in stage two's bunch sprint] said this wasn't a day for him, so he was working for Gerrans," Sky's sports director Sean Yates said afterwards.
"We knew there was a headwind, we knew there were speedbumps and it was uphill, so we went for it with Simon. But Freire proved too strong today."
Overall there was no change with Carmiooro's Sergio Pardilla still in the lead, although Wednesday's 10-kilometre stage four time trial in Malaga could well see that change. Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Michael Rogers and Tony Martin (both HTC-Columbia) are all top favourites for the stage win.
Freire cruises to his second straight stage win in Andalusia
Tour of Andalusia 2010: Stage three
1. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank 162.5km in 4-33-36
2. Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Team Sky
4. Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Milram
5. Angel Vicioso (Spa) Andalucía-CajaSur
6. Jens Voigt (Ger) Saxo Bank
7. Marco Marcato (Ita) Vacansoleil
8. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
9. Maxime Monfort (Bel) HTC-Columbia
10. Markus Fothen (Ger) Milram all same time.
23. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at same time
59. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 1-09
79. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 9-47
Overall classification after stage three
1. Sergio Pardilla (Spa) Carmiooro in 13-38-37
2. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 9secs
3. Manuel Vazquez (Spa) Andalucia-Cajasur at 13secs
4. Michael Rogers (Aus) HTC-Columbia at 21secs
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 21secs
6. Javier Moreno (Spa) Andalucia-Cajasur at 28secs
7. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 29secs
8. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Team Sky at 31secs
9. Markus Fothen (Ger) Milram at 32secs
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) HTC-Columbia at 37secs
16. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 1-14
63. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 9-19
81. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 18-33
Stage two: Freire wins crash-ridden bunch sprint in Andalusia
Stage one: Cavendish and Wiggins battle through rainstorms in Andalusia
Oscar Freire: Rider Profile
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