Tour of California stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

Thor Hushovd won the bunch sprint in to Modesto today to take stage three of the Tour of California, and in doing so he demonstrated the importance of having a near perfect lead out.

Several of the sprinters? teams had helped to pull back the day?s four-man break, with Columbia doing the lion’s share, but it was Cervelo that got the last kilometre just right.

On the wet finishing circuit that featured many corners, the Peloton?s newest team held their nerve and their formation to deliver the Norwegian right up to the line.

Behind them Oscar Friere, Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish were all left fighting for the lower places as their lead out?s failed to materialise. Cavendish, who looked unbeatable at the Tour of Qatar last month was too far back coming in to the final straight and eventually finished fifth having been separated from his new lead out man, Mark Renshaw. ?Just before the last corner Mark lost the wheel,? Renshaw said. ?I think it was one of the Rock Racing riders that he got in a bit of a tussle with.

?Unfortunately I got a rider in between me and George Hincapie as well. When the sprint started he dropped the wheel which made it difficult for me, and there were a couple of guys between me and Mark Cavendish which made it extremely difficult for us to work as a unit today.?

There were no such problems for Cervelo who saved their race with the stage win. After their wins and impressive riding in Qatar they had been anonymous so far in the Tour of California. Sastre?s crash on the first day to Santa Rosa put him out of contention for the overall classification and they?ve missed the breaks since then.

The race?s leader, Levi Leipheimer had a close call today, hitting the deck after touching the wheel in front of him that happened to belong to team mate Lance Armstrong. ?It was my fault, I looked down for one second, it was windy and everybody moved left to right a little bit and next thing you know I touched a wheel,? he said. ?Usually you can kind of put your foot down and pull it out, but not today, I went down on my ass!

?It was one of those crashes where it hurts really bad right away and then it goes away, so I think that?s a good sign.?

Thor Hushovd wins stage three of Tour of CaliforniaPhoto by Graham Watson

Tour of California stage three: results
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo 167.7km in 4-28-12

2. Oscar Freire (Esp) Rabobank
3. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Columbia-Highroad
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
5. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad
6. Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo
7. Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Colavita
8. Freddy Rodriguez (USA) Rock Racing
9. Markus Zberg (Sui) BMC Racing
10. Pedro Horrillo (Esp) Rabobank all same time

General classification after stage two
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana in 13-51-14

2. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad at 24 secs
3. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 28 secs
4. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 30 secs
5. Christopher Horner (USA) Astana at 34 secs
6. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana at 38 secs
7. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad at same time
8. Jose Rubiera (Spa) Astana at same time
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at same time
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 39 secs
British
84. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 29-50 minutes

Tour of California 2009Riders pass a wind farm on stage three

Tour of California 2009(l-r) Mark Cavendish, George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong

Tour of California 2009Michael Barry chases for Team Columbia


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS
Stage two: Leipheimer takes the lead
Stage one: Mancebo’s stage one win raises Puerto demons
Prologue: Cancellara Express derails the Armstrong show

NEWS & FEATURES
Cancellara abandons Tour of California
Armstrong’s bike stolen in California
Cavendish poised to take leaders jersey
Tour of California blog
Armstrong and Astana train for Tour of California
Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile
Lance Armstrong: Rider Profile

PHOTOS
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Cycling Weekly photo gallery

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW
2009 Tour of California race preview
Start list: all the riders
Team list: all the squads

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGES
Saturday, February 14 Prologue details
Sunday, February 15 Stage one details
Monday, February 16 Stage two details
Tuesday, February 17 Stage three details
Wednesday, February 18 Stage four details
Thursday February 19 Stage five details
Friday, February 20 Stage six details
Saturday, February 21 Stage seven details
Sunday, February 22 Stage eight details

EXTERNAL LINKS
Tour of California official website