Italy?s Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) cried tears of joy after winning the third stage of the Giro d?Italia in Cagliari on Monday.

Petacchi broke his kneecap on the third stage of the 2006 Giro d?Italia and his win marked a symbolic end to his year of pain and suffering.

Petacchi lead out the sprint on the cobbled finishing straight and no one had the speed to pass him. Robert Forster (Gerolsteiner) and Ariel Richeze (Panaria) finished second and third. Robbie McEwen (Predictor) was badly positioned during the sprint and finished fourth.

Italy?s Enrico Gasparotto finished eighth in the sprint and so took the overall race lead from his Liquigas team mate Danilo Di Luca.

A crash in the final kilometre saw Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) hit the deck and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Gilberto Simoni were also delayed. They did not lose time because the crash was in the final three kilometres.

?This was one of the best sprints of my career,? Petacchi said in the after race press conference.

?It was also one of longest sprints I?ve ever done but I think I won it well. I jumped with about three hundred metres to go when the finish still seemed very small. I took a risk going so early but if you don?t take risks, you don?t win.?

?I cried for joy after winning because after going through what I did it?s like starting racing all over again. When I start my rehabilitation work a 90 year-old women who was sat next to me was able to ride a bike better than I could. I had a lot of doubts about if I would ever make a successful comeback. I?ve won other sprints this year but winning at the Giro is something else. It?s like winning my first ever stage in the Giro.?

?I?m already very happy because it was important to win again in the Giro but I hope this is the start of my true comeback and I hope I can win again in Frascati in Thursday.?

The Giro d?Italia transfers to Naples during the first rest day on Tuesday. The three-week racing continues on Wednesday with the 153km fourth stage from Salerno to Montevergine di Mercogliano.