By Nigel Wynn
Slovak sensation Peter Sagan took his third consecutive win in the 2012 Tour of California on Tuesday, increasing his current grip on the overall classification.
And, once again, it was Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) who came second behind the Liquigas-Cannondale powerhouse in the sprint. Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) had his first bunch finish effort in the race to come third in Livermore.
Thanks to his stage winner's time bonuses, Sagan now leads Haussler by 12 seconds overall. American Jeffry Louder (United Healthcare) is third at 24 seconds.
It was bad news for Britain's only representative in the race and, indeed, anyone called Steve at BMC: Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) was a non-starter due to the injuries he sustained after crashing on stage two, with team-mate Steve Morabito also out of the race due to injury. Their withdrawal will dent BMC leader Tejay Van Garderen's support in the mountains.
So far the overall contenders have been relatively happy to let the sprinters hog the limelight, but that may change on Wednesday's stage four. Six categorised climbs pack the first two-thirds of the stage before a plummet and flat section to the finish in Clovis.
Any escape groups or attacks are likely to be reeled in during the race's relatively flat final 30 kilometres, but a leg-sapping day of technical climbs and ascents may force an elite selection at the front of the race.
The UCI 2.HC-ranked Tour of California concludes on Sunday, May 20, in Los Angeles. Last year's race was won by Chris Horner (RadioShack).
Tour of California 2012, stage three: San Jose to Livermore, 185.5km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale in 4-50-49
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4. Alexander Candelario (USA) Optum
5. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
6. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Exergy
7. Hugo Houle (Can) Spidertech
8. Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos-Shimano
9. Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank
10. Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge all same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale in 14-34-54
2. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin-Barracuda at 12 secs
3. Jeffry Louder (USA) United Healthcare at 24 secs
4. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Exergy at 26 secs
5. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell at 26 secs
6. Marc De Maar (AHo) United Healthcare at 27 secs
7. Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 29 secs
8. Josh Atkins (NZl) Bontrager-Livestrong at 29 secs
9. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 30 secs
10. Lawson Craddock (USA) Bontrager-Livestrong at 30 secs
Tour of California 2012: Related links
Stage two: Sagan makes it two out of two
Stage one: Sagan wins California opener