By Andrew Hood

At the start of the year, Team CSC brass were predicting that a stronger, more confident Juan José Haedo would win more in his second season in Europe. So far, the Argentine ace is living up to expectations.

After winning races in Argentina and in California earlier this season, Haedo won Sunday’s Clásica de Almería ahead of three-time world champion Oscar Freire (Rabobank).

“I’ve had good sensations at the beginning of the season. I am calm, but more confident,” Haedo said. “I learned a lot last year, learned about my body, training and I am more comfortable in the sprints.”

He did it again Thursday in the 146km third stage at the Vuelta a Murcia after out-kicking Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) for what’s his fifth win in the 2008 season.

“The team organized the stage well today and really believes in me. I tried Tuesday, but it didn’t happen, but today the team was fantastic,” Haedo said. “We’ll try again Saturday. Tomorrow is a climbing time trial, so it’s nothing for me. I’m very happy with this win.”

Aitor Pérez (Extremadura) finished safely in the pack in the rolling stage featuring two Cat. 3 climbs to retain the overall leader’s jersey going into Friday’s decisive climbing time trial.

“The idea was to conserve the jersey today, but tomorrow, we’ll see what happens,” Pérez said. “I’ll likely loose it tomorrow considering who’s behind me in the GC. You look at the list of riders and it’s the ‘pata negra’ of the peloton. I’ll do my best and see how the legs react. If I feel good, maybe I can give it a good run.”

There were no major shakeups in the overall standings as mild weather returned to Spain’s Murcia region after a nasty winter storm blew through earlier this week.

Two-time winner Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) dropped from fifth to ninth on placement but remains just six seconds back. Koldo Gil (LS-Portugal), winner in 2005, abandoned.

With 11 riders packed within six seconds of each other, the Murcia tour continues with Friday’s 23.1km climbing time trial up the Alto de Aledo that should decide the final podium. The route is mostly flat for the opening 12km before climbing 400 meters over the next 10km ahead of a flat run to the finish line.

2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador (Astana) — poised in fifth at six seconds adrift — will debut a new time trial bike for the stage.

“I’m not discounting anything, including victory,” Contador told the Spanish daily MARCA. “I will make a test and try my new position. I also have a new (bike) that weighs one kilo less than I used in last year’s Tour.”

Results

Results – Stage 3
1. HAEDO, Juan José (Arg), CSC 3:31:08
2. FERNÁNDEZ DE LARREA, Koldo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
3. BROWN, Graeme (Aus), Rabobank, s.t.
4. PALUMBO, Giuseppe (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
5. TOSO ALBERDI, Fran (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
6. TRUSSOV, Nikolay (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
7. MILÁN JIMÉNEZ, Diego (Sp), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
8. SERRANO GONZÁLEZ, Ricardo (Sp), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
9. KIRYENKA, Vasil (Blr), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
10. GARCÍA DAPENA, David (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
11. VÁZQUEZ HUESO, Manuel (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
12. ISASI FLORES, Iñaki (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
13. PASAMONTES, Luis (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
14. GARZELLI, Stefano (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
15. MAYOZ, Iban (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
16. HERRADA LÓPEZ, José (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
17. QUITEIRO, César (P), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
18. COYOT, Arnaud (F), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
19. PETROV, Evgeni (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
20. CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (Sp), Astana, s.t.
21. MORENO BAZÁN, Javier (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
22. DOMÍNGUEZ LEMOS, Gustavo (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
23. PÉREZ ARRIETA, Aitor (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
24. OTXOTORENA, Xabat (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
25. TERUEL, Eloy (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
26. MOSQUERA MIGUEZ, Ezequiel (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
27. CARRASCO GÁMIZ, José Luis (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
28. ZAMBRANO CALDERON, Gonzalo (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
29. NOZAL VEGA, Isidro (Sp), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
30. SARABIA DÍAZ, Ignacio (Mex), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
31. NOVAL GONZÁLEZ, Benjamín (Sp), Astana, s.t.
32. CODOL, Massimo (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
33. DOMÍNGUEZ MUÑOZ, Sergio (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
34. AZANZA SOTO, Jorge (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
35. PÉREZ SÁNCHEZ, Francisco (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
36. GENTILI, Massimiliano (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
37. BRU PASCAL, Jon (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
38. HERRERO LLORENTE, David (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
39. ETXARRI, Javier (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
40. SEROV, Alexander (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
41. IGLINSKIY, Maxim (Kz), Astana, s.t.
42. MASCIARELLI, Francesco (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
43. COLONMAS, Antonio (Sp), Astana, s.t.
44. BROCO, Hernani (P), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
45. KHATUNTSEV, Alexander (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
46. ASTARLOZA CHAURREAU, Mikel (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
47. RIBEIRO, Nuno (P), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
48. MENCHOV, Denis (Rus), Rabobank, s.t.
49. VALVERDE, Alejandro (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
50. KARPETS, Vladimir (Rus), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
51. CASAS GALLEGO, Claudio J (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
52. VELASCO MURILLO, Iván (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
53. SOUSA, Rui (P), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
54. BLAUDZUN, Michael (Dk), CSC, s.t.
55. SALGUEIRO ALONSO, Enrique (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
56. BRAJKOVIC, Janez (Slo), Astana, s.t.
57. MOLLEMA, Bauke (Nl), Rabobank, s.t.
58. PATANCHON, Fabrice (F), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
59. RUJANO, Jose (Vz), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
60. RUBIERA VIGIL, José Luis (Sp), Astana, s.t.
61. KLOSTERGAARD, Kasper (Dk), CSC, s.t.
62. RUIZ SÁNCHEZ, José (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
63. NAVARRO GARCÍA, Daniel (Sp), Astana, s.t.
64. REDONDO RAMOS, José Antonio (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
65. KLIMOV, Serguei (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
66. ROSENDO PRADO, Jesús (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, s.t.
67. CUESTA LÓPEZ, Iñigo (Sp), CSC, s.t.
68. SÁNCHEZ PIMIENTA, Julián (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
69. BOVEN, Jan (Nl), Rabobank, s.t.
70. PEDRAZA, Walter (Col), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, s.t.
71. SAMOILAU, Branislau (Blr), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, s.t.
72. JESÚS, Antonio (P), Liberty Seguros, s.t.
73. PALOMARES, Adrián (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, s.t.
74. VAN GOOLEN, Jurgen (B), CSC, s.t.
75. PAULINHO, Sergio (P), Astana, s.t.
76. SASTRE CANDIL, Carlos (Sp), CSC, s.t.
77. SÖRENSEN, Nicki (Dk), CSC, s.t.
78. HORRACH RIPPOLL, Joan (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
79. DEKKER, Thomas (Nl), Rabobank, s.t.
80. GUSTOV, Volodymir (Ukr), CSC, s.t.
81. FERNÁNDEZ CRUZ, Delio (Sp), Karpin Galicia, s.t.
82. MONDELO DÍAZ, Josu (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, s.t.
83. SÁNCHEZ GONZÁLEZ, Samuel (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
84. ANDRIOTTO, Dario (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 15
85. LEEZER, Tom (Nl), Rabobank, at 19
86. AGIRRE ASEGINOLAZA, Josu (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 01:02
87. LÓPEZ GIL, José A (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 01:11
88. CASTAÑO PANADERO, Carlos (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 01:11
89. KOZONTCHUK, Dimitri (Rus), Rabobank, at 01:42
90. CHUZHDA, Oleg (Ukr), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 02:00
91. URTASUN PÉREZ, Pablo (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 04:22
92. COBELO FOJO, Jesús (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 04:35
93. RAMÍREZ TORRES, Jesús (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 04:45
94. TERCIADO SACEDO, Francisco José (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 04:45

Did Not Finish
GIL PÉREZ, Koldo (P), Liberty Seguros

Overall
1. PÉREZ ARRIETA, Aitor (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo 12:49:33
2. RUBIERA VIGIL, José Luis (Sp), Astana, s.t.
3. KIRYENKA, Vasil (Blr), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 02
4. VÁZQUEZ HUESO, Manuel (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 06
5. CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (Sp), Astana, at 06
6. GARZELLI, Stefano (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 06
7. SERRANO GONZÁLEZ, Ricardo (Sp), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 06
8. MOSQUERA MIGUEZ, Ezequiel (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 06
9. VALVERDE, Alejandro (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 06
10. COLON MAS, Antonio (Sp), Astana, at 06
11. ETXARRI, Javier (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 06
12. GENTILI, Massimiliano (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 26
13. HERRADA LÓPEZ, José (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 01:10
14. PASAMONTES, Luis (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 01:10
15. IGLINSKIY, Maxim (Kz), Astana, at 01:10
16. PÉREZ SÁNCHEZ, Francisco (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 01:10
17. ASTARLOZA CHAURREAU, Mikel (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 01:10
18. CODOL, Massimo (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 01:10
19. CARRASCO GÁMIZ, José Luis (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 01:10
20. RIBEIRO, Nuno (P), Liberty Seguros, at 01:10
21. BROCO, Hernani (P), Liberty Seguros, at 01:10
22. MASCIARELLI, Francesco (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 01:10
23. SÁNCHEZ PIMIENTA, Julián (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 01:10
24. PALOMARES, Adrián (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 01:10
25. SAMOILAU, Branislau (Blr), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 01:10
26. CUESTA LÓPEZ, Iñigo (Sp), CSC, at 01:10
27. SASTRE CANDIL, Carlos (Sp), CSC, at 01:10
28. NOZAL VEGA, Isidro (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 03:07
29. ISASI FLORES, Iñaki (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 04:23
30. SOUSA, Rui (P), Liberty Seguros, at 04:56
31. PEDRAZA, Walter (Col), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 05:03
32. PALUMBO, Giuseppe (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 06:08
33. KLIMOV, Serguei (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 06:08
34. HORRACH RIPPOLL, Joan (Sp), Caisse d’Epargne, at 06:08
35. SÁNCHEZ GONZÁLEZ, Samuel (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 06:08
36. DOMÍNGUEZ LEMOS, Gustavo (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 07:50
37. TERUEL, Eloy (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 07:50
38. PETROV, Evgeni (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 07:50
39. MAYOZ, Iban (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 07:50
40. HERRERO LLORENTE, David (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 07:50
41. KARPETS, Vladimir (Rus), Caisse d’Epargne, at 07:50
42. SALGUEIRO ALONSO, Enrique (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 07:50
43. MOLLEMA, Bauke (Nl), Rabobank, at 07:50
44. GUSTOV, Volodymir (Ukr), CSC, at 07:50
45. RUIZ SÁNCHEZ, José (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 07:50
46. CHUZHDA, Oleg (Ukr), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 09:50
47. AZANZA SOTO, Jorge (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 12:15
48. DOMÍNGUEZ MUÑOZ, Sergio (Sp), Contentpolis-Murcia, at 12:15
49. RUJANO, Jose (Vz), Caisse d’Epargne, at 12:15
50. ZAMBRANO CALDERON, Gonzalo (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 12:15
51. VAN GOOLEN, Jurgen (B), CSC, at 12:15
52. NAVARRO GARCÍA, Daniel (Sp), Astana, at 12:15
53. PAULINHO, Sergio (P), Astana, at 15:09
54. REDONDO RAMOS, José Antonio (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 15:09
55. DEKKER, Thomas (Nl), Rabobank, at 15:09
56. CASAS GALLEGO, Claudio J (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 18:05
57. QUITEIRO, César (P), Liberty Seguros, at 19:23
58. MONDELO DÍAZ, Josu (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 19:23
59. BROWN, Graeme (Aus), Rabobank, at 21:27
60. HAEDO, Juan José (Arg), CSC, at 21:27
61. VENTOSO ALBERDI, Fran (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 21:27
62. TRUSSOV, Nikolay (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 21:27
63. FERNÁNDEZ DE LARREA, Koldo (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 21:27
64. OTXOTORENA, Xabat (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 21:27
65. COYOT, Arnaud (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 21:27
66. GARCÍA DAPENA, David (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 21:27
67. SEROV, Alexander (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 21:27
68. SARABIA DÍAZ, Ignacio (Mex), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 21:27
69. BRU PASCAL, Jon (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 21:27
70. MORENO BAZÁN, Javier (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 21:27
71. KHATUNTSEV, Alexander (Rus), Tinkoff-Credit Systems, at 21:27
72. NOVAL GONZÁLEZ, Benjamín (Sp), Astana, at 21:27
73. BLAUDZUN, Michael (Dk), CSC, at 21:27
74. VELASCO MURILLO, Iván (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 21:27
75. MENCHOV, Denis (Rus), Rabobank, at 21:27
76. SÖRENSEN, Nicki (Dk), CSC, at 21:27
77. MILÁN JIMÉNEZ, Diego (Sp), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 21:33
78. ANDRIOTTO, Dario (I), Acqua Sapone-Caffe Mokambo, at 21:58
79. KLOSTERGAARD, Kasper (Dk), CSC, at 22:13
80. AGIRRE ASEGINOLAZA, Josu (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 22:29
81. FERNÁNDEZ CRUZ, Delio (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 22:33
82. CASTAÑO PANADERO, Carlos (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 22:38
83. BOVEN, Jan (Nl), Rabobank, at 23:55
84. LÓPEZ GIL, José A (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 24:16
85. JESÚS, Antonio (P), Liberty Seguros, at 27:15
86. BRAJKOVIC, Janez (Slo), Astana, at 28:51
87. ROSENDO PRADO, Jesús (Sp), Andalucia-Cajasur, at 28:51
88. PATANCHON, Fabrice (F), Caisse d’Epargne, at 28:51
89. LEEZER, Tom (Nl), Rabobank, at 29:15
90. URTASUN PÉREZ, Pablo (Sp), Liberty Seguros, at 31:37
91. RAMÍREZ TORRES, Jesús (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 33:41
92. TERCIADO SACEDO, Francisco José (Sp), Extremadura-G. Gallardo, at 33:42
93. KOZONTCHUK, Dimitri (Rus), Rabobank, at 38:02
94. COBELO FOJO, Jesús (Sp), Karpin Galicia, at 40:55