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Liquigas’s Daniele Bennati ends Katusha’s streak at Mallorca, after avoiding Valverde’s tumble in the last turn.

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) opened his 2009 account with victory in Tuesday’s third stage of the Mallorca Challenge after avoiding a final-turn crash by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) late in the stage.   The Italian sprinter made it over three rated climbs midway through the 182.6km circuit course starting and finishing in Inca and then avoided a spill in the final kilometer to go that took out Valverde and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas). Luckily for Valverde, who decided to race to help his teammate Jose Joaquim Rojas challenge for the overall, he wasn't seriously injured.

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2009 Mallorca Challenge, stage 3: Bennati wins.

2009 Mallorca Challenge, stage 3: Bennati wins.

Photo: Graham Watson

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) opened his 2009 account with victory in Tuesday’s third stage of the Mallorca Challenge after avoiding a final-turn crash by Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) late in the stage.
 
The Italian sprinter made it over three rated climbs midway through the 182.6km circuit course starting and finishing in Inca and then avoided a spill in the final kilometer to go that took out Valverde and Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas).

Luckily for Valverde, who decided to race to help his teammate Jose Joaquim Rojas challenge for the overall, he wasn’t seriously injured.

“The final was very dangerous and especially this curve on the right in the last 200 meters. I was in Quinziato’s wheel, the Liquigas rider. In addition to the danger which the curve presented, the asphalt was very slippery and the Italian lost the control of his bike. I braked but it was impossible to avoid him,” Valverde said.

“I was launching the sprint for Rojas, but considering that I was ideally placed and that the distance to the line was very short after that curve, I think that I was even able to win the stage. It is a pity but the most important thing is that the crash was not a heavy one. I cut my left knee and my shoulder is hurting a little bit, but tomorrow I will train as usually.”
 
After two straight victories by Katusha’s Gert Steegmans and Robbie McEwen, it was Bennati’s turn to take the flowers and moves into the overall leader’s jersey.

2009 Mallorca Challenge, stage 3: Milram sets up for Ciolek.

2009 Mallorca Challenge, stage 3: Milram sets up for Ciolek.

Photo: Graham Watson

 
Bennati crossed the line one second clear of Tom Leezer (Rabobank) with Jerome Pineau (Quick Step) coming through third as the crash disrupted the final sprint.
 
Despite saying he wasn’t going to race anymore this week, Valverde lined up for Wednesday’s stage over the Trasmutana range. Perhaps “Balaverde” wanted to test his climbing legs over two second-category climbs in the second half of the stage.
 
Three riders peeled off the front to open up an eight-minute gap heading toward the day’s first climb at the Cat. 2 Coll de Soller. José Ruíz (Andalucía-CajaSur) was the last man standing from the breakaway before being swept up.
 
Javier Ramírez (Andalucía-CajaSur) tried in vain to surprise a leading group of about 50 riders that made it over the day’s final obstacle at the Cat. 2 Coll de Can Costa with 15km to go.
 
Bennati made it clear through a final turn where Valverde and Quinziato hit the deck, opening the door for Bennati to take the easy win.
 
The Mallorca Challenge continues Wednesday with the 143.3km fourth stage starting and finishing in Bunyola. The route laces over the Trasmutana range and tackles five second-category climbs, with the Cat. 2 Coll de Soller coming in the final 10km.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 3 results:

1. Daniele Bennati (ITA/Liquigas), 182.6 km in 4:27:47 (average: 40.914 kph)

2. Tom Leezer (NED) at 01.

3. Jerome Pineau (FRA) at 01.

4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) at 01.

5. Gerald Ciolek (GER) at 01.

GC

1. Daniele Bennati (ITA) 11:12:31.

2. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP) at 01.

3. Tom Leezer (NED) at 01.

4. Jerome Pineau (FRA) at 01.

5. Gerald Ciolek (GER) at 01.