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Sagan scores hat trick in California, extends lead

Overall leader wins third stage at the Amgen Tour

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LIVERMORE, California (VN) — Peter Sagan registered a hat trick Tuesday, winning the stage 3 bunch sprint at the Amgen Tour of California. Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) out-kicked Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda) and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to the line and extended his overall lead with a 10-second time bonus.

“It’s also a surprise for me (to win 3 days in a row),” said Sagan. “I want to say thank you to my team because they did very good work today.

“This race is very hard for me. The long climbs and the time trial are not so good for me. I’ll try very hard to stay in the jersey for another day. But I don’t think I’ll keep it after the time trial.”

The day’s long breakaway escaped early on in the 185.5km stage, headed for the first KOM at Calaveras Road. Sebastian Salas (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) led the four-man group over the climb, ahead of Pat McCarty (Spidertech-C10), Jeremy Vennell (Bissell) and Wilson Marentes (Colombia-Coldeportes). The Optum rider was out for the climbers’ jersey on the day and also took top points at Mount Diablo, 87km into the stage.

“From the beginning of the race, one of our team goals was to win the KOM jersey,” said Salas. “I’m glad to have it.”

Marentes earned some honors of his own, as the most courageous rider for the day. “Muy contento,” he said about the honor. “It’s an important jersey in any race, but especially in California.”

Salas lost contact with the group on the descent, but soon caught back on. It wouldn’t last long, however, as Vennell attacked the group, drawing out Marentes, and the pair set out toward Patterson Pass together.

Garmin took over on the point of the bunch when a solid crosswind kicked up approaching the base of the climb. The move split the peloton and caught sprinters Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Robbie McEwen (Orica-GreenEdge) out. The race quickly broke into four groups, but just as quickly, most of the riders caught unawares were able to catch on.

The acceleration doomed Vennell and Marentes, by then the only survivors from the break, and they were soon neutralized. “Tired. Today was a hard day,” admitted Vennell. “I went in the first kilometer. The start was so difficult. With a climb in the first 10 miles, it was a rough start.”

Fabio Duarte (Colombia) and Nicolas Roche (Ag2r La Mondiale) jumped away low down on the climb and took a quick 20-second advantage. The tandem worked hard to maintain their advantage, but carried less than half-a-minute over the summit of the third-category Patterson Pass, 15km from the finish. Behind them, Liquigas and Omega Pharma led the peloton in pursuit.

With 8.4km to go, Liquigas led the bunch over the top of the escapees and the peloton fanned out over the road. Not for long, however, as an Exergy rider jumped up the left side of the road and took with him four riders, including Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan).

With 5km to go and Liquigas on the front with two riders, most of the heavies were in the bunch, including Sagan, Haussler, Boonen and Michael Matthews (Rabobank). Timmy Duggan (Liquigas) drew the five-man escape in with 4km remaining and the sprint was on for Livermore.

Argos came forward and battled with Rabobank with 1.5km to go and pulled through to the front under the 1km kite. The white-clad Dutchmen lost nearly 10 wheels in the final, left-hand corner, 400 meters from the finish, however, and would not factor in the end.

An Ag2r rider carried the bunch through the bend and opened the sprint long. The final kick rolled out all over the road. Haussler launched up the left lane, and Sagan jumped to the right. They were within 100 meters when Sagan moved left again, took the front and closed the Aussie out for a third day in a row.

Race results >>

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