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By Andrew Hood
Italy’s Giuseppe Guerini gave Telekom its third stage victory in the Setmana Catalana, beating new overall leader Juan Miguel Mercado in a two-sprint to the line in a long climbing stage up the category-one climb to Col de Pal.
Nearly three years ago, Guerini won the dramatic stage at Alpe d’Huez in the 1999 Tour de France when he collided with a fan on the course but recovered to take win. Nothing got in Guerini’s way Wednesday except heavy fog and cool temperatures in the 157-km stage between Castello de Empuries to Pal.
“I finally get to win again. I have forgotten what it’s like to win. I was getting tired of being so close but not winning,” Guerini said. “I wasn’t easy today. I tried to drop Mercado several times, but luckily my strength was there for the finish.”
Guerini and Mercado pulled away in the final kilometers of the stage. Guerini got the stage victory and Mercado took the overall lead from Juan Carlos Dominguez (Phonak), who finished more than one minute back.
“We’ve made a great race today. I save my strength for the end but Guerini was stronger when it counted,” said Mercado, one of the big breakthroughs on the Spanish scene last year. “It’s going better now than we could have hoped. With a little bit of luck, Setmana Catalana will be mine.”
With only two flat stages to go, Mercado’s ibanesto.com team will work hard to preserve the victory. The 176-km stage four features two climbs – the category two Altos de la Mina and the category three Santa Maria de la Guarda.
Setmana Catalan, stage three, 157 kms, Castello de Empuries to Pal:
1. Giuseppe Guerini (I), Telekom, 4 hours, 26 minutes, 14 seconds,
2.Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), ibanesto.com, at 3 seconds
3. Leonard Piepoli (I), ibanesto.com, 0:58
4. Gonzalo Bayarri (Sp), Jazztell, 0:58
5. Fernando Escartin (Sp), Coast, at 1:01.
Overall standings after three stages:
1. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), iBanesto.com
2. Giuseppe Guerini (I), Telekom, at 15 seconds
3. Sergei Gonchar (Ucr), Fassa Bortolo, 0:27
4. Juan Carlos Dominguez (Sp), Phonak, at 0:34
5. Fernando Escartin (Sp), Coast, at 0:47.