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Pascual shakes up Ruta; Pozzato takes Laigueglia

There was a change in the weather in Spain’s Andalucia on Tuesday and a leadership change in the Ruta del Sol. The sun was nowhere to be seen as fog, cold and rain welcomed the peloton for the first stage in what’s called the “race of the sun.” Kelme’s Javier Pascual Llorente got out of the cold first, winning the Ruta’s 166-km third stage and catapulted into the overall lead. The stage from Sevilla was dead flat until it reached the short, but steep category-one climb to the Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de Araceli high in the rugged mountains in southern Spain. The lead peloton split

By Andrew Hood

Photo: Graham Watson

There was a change in the weather in Spain’s Andalucia on Tuesday and a leadership change in the Ruta del Sol. The sun was nowhere to be seen as fog, cold and rain welcomed the peloton for the first stage in what’s called the “race of the sun.”

Kelme’s Javier Pascual Llorente got out of the cold first, winning the Ruta’s 166-km third stage and catapulted into the overall lead.

The stage from Sevilla was dead flat until it reached the short, but steep category-one climb to the Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de Araceli high in the rugged mountains in southern Spain.

Wind blown: Tuesday's weather was a factor

Wind blown: Tuesday’s weather was a factor

Photo: Graham Watson

The lead peloton split into three groups less than midway through the stage as Oscar Freire (Rabobank), race-leader and winner of the first two stages, sat up to let the mountain goats fight for the prize.

American Bobby Julich (Telekom) is making his season debut at the Ruta del Sol and worked hard to help teammate Erik Zabel fight for the sprints in the opening two stages.

Quick Step and Kelme both had strong representation in the lead group of about 40 riders when Kelme’s Francisco Cabello attacked with about 12 km to go. Chasing Cabello were the German Rolf Aldag and Spanish riders Hector Guerra and Domingo Segado.

This didn’t last long and Kelme kept up the strong attacks, first by Alejandro Valverde, again by Cabello and finally by Llorente. With the stage-win, Llorente grabs the overall lead and ends a winless streak dating back to the 2001 season.

The 49th Ruta del Sol continues Wednesday with the 174-km fourth stage between Cabra and Jaen, a challenging, rolling stage featuring four category-two climbs and one category-three climb.

Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucia, Ruta del Sol,
Stage 3 Sevilla to Alto de Nuestro Senora de Araceli

1. Javier Pascual Llorente (Sp), Kelme, 166km in 3:32:25 (46.8 kph)
2. David Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, at 0:08
3. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme, at 0:09
4. Giampaolo Caruso (I), ONCE, same time
5. Jose Ivan Guiterrez (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 0:16
6. Francisco Cabello (Sp), Kelme, at 0:18
7. Luca Paolini (I), Quick Step, at 0:20
8. Andrea Noe (I), Alessio, at 21 seconds
9. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Sp), ONCE, s.t.
10. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 0:27.Overall standings after three stages
1. Javier Pascual Llorente (Sp), Kelme, 12:24:43
2. David Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, at 0:08
3. Alejandro Valverde (Sp), Kelme, at 0:09
4. Giampaolo Caruso (I), ONCE, same time
5. Jose Ivan Guiterrez (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 16 seconds
6. Luca Paolini (I), Quick Step, at 18 seconds
7. Francisco Cabello (Sp), Kelme, s.t.
8. Andrea Noe (I), Alessio, at 21 seconds
9. Mikel Zarrabeitia (Sp), ONCE, s.t.
10. Javier Pascual Rodriguez (Sp), iBanesto.com, at 27 seconds.

Pozzato wins Trofeo Laigueglia
Young-gun Filippo Pozzato delivered a huge win in Tuesday’s Trofeo Laigueglia, the tradition kick-off to the Italian racing season. The 22-year-old nipped some of Italy’s top sprinters in a mad dash to the finish line, edging savvy veterans Fabio Sacchi (Saeco) and Fabio Baldato (Alessio) in what’s the young rider’s biggest win of his career.

Pozzato made it into a group of 27 riders who split off the front in the descent of the final climb and held on for a huge win. Pozzato is just one of a new crop of Italian stars hungry to make a name for themselves. Domina Vacanze protégé Davide Bennati won a stage in last week’s Tour Mediterranean. Pozzato raced last year with Mapei’s development team, winning 14 races and doing well in the Tour d’Avenir. Last week at the Med tour, he finished second behind Baden Cooke in the morning sector of stage three.

Quick Step’s Paolo Bettini, fresh off his victory at Tour Mediterranean, finished fourth and vows to fight for the Tour du Haut Var this weekend. U.S. Postal’s Viatcheslav Ekimov was in there bumping shoulders with the Italians, finishing a respectable sixth-place. The Navigators, fresh off their training camp in Tuscany, were also giving their best against the Italians in what was a very Italian affair.

Navigators Chris Baldwin was involved in a crash on the descent of the day’s second major climb. Although not seriously injured, he was unable to continue in the race. Quietly finishing 20th was none other than Raimundas Rumsas, back from what’s been a beleaguered off-season for the Lithuanian who finished third overall in last year’s Tour de France. Rumsas, whose wife was busted last July by French police at the French-Italian border, is back with Lampre and seems intent on making another run at the Tour.

Results-40th Trofeo Laigueglia, 183km
1. Filippo Pozzato (I), Fassa Bortolo, 4 hours, 53 minutes, 13 seconds
2. Fabio Sacchi (I), Saeco
3. Fabio Baldato (I), Alessio
4. Paolo Bettini (I), Quick Step
5. Massimiliano Mori (I), Formaggi
6. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus), U.S. Postal Service
7. Mirko Celestino (I), Saeco
8. Sergio Barbero (I), Lampre)
9. Luca Mazzanti (I), Panaria
10. Uros Murn (Slov), Formaggi
all same time.

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