By Andrew Hood
Allan Davis ended Danilo Hondo’s winning streak at the Vuelta a Murcia on Friday, scoring his first win of the 2005 season in the 155km third stage from Mula to Fortuna.
The Aussie sprinter shot past Hondo with 250 meters to go to win easily. Hondo finished second to retain his 21-second overall lead after winning Wednesday’s opening sprint and Thursday’s time trial.
“I’m very happy to win,” Davis said on Spanish TV. “The team did great work today, so I really wanted to win for them. It was hard today, with a lot of wind and rain, but the team did a great job setting up the sprint, so I didn’t want to disappointment them.”
The cold weather and rolling profile provided a perfect setting for a breakaway, with Belgian Maxime Monfort and Dutch rider Niels Scheunemann trying their luck along with Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval) and José Antonio López (Kaiku).
Liberty Seguros, led by David Etxebarria, did fine work to keep the peloton under control over the final 15km. Gerolsteiner massed to the front on the final kilometer to set up Hondo, but Davis took advantage of an early sprint to surprise the German on a slightly rising finish to snag the victory.
Joseba Beloki (Liberty Seguros), who complained of stomach problems, and Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner) were among the riders to abandon.
Saturday’s difficult climbing stage covers 152km from Aguilas along the Mediterannean Coast to the Cat. 1 summit finish at Collado Bermejo. Along the way are three Cat. 3 climbs and another Cat. 1 at the Alto de Espuña.
Defending Giro d’Italia champion Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) has already said he’d like to win Saturday’s stage as part of an early season test and to pay homage to Marco Pantani, who died last year of a drug overdose.
Heavy snow continues to block many of the high roads and race officials said they might be forced to make changes in the course.
Vuelta a Murcia (SPA 2.1), Stage 3, Mula to Fortuna
1. Allan Davis (Aus), Liberty Seguros 3:59:27
2. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner
3. Antonio Salomone (I), Barloworld
4. Crescenzo D’Amore (I), Acqua e Sapone
5. Angel Edo (Sp), Saunier Duval – all same time
Overall standings (after three stages)
1. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner, 8:13:10
2. Rubén Plaza (Sp), Comunidad Valenciana, at 0:21
3. José Iván Gutiérrez (Sp), Illes Balears, at 0:39
4. Michael Rich (G), Gerolsteiner, at 0:50
5. Antonio Colom (Sp), Illes Balears, at 0:51