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Freire takes lead at Tirreno-Adriatico as Bettini crashes out

Three-time world champion Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) sprinted to victory and claimed the overall lead during the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday. The Spaniard donned the leader’s jersey thanks to a 10-second time bonus and the abandonment of race leader Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), who was taken to hospital following a crash and may miss the start of the classics season. The day began in controversial circumstances as organizers refused to shorten the undulating, 183km course as requested by team managers and riders, who were concerned about the cold, wet and windy

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By Staff and wire reports

Bettini won two stages before crashing and abandoning

Bettini won two stages before crashing and abandoning

Photo: AFP

Freire takes the stage and the lead in one stroke

Freire takes the stage and the lead in one stroke

Photo: AFP

Three-time world champion Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) sprinted to victory and claimed the overall lead during the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Friday.

The Spaniard donned the leader’s jersey thanks to a 10-second time bonus and the abandonment of race leader Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), who was taken to hospital following a crash and may miss the start of the classics season.

The day began in controversial circumstances as organizers refused to shorten the undulating, 183km course as requested by team managers and riders, who were concerned about the cold, wet and windy conditions.

Once racing began, a dozen riders, including Freire’s teammate Juan Antonio Flecha, broke free of the peloton and spent the majority of the day off the front before being retrieved with just 10km to ride.

Several other attacks occurred in the final kilometers, but Rabobank brought them all under control before Freire made a long break for home, holding off compatriot Igor Astarloa (Barloworld), also a former world champion, to claim victory.

Freire gave credit to his teammates for the victory after Flecha, Thomas Dekker and Michael Boogerd and Juan Antonio Flecha snuffed out the firestorm of attacks on the final ascent and then lined the bunch out, setting up his dash to the line.

“I wouldn’t have won without them,” said Freire, adding that he had been resigned to finishing second to Bettini until today’s mishap.

“I hope he gets better quickly,” said Freire. “But I made sure I didn’t miss out on the chance of winning.”

As for Bettini, it’s not certain whether the Olympic road race champion will be able to race Milan-San Remo in just over a week’s time.

“He has pain in his left wrist and his right knee and ribs,” team spokesman Alessandro Tegner told VeloNews. “He’s at a hospital now, so we still don’t know the full extent of his injuries.”

Top 10
1. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp), Rabobank, 4:27:22
2. Igor Astarloa (Sp), Barloworld, s.t.
3. Riccardo Ricco (I), Saunier Duval-Prodir, s.t.
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Acqua E Sapone, s.t.
5. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Fondital, s.t.
6. Alessandro Petacchi (I), Team Milram, s.t.
7. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
8. Luca Mazzanti (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, s.t.
9. Thomas Dekker (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
10. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare, s.t.

Overall
1. Oscar Freire Gomez (Sp), Rabobank, 12:39:26
2. Alessandro Ballan (I), Lampre-Fondital, at, 0:10
3. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (I), Acqua E Sapone, s.t.
5. Luca Mazzanti (I), Ceramica Panaria-Navigar, s.t.
6. Massimiliano Gentili (I), Naturino-Sapore Di Mare, s.t.
7. Leonardo Bertagnolli (I), Cofidis, s.t.
8. Jorg Jaksche 76 (G), Liberty Seguros-Wurth, s.t.
9. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
10. Thomas Dekker (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.

Complete results

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