Aranaga's day in Valencia

Alessandro Petacchi took a day off from bushwhacking his fellow sprinters to "gift" Andoni Aranaga v

Alessandro Petacchi took a day off from bushwhacking his fellow sprinters to "gift" Andoni Aranaga v
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM So omnipotent has Alessandro Petacchi proved in the first fortnight of the 2005 season that he now seems able to either hoard or distribute stage victories as his mood on the day dictates, like some kind of cycling divinity mingling with the ordinary menfolk. Thus, having decided to allow the Spanish duo of Andoni Aranaga and David Blanco to have their fun and contest victory in a two-man sprint at the end of stage 3 of the Tour of Valencia, Petacchi could say, not intending to patronise, "It's not right to monopolise all the races". Aranaga would go on to beat Blanco to the line with Petacchi - naturally - winning the bunch sprint some 3 minutes 45 seconds behind to finish third and safeguard his leader's jersey. Arranga's triumph was a historic first for his newly founded Spanish team Kaiku. It was also a handsome reward for his 141km breakaway with Blanco. Their charitable offering notwithstanding, Fassa and Petacchi again administered proceedings with consummate ease. Having allowed Aranaga and Blanco's advantage to stretch to over 15 minutes after 88 km, Fassa gradually ate into the gap until the Spanish escapees posed no threat to Petacchi's overall lead. The 31-year-old sprinter retains a 13-second cushion over Constantino Zaballa of Saunier Duval entering Friday's penultimate stage. "When we approached the finale, I sprinted because I have the leader's jersey and it seemed the right thing to do for the team to retain it," Petacchi said. "My condition is excellent and my aim is to protect the lead for as long as possible." For all his dominance so far and notable improvement in his climbing, Petacchi will surely discover his limits on Friday's mountain stage to Alt Del Campello. Forty-six riders are within 30 seconds of the Italian, with many superior climbers among them. Martin Perdiguero in third and Franco Pellizotti in seventh are obvious threats, but so too is Rabobank boy wonder and procycling contributor Thomas Dekker. The 20-year-old Dutchman is an accomplished climber, is coming off a fine sixth-place finish in the Tour of the Med, and claims to be nearing top form. At just 25 seconds adrift of Petacchi in fourth place overall, Dekker must now be among the favourites for overall victory on Saturday. Results Stage 3, Sagunto - Alzira, 151.5 km 1 Andoni Aranaga (Spa) Kaiku 3.47.43 2 David Blanco (Spa) Comunitat Valenciana 3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.45 4 Luciano A. Pagliarini (Bra) Liquigas-Bianchi 5 Fco.Jos Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 6 Mauro Gerosa (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 7 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo 8 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 9 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 10 Ion Del Rio (Spa) Andalucia-Paul Versan 70 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 105 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile 114 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 4.19 Overall 1 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 12.05.27 2 Constantino Zaballa (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.13 3 M.A. Perdiguero (Spa) Phonak 0.20 4 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank 0.25 5 Antonio Colom (Spa) Illes Balears 6 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile 7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas-Bianchi 8 Aitor Perez (Spa) Spiuk 9 Ion Del Rio (Spa) Andalucia-Paul Versan 10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Wurth 42 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.30 92 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile 11.45 94 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 12.14

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