Tour de Suisse 3: Cavendish beats Freire, Hushovd

Tour primer heats up

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) held on to the lead of the Tour of Switzerland as Britain's Mark Cavendish (Columbia) powered to victory on the 195.4km third stage on Monday.

The 24-year-old from the Isle of Man, who won four stages at last year's Tour de France, produced an impressive decisive surge in the dying metres after Norwegian Thor Hushovd's final dash for the line ran out of steam.

"It was another perfect win for us," Cavendish said. "Having four riders there to help me in the last three kilometres showed how good and strong we are as a team.  

"It was a great lead out and all the guys worked perfectly. Thor Hushovd tried to get a jump on me but I was able to get him before the line," he added.

It is a first Tour of Switzerland victory for Cavendish, who has not raced since the Giro d'Italia, where he claimed three stage wins.

As Cavendish soaked up the win, Spanish ace Oscar Freire of Rabobank came through late to leave Cervelo's main sprinter Hushovd in third place.

Cavendish's latest win makes it two in the past two days for his Columbia team, who saw Bernhard Eisel claim victory from a bunch sprint on Sunday in stage two.

A four-man group had gained an advantage during the day's main difficulty, the 21km climb to the 1,940m high Lukmanierpass, which they came over with a three-minute lead on the main bunch but with still 70km to race.

One of that quartet, Enrico Gasparotto of Lampre, was a virtual threat to Cancellara's overall lead, prompting the big Swiss ace's Saxo Bank team to join ranks with the sprinters' teams in the ensuing chase.

The frontrunners battled hard to keep the chasing pack at bay in the final 20km, but their efforts were in vain and the peloton reeled them in with four kilometres remaining.

As the sprinters took centre stage, Cancellara - neither a climber nor a sprinter - made known his overall victory intentions by finishing 10th on the stage.

The 28-year-old from Berne thus maintained his 22-second lead on the Czech Republic's defending champion Roman Kreuziger of the Liquigas team ahead of the fourth stage, a 195km ride from Biasca to Staefa.

Germany's Andreas Kloden of Astana lurks in third place at 25 seconds back while another overall victory contender, Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg, is sixth at only 34 seconds adrift.

The nine-stage event is considered an important warm-up for the Tour de France starting in Monaco on July 4.

© 2009 AFP

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