Italian Alessandro Petacchi of the LPR team won his second stage in a row to take the lead in the Tour of Italy on Monday after a 198km third stage slog from Grado to Valdobbiadene.
Petacchi made the most of a crash near the front of the peloton around 10km from home that split it in two and distanced many of his sprint rivals.
When it came to the final sprint he surged three bike lengths clear of the field and the late charging American Tyler Farrar could do nothing to catch him.
Italian Francesco Gavazzi finished third on the stage while seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of Astana finished safely in the lead group to move up to fifth in the overall standings.
"My teammates more than rose to the challenge," enthused Petacchi.
"Was that the best Petacchi? Well, I feel good at any rate. But that said the next stage is going to be tough for me," said the Italian, now very much at the veteran stage although he insisted that "I don't feel 35."
Armstrong, enjoying himself on this his first participation in the Giro, noted that "that was another mad, quick day. These guys aren't there to have fun. I just tried to stay out of trouble again!"
Previous pink jersey holder Mark Cavendish of Britain was caught behind the crash which happened in a narrow street and held up about three quarters of the peloton. He gave chase with a small group but about 4km from home on a hilly section he admitted defeat and slowed up. He came in with the main group 1min 25sec back and now sits 32nd almost a minute and a half off the pace.
Of the overall favourites only Russian Denis Menchov was hindered by the crash and he lost 24 seconds on the stage.
How it unfolded
The day began with an early breakaway from five riders after just 5km with Giuseppe Palumbo (Acqua e Sapone), Yuriy Krivtsov (AG2R), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Michael Ignatiev (Katusha) and Bjorn Schröder (Milram) distancing themselves from the pack.
Halfway through the race they had opened up a lead of six minutes over the peloton but the pack gradually ate into that over the next 60km.
The gap was little over a minute with 45km to ride and the category 3 Combai climb facing the riders and it was no surprise that the breakaway had been as good as swallowed up by the time they reached the top.
But with 14km remaining French darling Thomas Voeckler took off with Quick Step team-mate David Malacarne in tow.
They were then joined by about 10 other riders all breaking off the front of the peloton with Levi Leipheimer, one of the Giro favourites, among them.
That appeared a shrewd move on his part the crash split the near the front of the peloton with just under 10km left stopped the main group in its tracks in a narrow street.
However, other than Menchov, all the top riders managed to position themselves in the front 50 and stay avoid any loss of time ahead of Tuesday's fourth stage, which enters the Dolomites .
That will be the first to finish a mountain finish following 162km from Padova to San Martino di Castrozza.
It will be the first opportunity for the Tour's big hitters to make some gains on each other, although these are unlikely to be too great.
© AFP 2009