PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
After back-to-back stage wins by Alessandro Petacchi, which set the Italian sprinter up very nicely indeed for the start of the Giro d'Italia next weekend, defending Giro champion Damiano Cunego provided a demonstration of his own with victory on stage three of the Tour of Romandy this afternoon. Cunego led in a select group of riders at the Anzre summit finish, and among those trailing the Italian was the surprising figure of Santiago Botero, who produced probably his best performance since leaving Kelme more than two years ago and took the race lead from Petacchi.
Cunego beat Russian Denis Menchov in the final dash for the line, and Menchov's Rabobank team were in the thick of the action throughout the stage. The Dutch team's Erik Dekker and Joost Posthuma were in the main break of the day, initially with Cofidis' Christophe Edaleine and Crdit Agricole's Laszlo Bodrogi. The Dutch pair dropped their rivals on the first of three first-cat climbs, but could not resist the pressure from the bunch behind on the first ascent to Anzre.
Dekker was the first to be caught by a chasing group, while Posthuma was overhauled a couple of kilometres short of the summit by Saunier Duval's Ruben Lobato and Phonak's Steve Zampieri. Lobato dropped Zampieri on the haul up to the finish, but was himself caught with four kilometres to go by a group being driven by Cunego.
Cofidis' Daniel Atienza and Menchov both tried to break clear from the lead group in the final couple of kilometres, no doubt well aware of Cunego's rapid finishing speed. But as Cunego and Menchov pushed up the pace nearer the line only Botero could go with them, and although the Colombian was no match for the two smaller men in the sprint he did do enough to take the leader's jersey on a day when team-mate Oscar Pereiro lost more than two minutes.
Saturday's stage features another three categorised climbs on a circuit based on Les Paccots. The first two laps include two second-cat hills, while the final uphill run to the finish at Les Paccots is a first-cat climb.
Stage 3, Aigle-Anzre
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Caffita 146.5km in 3.45.49
2 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
3 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak 0.04
4 Daniel Atienza (Spa) Cofidis 0.09
5 Manuel Beltran (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.28
6 Marco Fertonani (Ita) Domina Vacanze
7 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.37
8 Mauricio Ardila (Col) Davitamon-Lotto 0.40
9 Alexandre Moos (Swi) Phonak 1.02
10 Aitor Osa (Spa) Illes Balears
1 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 11.50.34
2 Cunego 0.02
3 Menchov 0.10
4 Beltran 0.22
5 Atienza 0.28
6 Fertonani 0.36
7 Contador 0.37
8 Ardila 0.39
9 Moos 0.56
10 Osa 1.02