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Brad McGee moved to within a couple of seconds of Jan Ullrich in the overall standings of the Tour of Switzerland when he won today's third stage of the race into St Anton. After a long 22km climb up to the famous ski resort followed by a tricky 6km descent on a wet road, Liberty's Koldo Gil seemed set for another big race win after his Giro stage victory last month, but the Spaniard was caught 500 metres from the line, where McGee outpaced Mirko Celestino and Patrik Sinkewitz to claim 10 bonus seconds and chip a significant chunk off Ullrich's lead.
Ullrich, who finished a comfortable-looking 12th in a leading group that contained 25-odd riders, admitted afterwards that holding on to the yellow jersey was not a priority on today's first mountain stage, although he was glad to keep it for another day. Ullrich took the jersey with an impressive winning performance in yesterday's 36km time trial, although he maintained that his best form his still some way off.
McGee, though, definitely has his eye on the lead, acknowledging that he may well contest some of the intermediate sprints on tomorrow's 205km stage from the Liechtenstein capital of Vaduz to Bad Zurzach. There are just three third-cat climbs on route.
"We will have to talk about it tonight and see whether to go for the sprints," said Francaise des Jeux's McGee, who gave his team their second win at the race after Bernhard Eisel's success on the opening day. "Although it was me who crossed the line at the end, this was very much a team victory," said McGee. "My team-mates were with me right through the day, motivating me, and that kind of motivation gives you a real boost at the finish."
There were some notable performances with the Tour de France in mind. Spaniards Iban Mayo and Alejandro Valverde were both prominent in the front group, while Sinkewitz's Quick Step team-mate Michael Rogers was also up there. Missing, though, was Joseba Beloki, who finished almost six minutes down and is now very short of time in which to rediscover his best form.
Sinkewitz, too, had a setback. His four-second bonus for third place on the day was more than counter-balanced by the 42 seconds the race judges penalised for drafting behind Jan Ullrich in yesterday's time trial. This effectively dropped the young German from fourth overall to ninth.
Stage 3, Abtwil-St Anton
1 Bradley McGee (Aus) Francaise des Jeux 154.2km in 3.46.51 (40.79kph)
2 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze
3 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step
4 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
5 Daniel Schnider (Swi) Phonak
6 Koldo Gil (Spa) Liberty Seguros
7 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel
8 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak
9 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval
10 Beat Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner
12 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
13 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears
17 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
22 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.04
23 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
25 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas-Bianchi 0.10
1 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile 8.31.10
2 McGee 0.02
3 Rogers 0.18
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 1.12
5 Zberg 1.14
6 Jeker 1.25
7 Totschnig 1.31
8 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC 1.41
9 Sinkewitz 1.47
10 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel 1.52
14 Evans 2.02
18 Valverde 2.21
21 Wegelius 2.47
24 Mayo 2.54
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