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Stefan Schumacher has looked close to a major breakthrough win several times this season, and it finally came in Namur today when he took a soggy third stage of the Giro, beating Discovery Channel's Jos Luis Rubiera in a two-up sprint.
The conclusion of the stage followed a steep run up to Namur's famous citadel on a cobbled road made treacherous by heavy rain. The first move came from Selle Italia's Alberto Loddo, but Rubiera countered and caught the Italian with 1.5km left to the line. As Rubiera surged ahead, he was himself tracked down by Gerolsteiner's Schumacher, who went straight on the front and stayed there.
As they raced up the climb towards the finish it seemed that Rubiera was just biding his time before making a final attack, but when they crested the hill time trial specialist Schumacher stretched away to win by a couple of seconds at the line. Davide Rebellin led in the next group containing race leader Paolo Savoldelli six seconds down.
With a 20-second bonus for the stage winner and another six seconds in hand, Schumacher gained more than enough time to take the leader's pink jersey away from Savoldelli, who, like team-mate Rubiera, found himself relegated to second place on the day by the German.
But the dark clouds over Namur had a very silver lining for Discovery Channel's defending champion as he gained time on all of his most likely rivals for the overall title. Damiano Cunego, Danilo Di Luca and Ivan Basso lost another seven seconds to Savoldelli, while Gilberto Simoni lost 23. Jos Rujano fared even worse in the wet, losing 49 seconds to the defending champion.
Those losses were nothing compared to Alessandro Petacchi's deficit of almost 15 minutes, which was caused by a crash 47km into the stage. He hit his knee hard and will decide overnight whether he'll continue with a Giro he was never keen about taking part in.
Stage 3, Perwez-Namur
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 202km in 5.14.41 (39.09kph)
2 Jos Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.02
3 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.06
4 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Franaise des Jeux
6 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC
7 Andrea Moletta (Ita) Gerolsteiner
8 Jos Ivan Gutierrez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
10 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 0.09
11 Francisco Perez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
12 Patxi Vila (Spa) Lampre
13 Tom Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel
14 Dario Cioni (Ita) Liquigas
15 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) T-Mobile
16 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre 0.13
17 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Liquigas
18 Andrea Noe (Ita) Liquigas
19 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile
20 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
1 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 10.14.04
2 Savoldelli 0.13
3 Rebellin 0.23
4 Gutierrez 0.29
5 Rubiera 0.31
7 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
8 Perez 0.32
9 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak 0.33
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.37
13 Di Luca 0.39
16 Basso 0.43
17 Cunego 0.45
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