Portal Wins Stage 3 of Dauphine Libere
Nicolas Portal (Ag2r) has won Stage 3 of the Dauphine Libere. Portal surged away from two breakaway companions to win the hilly, 180-km ride from St. Etienne to Aubenas in 4:41:42. Janek Tombak (Cofidis) outsprinted Iker Flores (Euskaltel) for second at 0:51. Jose Gutierrez (Phonak) remains the overall leader.
The early pace was pedestrian. Jerome Pineau (Brioches La Boulangere) attacked near the summit of the Col de la Republique, and the ensuring flurry of attacks created a four-man lead group composed of Pineau, Flores, Portal, and Tombak. Pineau returned to the peloton on his team director's orders, but the other three riders forged a 4:45 lead by 120 km.
Flores attacked the break. At the top of the Category 2 Col de Mezilhac (144 km), the Euskaltel rider led Tombak and Portal by 1:15 and the bunch by 5:10. With 15 km left, Tombak and Portal caught Flores on the descent of the Mezilhac. Ten km later, Portal surged away from his companions and held on for the win.
In the overall, Gutierrez leads Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) by 0:08 and Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) by 0:09. Stage 4 will be pivotal. The uphill, 21.6-km time trial from Bedoin to Mont Ventoux will be a chance for the time trialists in the field to stamp their authority on the race. Who will prevail? Mayo? Hamilton? Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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