Gavazzi Wins Stage Three; Freire Seizes Lead at Tour of the Basque Country 2010
Oscar Freire leads Alejandro Valverde by two seconds with three stages to go.
Team Rabobank's Oscar Freire (Spain) pounded the handlebars of his bike in frustration after finishing second for the third day running on the Tour of the Basque Country on Wednesday.
Italian Francesco Gavazzi won the 187-km third stage from Viana to Amurrio ahead of Freire and although the former world champion's consistency earned him the overall race lead, it brought little comfort.
"Being leader doesn't count for me, what I want is stage victories," Freire commented. Freire is two seconds ahead of Spain's Alejandro Valverde in the standings.
"I've missed out on the three opportunities I had, although in the first stage in more normal circumstances I would have won," the 34-year-old Rabobank rider told Roadcycling.com.
"This time I was in the wrong position on the final bend, I was only eighth or ninth and that wrecked my sprint."
"I tried everything, I've got three second places in three days, but in cycling the only thing that counts is if you win."
Freire was relegated to second after winning the first stage following a protest from Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne team that he had blocked their rider in the bunch sprint. Valverde also won Tuesday's second stage.
Stage winner Gavazzi said beating riders of Freire's calibre added value to his second victory of the season.
"My first was in the Tour of Cerdena (in Italy), a relatively small race and it can't possibly compare to a victory in a ProTour event like the Tour of the Basque Country," the Lampre rider said.
"That's because there are some very big names here, and beating them always increases the prestige of the win."
"The final was not a good one for me today and I decided to take no risk in the sprint", Alejandro Valverde told Roadcycling.com at the finish. Valverde added that "I lost the leadership, but I am in a very good position. Tomorrow's stage will be very important and many things can happen even though I believe that the final time trial will be decisive for the final classification of this 50th edition of the Tour of the Basque Country."
Spain's top classics rider, Freire has 73 wins in his career, but as a non-climber he will have little chance of taking his first victory in the Basque Country race since 2006.
Thursday's stage from Murguia Zuia to Arrate is the most mountainous of the race while Friday's is a hilly trek from Arrate to Orio. The 2010 Tour of the Basque Country finishes on Saturday with an individual time trial in Orio.