Paris-Nice and early season ProTour leader Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) impressed yet again on Thursday, winning the tough mountain finish at the Castilla y Leon stage race.

Contador out sprinted Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval) at the 1800 metre summit of the Alto de Navacerrada climb after attacks splintered the main field. Thanks to winning the stage, Contador also took the race lead from Russia?s Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d?Epargne), who finished two and half minutes back. The uphill finish was a key test of form for many riders. Ivan Basso (Discovery Channel) was 11th at 1-04, while team mates Levi Leipheimer and Tom Danielson were 15th and 16th at 1-24.

DI LUCA WINS IN ITALY

Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas) also showed he has spring form and that he has recovered from the virus that stopped him riding Tirreno-Adratico by winning the hilly third stage of the Coppi & Bartali race in central Italy.

Di Luca outsprinted new revelation and local hero Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) in the hills near Modena at the end of the 160km stage, with Russia?s Alexander Efimkin (Barloworld) third in the same time. Second-year professional Luca Pierfelici of the small Aurum Hotels team kept the overall race lead, two seconds ahead of stage three winner Michele Scarponi (Acqua & Sapone). Australia?s Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is third at nine seconds and Ricco is fourth at 20 seconds. World champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) retired part way through the stage and will now travel to Belgium for this weekend?s Harelbeke race.