The Tour de l?Aude went through a transitional stage today allowing Kazakhstan?s Zulfia Zabirova to take advantage and escape the bunch as the overall favourites had one eye on tomorrow?s mountainous stage.

On a warm but blustery day, Zabirova eventually opened up a 46 second gap over Angela Brodtka (DSB Bank) who herself was 15 seconds ahead of the bunch sprint.

Today?s plan for the British team was to stay in the wheels, stay out of trouble and save as much energy as they could for tomorrow?s stage that takes in two hors category climbs and one first category climb.

Although there is only 11.5km of climbing listed on the race program, there is actually far more ascent for the riders to tackle as the road drags for several miles up through a valley to the base of the first climb the Col du Calvaire.

The stage Profile suits the British trio of Nicole Cooke, Sharon Laws (who is currently in the mountains jersey) and Emma Pooley as all three excel when the road goes up. However, team manager Julian Winn wont decide on the day’s tactics until the race gets going and his riders know how their form is.

After a good team time trial yesterday Pooley lost another 50 seconds today, dropping her down the overall classification, but if she can recover she’ll be expected to show herself tomorrow.

The British team has moved down to a new base in Estavar in the Pyrenees along with several other teams, where they will be based for the next two stages. Team High Road rider Judith Arndt still leads the overall classification with Cooke in third spot just 40 seconds behind.

TOUR DE L?AUDE 2008: STAGE THREE RESULTS
1. Zulfia Zabirova (Kaz) Bigla cycling team 111km in 2-52-54hrs

2. Angela Brodtka (Ger) DSB Bank at 46sec
3. Diana Ziliute (Ltu) Lithunia at 1-01min
British
15. Catherine Hare (Gbr) Great Britain
23. Sharon Laws (Gbr) Great Britain
32. Nicole Cooke (Gbr) Great Britain
50. Leda Cox (Gbr) Great Britain
52. Jessica Allen (Gbr) Great Britain at same time

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1. Judith Arndt (Ger) Team High Road 3-56-00
2. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Equipe Nurnberger at 12sec
3. Nicole Cooke (GB) Great Britain national team at 40sec

RELATED LINKS
Stage one: Cooke sprints to first win of the year
Prologue: Cooke top Brit
Preview
Stage details
Start list