VENTOSO TOPPLES TOP SPRINTERS
For the second day running, there was a surprise winner in the Tour of Spain as little-known Spanish fastman Francisco Ventoso took a bunch sprint victory, the first ProTour win of his three-year career.
On stage three, the longest of the entire event, the Saunier Duval rider chanced his arm with an early charge in the twisting final kilometre in the tiny town of Almendralejo close to the Portuguese frontier.
On such a difficult finish, this was a tactic which paid off in spades, with Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) having to settle for runnerup spot for a second day running, just half a wheel behind the Spanish speedster.
Ventoso’s victory was very much an in-house win: Ventoso rode for Saunier Duval when the Spanish boiler-making company backed a junior and amateur squad, and then snaffled the team’s first pro win in the Tour of Qatar back in February 2004.
“I’m really proud of what I acheived.” Ventoso said, “because it’s not every day a rider as young as me takes on the world’s top sprinters and beats them.”
Ventoso’s team-mate David Millar made a spectacular late charge in the streets of Almendralejo but was reeled in close to the finish: however, the yellow team had another trick up their sleeve in the shape of the 24-year-old Ventoso.
Meanwhile the overall lead remains with Hushovd for a second day running, with CSC’s Stuart O’Grady now in second and Ventoso lying third.
The sprinters will have a last opportunity on Tuesday to slug it out in the short, flat stage between Almendralejo and Caceres. After that, it’s into the mountains.