Peter Sagan is now three for three at the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, taking stage three in a wide-open sprint finish after a long trip over two big climbs. Henrich Haussler is three for three at coming in second. His tactics changed this time, as he jumped out with around 100 meters to go and tried to beat Sagan at a distance, but the result was the same. Sagan put the hammer down and took Haussler down.
Sagan is 12 seconds ahead of Haussler in the general standings, but more importantly he's getting close to being 30 seconds ahead of all of the heavyweight contenders. There's a lot of racing to come, including some serious, serious climbs. Sagan is young, and it's a big question whether or not he's up to the task of staying with the leaders all the way through. If he wants to make a bid, though, he couldn't do any better than collecting the first three wins and the time bonuses that come with them.
There was another long breakway in the stage, with Jeremy Vennell again representing Bissel Pro Cycling. He and Alexander Torres (Colombia-Coldeportes) spent almost the entire race out in front, but were pulled back with about 10 miles to go. After that it was Fabio Duarte who jumped off the front, making it first over the second of the days climbs, earning himself crucial King of the Mountain points. Duarte was a world champion in the under 23 division, and the peloton paid his attack some respect, chasing it down quickly and efficiently.
From there the teams started lining up, trying to put together strong leadout trains for their sprinters. Rabobank was looking to set up Michael Matthews, OmegaPharma-Quickstep for Tom Boonen, and Team BMC for Greg Van Avermaert. BMC's George Hincapie has been a professional for 19 years and is the only man to have supported Lance Armstrong in all seven of his Tour de France victories, and he marshalled BMC's riders with ease. It didn't pay off in the form of a stage win, though, as again things came down to Haussler and Sagan, with Sagan again dominating.
Wednesday's stage is the longest of the race, and with a series of climbs just might be the hardest. Those gunning for the King of the Mountain jersey will have an active day, and a long flat stretch at the finish gives the teams another chance to deliver their sprinter to the line.
The provisional GC Standings after stage three:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 14:34:54
2 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Garmin - Barracuda -:12
3 Jeffry Louder (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team -:24
4 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Team Exergy -:26
5 Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Cycling -:26
SB Nation Bay Area will continue to bring you previews, updates and more from the 2012 Amgen Tour of Caliofornia. As always, SB Nation's cycling blog Podium Cafe is your source for news and analysis.