Slovakian rider takes third straight stage to open up 12-second lead 

click to enlarge Peter Sagan has won the first three stages of the Tour of California. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Peter Sagan has won the first three stages of the Tour of California.

Peter Sagan extended his overall lead in the Tour of California when he won Tuesday’s third stage in a sprint finish, completing a rare hat-trick of stage wins in North America’s most prestigious cycling event.

The Slovakian, who also won the first two stages of the eight-day race, made it a perfect 3-for-3 when he surged clear of the pack approaching the finish line to win the 115-mile trek from San Jose to Livermore in four hours, 50 minutes and 49 seconds.

“I don’t know what to say, it was a surprise to me,” Sagan said. “Today was hotter than yesterday and that’s not usually good for me, but today the temperature was right.”

For the third day in a row, Australia’s Heinrich Haussler crossed the line second. Belgium’s Tom Boonen, the 2005 world road-race champion, came in third to get on to the podium.

A breakaway group of four riders opened up an eight-minute lead over the main pack, but were caught 16 miles from the end.

Sagan retained the yellow jersey and stretched his overall lead to 12 seconds from Haussler. American Jeff Louder moved to third, trailing Sagan by 22 seconds with five stages to go in the Golden State.

Last year’s race winner, American Chris Horner, finished safely in the middle of the pack for the third straight day. He was in 15th place overall among a large group of riders 30 seconds behind Sagan.

Despite winning the first three stages, the 22-year-old Sagan said he was not expecting to win the race.

Wednesday’s fourth stage, a 130-mile trip from Sonora to Clovis, is the longest of the tour and is a followed a day later by a time trial.

“The race has hard long climbs and for me, I am not good in the time trial,” he said. “I will try my best to keep the yellow jersey until [then], but then we will see.”

Today’s stage:  Sonora to Clovis

  • MILES: 130.2
  • START: 10:35 a.m.
  • ABOUT THE STAGE: At 130 miles, Stage 4 is the longest stage of the Tour of California, and possibly the most difficult. This will be the race’s first visit to Sonora. As the riders head south toward Mariposa and Oakhurst (both sprint cities), riders will be challenged by historic Highway 49. As they skirt Yosemite, the peloton will encounter everything from numerous climbs, twisty and technical descents, and raging rivers, but very few sections of flat roadway before descending into Clovis.

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