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Nizzolo wins stage 3 of the Tour de San Luis

Giacomo Nizzolo won stage 3 of the Tour de San Luís on Wednesday in Juana Koslay, Argentina. Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) was fastest in a bunch sprint to take victory in the 175-kilometer leg from Tilisarao.

Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) was second and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was third. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) was fourth.

“The first sprint, the first win, this is the best way to start the season,” said Nizzolo. “A great thanks to the team who kept me protected, water bottles, and all. … Trek couldn’t ask for a better start, I hope it continues this way.”

American Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp) defended his overall lead. With four stages remaining, Gaimon leads second-place Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthcare) by 1:47.

“It’s been a great experience so far. I hope to keep it up,” said Gaimon. “It was long, hot, windy, but my team rode well today.”

Strong winds buffeted the peloton midway through the stage, erasing the day’s breakaway more than 50km from the finish, and splitting the race into the echelons. The split put Garmin under pressure, with Ben King pulling Gaimon up to the front group after the overall leader lost contact and helping Tom Danielson back from a puncture.

“With the heat, it’s just really hard riding the front,” said King. “We let a good break go, [Nathan Brown] and I pulled for 80K, and then we got good help from the sprinters’ teams. … It was a hard day to be a donkey.”

Boonen called Wednesday the hottest day of his career.

“I’m already in good condition, but these weather circumstances are really hard,” he said. “It was the hottest day of my career. I was really suffering. Everybody was really suffering.”

Suffering or not, the bunch came back together before the high-speed sprint finish in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

Lampre-Merida opened the sprint with two riders, but faded outside of 250 meters to go. This left Mark Cavendish at the head of the peloton with teammate Boonen on his wheel. The British former world champion looked over his shoulder before accelerating and Boonen launched when Cavendish pulled off. The Belgian could not hold the pace to the line, however, and Nizzolo came around on the left for the victory, followed by Ventoso.

“We went for Tom today. I was leading Tom out, so I tried to stay with the Lampre train and go at 300 and drop Tom off at 150 meters,” said Cavendish. “But the wind was weird and the road curved to the left, so we had to leave it open. Nizzolo is just fast, too, though, so we can’t be too bothered. Things went well. It was nice, me and Tom working together.”

The Tour de San Luís continues Thursday with the 168km fourth stage, from El Potrero de los Funes to Alto del Amago. The Cat. 1 finish climb reaches skyward after the ascent of the Cat. 3 El Embalse.

Neal Rogers, on assignment in Argentina, contributed to this report.