Peter Sagan won stage three of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday afternoon, which he added to his wins in stages one and two. It was a wide-open sprint finish, and this time Henrich Haussler tried to beat Sagan by jumping off early, going well before the finish line and trying to avoid being neck-and-neck with Sagan. It was of little use, however, as Sagan marked his accelleration, came around him at the line, and took the race by a wheel length. Like Sagan, Haussler adds his second place finish to his second place finishes from stages one and two.
Sagan is 12 seconds ahead of Haussler in the overall standings, but more importantly he's approaching 30 seconds ahead of the heavyweight contenders. It remains to be seen if he can keep up on the upcoming serious climbs, but if he's making a bid for a win he could do no better than to be collecting stage wins (and the accompanying time bonuses) when he's got the chance.
As in stage two, a breakway spent almost the entire day off the front. Jeremy Vennell (Bissel) was out there again, and it wasn't until about 105mi into the 115mi stage that the peloton caught them. From there Fabio Duarte jumped off the front, and the former under 23 division world champion showed why he's hailed as a future star as he hustled over the second of the day's climb. He collected King of the Mountain points, and the peloton showed him some respect by taking his attack seriously and quicky chasing him down. The sprinters' teams took over from there, each attempting to set up their man for the finish. Haussler and Sagan were both present without a ton of support from their teams, but being near the front was good enough for Haussler to make his bid for a win and Sagan to deny him the victory.
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
Wednesday features the longest stage of the race so far, with a series of steep but short climbs and a long downhill into a flat finish. GC contenders may try to push the pace over those climbs to see what Sagan really has, and if teams can bring their sprinters over the hills they'll be looking for another victory at the line.
SB Nation Los Angeles 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.