Valverde wins third stage of Spanish Vuelta

Updated: September 6, 2004, 3:01 PM ET
Associated Press

SORIA, Spain -- Alejandro Valverde won the rainy third stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Monday while the U.S. Postal Service team, led by Benoit Joachim, held the top seven spots in the overall standings.

Lance Armstrong, winner of six straight Tour de France titles, rides for U.S. Postal but is not competing in the Vuelta, the year's last major European cycling race.

Valverde, a Spaniard who rides for Kelme, outsprinted Stuart O'Grady of Australia and Denis Menchov of Russia for the stage victory. Valverde, second in the world road cycling championships in 2003 and third in last year's Vuelta, completed the 97-mile leg from Burgos to Soria in 3 hours, 43 minutes, 17 seconds.

Max Van Heeswijk of U.S. Postal entered the day with the overall lead but finished 16 seconds behind Joachim and slipped to second.

Tuesday's 103-mile fourth stage is from Soria to Zaragoza. The 21-stage race ends Sept. 26 in Madrid.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press