Schumacher wins Giro d'Italia third stage, takes lead

Updated: May 8, 2006, 3:00 PM ET news services

NEMUR, Belgium -- Germany's Stefan Schumacher won a rainy third stage of the Giro d'Italia on Monday and took the overall lead from defending champion Paolo Savoldelli in one of the top races in European cycling.

Stefan Schumacher
AP Photo/Roberto Bettini, PoolSchumacher climbs the last hill followed by Spain's Jos Luis Rubiera on Monday.

Schumacher, who rides for the Gerolsteiner team, edged Jose Rubiera, Davide Rebellin and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini at the line.

He capitalized on a 20-second bonus from his victory to move 13 seconds ahead of Savoldelli, a former teammate of retired Tour de France great Lance Armstrong.

"It's crazy to have won the stage and taken the leader's pink jersey but it's a great double," Schumacher told reporters.

"I knew I could do well on the uphill finish but I didn't really think I'd win. I followed Paolo Bettini on the climb because he was the favourite and then went past him and Rubiera.

"My wheels were slipping on the wet cobbles but I kept going because I knew I was going to get the pink jersey."

Schumacher completed the 127 miles from Perwez to Nemur in 5 hours, 14 minutes, 41 seconds. Rubiera, the Spanish teammate of Savoldelli with Discovery Channel, was two seconds behind. Italians Rebellin and Bettini were six seconds back.

Alessandro Petacchi, Italy's best sprinter, finished nearly 15 minutes behind the winner after bruising his left knee in a crash 31 miles from Nemur. He withdrew from the race and will return to Italy for surgery Tuesday, organizers said.

Tuesday's stage, 120 miles from Wanze to Hotton, will be the Giro's last in Belgium. The cyclists will cross into Italy during Wednesday's rest day. The 21-stage race ends May 28 in Milan.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.