Hushovd Rules The Day in California's Stage 3

James ThompsonCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2009

Norweigen sprinter, Thor Hushovd, ruled Stage Three of the Tour of California with a sprint victory over Rabobank's Oscar Friere and Columbia's Mark Renshaw.

Stage Three started very abruptly with the infamous Sierra Road climb.

Last year, this mountain marked the end of stage three, where race favourite Levi Leipheimer took a commanding lead over the field to secure his victory. 

This year, Sierra Road was within the first ten miles of the stage, making it hard on the riders' legs, but with fifty miles of flat roads leading up to the finish line after the day's two big mountains, it looked to be a day for the sprinters.

That is what the sprint teams were hoping for.

Early in the day over Sierra Road, a breakaway formed featuring Bauke Mollema (Rabobank), Jeff Louder (BMC), Bradley White (OUCH-Maxxis) and Brian Vanborg (Liquigas) and Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) who crossed Sierra's KOM line first, took maximum points to pad his lead in the KOM competition, and then returned to the pack.

His breakaway buddies, though, had bigger plans in mind and set off to gain a bigger lead over the main peloton. They built up a maximum lead of a bit over five minutes at the second mountain of the day. 

However, after the second mountain, the fifty miles of completely flat roads leading into Modesto, Calif., ruined a breakaway's chances of succeeding. 

Cervelo TestTeam, Columbia and QuickStep were doing their work to set up the sprint, caught the breakaway and Cervelo's Thor Hushovd took advantage of the team's work and took the day.

Sprinters Oscar Friere (Rabobank) and Mark Renshaw (Columbia) rounded out the podium.

It was a slightly atypical sprint, as sprint favorites, Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen, did not feature. 

Race leader Levi Leipheimer (Astana) keeps his yellow jersey tonight after finishing in the pack despite crashing during the race due to colliding with teammate Lance Armstrong's wheel.