Haedo takes cycling classic`s third stage

Bourg-Saint-Andeol: Australian Baden Cooke was finally given a chance to look beyond the road rash and painful legs after Saxo Bank teammate Juan Jose Haedo scored a superb sprint win at the Dauphine Criterium.

Cooke, racing in this key Tour de France warm-up despite not competing in July`s three-week epic, was one of several riders caught up in the numerous crashes which marred Monday`s opening stage.

And the bruising and pain only intensified on Tuesday as the peloton launched an ultimately successful pursuit of a five-man breakaway in difficult wind conditions which Haedo, ultimately, put to good use.

The Argentine fast man is known to relish difficult conditions despite not benefiting from the type of sprint lead-out `train` used by British sprint king Mark Cavendish at HTC-Columbia.

And when it came down to a bunch finish, Haedo`s bike handling skills allowed him to find the tightest of gaps before cruising over the finish line ahead of German Martin Reimer of Cervelo.

"You have to be flexible, but you also need a fair bit of luck and today I found that little gap to go through and so I had some of that," said Haedo.

"But the team worked hard to keep me protected for the second day in a row, and so I have to say a big thank you to them."

For Cooke, who came into the race without top form having "only" raced 12 days at last month`s Giro d`Italia and suffering after a tough first day of racing Monday, Haedo`s win made it all worth it.

"Today I really felt it," Cooke told reporters.

"The plan was always to try and set JJ (Juan Jose) up for the win, but we really had to put up a fight.”

"I was trying to keep JJ out of the wind all day and in the end the headwind proved to be in our favour but we were getting anxious.”

"He showed today that, if you get the timing right, you can win a sprint in a headwind."

Australian Olympic and former Tour de France rider Brad McGee, who is now Cooke and Haedo`s sports director at Saxo Bank, was quick to give his riders a pat on the back.

"It was a hard stage to control with the profile, the wind and the politics of the other teams, it meant you really had to get into it (chase) early," said McGee.

"I was a bit nervous when the five riders went up the road, but we didn`t muck around, we got organised and started chasing pretty early.”

"Ultimately the sprint was perfect for JJ, he knows how to come from behind in a headwind sprint. But all the boys deserve a share of that, they really worked hard today."

Spaniard Alberto Contador of Astana retained his 02sec overall lead on American Tejay Van Garderen ahead of stage three, a 49km time trial on Wednesday.

Bureau Report