World champion Oscar Freire captured the third stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race on Friday for his second victory in 24 hours.
Freire beat France's Laurent Brochard and Germany's Danilo Hondo at the finish in this central Italian town, a replay of Thursday's second-stage sprint.
The 29-year-old Spaniard of the Rabobank team, finished the 228km from Tivoli to Torricella Sicura in five hours, 52 minutes, 7 seconds, retaining the overall leader's yellow-and-red jersey and boosting his overall advantage with a time bonus.
Freire improved his overall lead to 11 seconds ahead of Alessandro Petacchi and 13 ahead of Brochard by 13.
Freire, the defending champion of the Milan-to-San Remo classic on March 19, surprisingly rallied on the final uphill section.
"I nearly fell 1km from the finish and I lost several positions. Luckily I had time to recover," Freire told television interviewers.
"I feel very good. I'm in good form and everything comes easy to me. Of course I hope to win the San Remo but the opposition will be tough," he added.
He named Italy's top sprinter Petacchi, winner of the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and eighth Friday, as his closest challenger along with World Cup champion Paolo Bettini and Belgium's Tom Boonen. George Hincapie of the US placed sixth in the stage and moved to 10th overall, 23 seconds behind.
The seven-stage Tirreno-Adriatico, the first Italian race of the ProTour series, ends in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday after crossing from the Thyrrenian to the Adriatic coast.
Italy's Gilberto Simoni won Friday's fifth stage of the Paris-Nice cycling race, while American Bobby Julich took the overall lead.
Simoni, a Lampre team rider and two-time winner of the Giro d'Italia, finished the 172.5km in 4 hours, 7 minutes, 26 seconds.
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