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July 04, 2006

Stage 3 on the road

Jerome Pineau of Bouygues Telecom, former yellow jersey Jens Voigt of CSC, Unai Etxebarria of Euskaltel-Euskadi, Christophe Laurent of Agritubel, and José Luis Arrieta of AG2R are about 4:30 off the front. Voigt is one of the riders being tracked on the Ubilabs Google Maps mashup. Pineau has taken max climber's points over the first climb, while Voigt went hard to take the 6 seconds (and 6 points) at the first two sprint lines.

At the day's second climb, a 3rd Category, Pineau again took max points, ahead of Etxebarria, Laurent, and Voigt.

Fast Freddie Rodriguez was involved in a crash, apparently with Rabobank's Erik Dekker. Doctors were looking at Rodriguez' right collarbone, and Dekker had facial injuries. Both have been taken away by ambulance, and are both out of this year's Tour. Rodriguez was Robbie McEwen's leadout man, although McEwen seems just as likely to use another sprinter for that. Dekker was probably in his final Tour at 35.

The day's last intermediate sprint went to Arrieta ahead of Voigt and Laurent. That means Boonen's only chance to move up to the yellow jersey is to make 5 seconds on a finish line bonus. First takes 20 seconds, second takes 12, and third is 8 seconds. Backstedt and Pozzatto have both been at the back of the pack today. I was hoping Backstedt was taking it easy yesterday in preparation for an effort today, but it may be he's not in good Tour shape.

Gap is down to less than 2 minutes, but Jerome Pineau led the break over the day's 4th climb, so he's currently leading the King of the Mountains competition, with a 3rd Category and 4th Category climb to go.

With less than 20 kilometers to go, it's down to 1:20, and the breakaway is splitting. Laurent was first to attack; Arrieta bridged, and Voigt finally came across. Etxebarria and Pineau have fallen off the back.

There's a big crash in the peloton. Alejandro Valverde has hit the pavement! He's sitting on the roadside in obvious pain. Again, they're looking at his right collarbone. He was the oddsmakers favorite to take the Tour, and a smart pick for today's stage as well. They've brought a stretcher and Valverde, one of the sport's rising superstars, is out of the Tour in Stage 3.

Meanwhile, Arrieta has attacked out of the leading group of 3. He leads over the day's 5th climb, 10 seconds up on Agritubel's Christophe Laurent and 15 seconds on Voigt. Etxebarria and Pineau are in no-man's land with the peloton at 1:15 behind Arrieta.

The Tour website reports that Stuart O'Grady has been involved in yet another accident, but the OLN broadcasters haven't mentioned it.

Laurent is caught, Voigt is caught, and only Arrieta is still up the road. Boonen is just off the front of the pack, Michael Boogerd is right there, and the gap is down to 49 seconds with 5 kilometers to ride. O'Grady is off the back, so it looks like he was caught in an accident, but he's back on the bike.

Arrieta is rocking as the peloton closes him down. Arrieta has 14 seconds in hand. He's onto the Cauberg, and a Credit Agricole rider has tried to bridge. Oscar Friere, Michael Boogerd, Philippe Gilbert, and Tom Boonen (all Benelux riders or on Benelux teams) are killing themselves up the Cauberg as they capture Arrieta. Sandy Casar has punctured on the Cauberg. The Française des Jeux leader will lose a minute or more on the day.

T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler attacks out of the local boys! He takes the points over the top of the Cauberg, ahead of Sebastian Joly and Michael Boogerd. After getting caught with 50 meters yesterday, he's attacked with 2 kilometers to ride today. At the 1 kilometer mark he's got a few seconds in hand, and the Cauberg has broken up the leadout trains. This one may work.

Kessler is going hard all the way to the line, and he's got the win for T-Mobile. The select group that survived over the Cauberg is coming just behind, and there's another T-Mobile rider who takes the sprint. It's Australia's world TT champion, Michael Rogers, just ahead of Daniele Bennati of Lampre.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2006 in Alejandro Valverde, Erik Dekker, Fred Rodriguez, Jens Voigt, Magnus Backstedt | Permalink

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Comments

That really sucks to see Fast Freddy go. I was really pulling for him to take an opportunity of his own this year on a stage. He's such a nice guy. I must've watch him sign 50 autographs before the final stage of the TDG in April. Sorry Freddy.

Posted by: Eric at Jul 4, 2006 10:21:31 AM