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July 10, 2007

Stage 3 on the road

Stage 3, the longest stage of the Tour at 236.5 kilometers/147 miles, runs from Waregem to Compiègne.

After a few miles in France yesterday, the Tour spends most of the day there today, on very flat roads, with a single 4th Category climb with less than 40 kilometers/25 miles to ride.

Nicolas Vogondy of Agritubel and Matthieu Ladagnous attacked after 6 kilometers/4 miles, and the peloton was happy to see them go. They've built a lead that just tickled 14 minutes, but took care never to get 15 minutes ahead of the field, even stopping for a nature break at one point.

Versus talked to Fred Rodriguez, who says Tour organizers share in the blame for yesterday's crash: “I feel the Tour has not taken the precautions to make courses that are safe for us sprinters out there.” Rodriguez said the road yesterday had no room for correction. “It felt like we were going through a funnel.”

Vogondy took the day's first intermediate sprint, ahead of Ladagnous, with Euskaltel's Mikel Astarloza leading the field over the line. At the second intermediate sprint, Ladagnous led Vogondy over the line, and Agritubel's Romain Feillu jumped from the field to take 2 points ahead of the field.

With 72 miles to ride, the gap is 9:52.

Vogondy takes the day's final sprint over Ladagnous, and Astarloza again leads the field in for 3rd. With 65 kms to ride, the gap is 3:47.

Dan asks via e-mail why the pace is so slow. Paul Sherwen has commented that the 3rd day is the hardest physiologically, and the body then adapts to the high level of effort. I think it's just the result of all the banged-up riders. Everyone is quite happy to have the day come down to a sprint finish after a quiet run around the countryside. Even the breakaway riders appear to be complicit in the scheme today.

Stephane Augé goes off the front, alongside Frederik Willems. They're trying to bridge up, and stay away over the little 4th Category climb with 35 kilometers to race. That would put Augé, who's tied with David Millar in the KoM competition, in the polka-dot jersey for tomorrow.

At 52 kms/33 miles to ride, the two pairs meet up, and the gap is down to 2:20. But with 4 men working together, the gap starts to rise, and with 40 kms to ride, it's about 3:10 back to David Millar and the field. Millar and Saunier Duval don't seem interested in defending the jersey.

Augé takes 3 points by leading the group over the 4th category climb, ahead of Willems and Ladagnous. He's the new King of the Mountains.

The foursome is working smoothly together, 3:17 ahead of the field, with 30 kilometers/19 miles to ride. The peloton is going to have to pour on some coal to bring these boys back, and soon.

With 24 km/15 miles to ride, the gap is starting to come down, now 2:55. At 20kms/12.5 miles, it's still 2:26. The break is on the ragged edge between success and capture, and still working smoothly together.

With 10 kilometers/6.2 miles, the gap is 1:20. Jens Voigt has joined in with the sprinters' teams, as CSC wants to keep Cancellara in yellow. With just under 5 kilometers to ride, the officials' cars are pulled, and it looks like the break is lost.

The breakaway was caught in the last kilometer, and chaos briefly ruled, and suddenly, the yellow jersey of Fabian Cancellara came off the front, passed the 4 breakaway men, and got a gap. The sprinters spun up, closing the gap, coming up to the yellow jersey, but Cancellara was already at his top speed, and Boonen, Zabel, and McEwen couldn't close on the world TT champion. Cancellara takes a sweet victory in the yellow jersey, and extends his lead with a few precious bonus seconds!

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Posted by Frank Steele on July 10, 2007 | Permalink


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Any theories on the pace today? They're riding like it's the last stage of the Tour, not the third. The Versus Boys have noted the slow pace but have no idea what's going on.

Posted by: Dan at Jul 10, 2007 10:55:47 AM

I was so hoping Auge would hang on and win, especially after yesterday when he thrashed himself alone. King of the mountain isn't too bad an effort though.

Is it common for a breakaway to last 200 k's and then be caught at the line like that? It seemed all so slow, then they all went nuts.

Posted by: Crowlie at Jul 11, 2007 12:27:32 AM