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July 06, 2009

Stage 3: Columbia puts on a show

Columbia-HTC showed off Mark Cavendish's new green jersey on Monday, shelling most of the race's GC men with a powerful 20-mile effort that culminated in a 2nd straight victory for Cavendish.

Early on, the stage showed all the cliché elements of the early-Tour sprinters’ stage. A four-man breakaway featuring two French riders was allowed to take more than 12 minutes out of a field that didn't want to chase. Samuel Dumoulin would end the day with the “most agressive” red race numbers for his hours in service to this break and 4th place at the finish.

Finally, with 50 miles/80 kilometers to go, the field started slowly reeling in the break. With the expectation of a sprint finish and the prospect of a difficult team time trial tomorrow, few teams were willing to cooperate with Columbia, which was heavily favored to take the stage. It looked like a formula chase, with the capture to come in the final 10 kilometers, unfolding to another sprint showdown.


But steaming along the Mediterranean coast in the Camargue, the winds can be stiff, and with about 20 miles to ride, a crosswind forced a gap near the head of the peloton. Ahead of the break was the entire Columbia squad, which hit full gas to widen the breach. Michael Rogers said after the stage he asked his teammates to give “5 kilometers as hard as they could,” and by that point, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Frank and Andy Schleck, and Alberto Contador were almost 30 seconds off the pace.

Not so Lance Armstrong. Armstrong found himself with 26 other riders ahead of the split, with longtime teammate George Hincapie and current teammates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. Also in the lead group was yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara, whose Saxo Bank team initially chased, then seemed satisfied to hold the Columbia bunch at around 30 seconds.

When it was time to deliver the goods, Thor Hushovd kept it close, but Cavendish found that green suits him, and took his second straight stage win. Matching last year's four wins looks in reach for Columbia's sprinter, and he may not have enough top tube for all the “kill” decals he's going to need on that frame.

The field rolled through 41 seconds behind the escape, and the contenders who were caught out commented to a man that this is a three-week race, and that a small gap on the road like this won't make a difference in the overall. We'll know in 3 weeks.

So Columbia, like Nuke LaLoosh, has announced its presence with authority. To show for a ton of effort, they have a second stage win, and the white jersey, which moves over to Tony Martin, after Roman Kreuziger was also caught out. We'll see tomorrow what those cost them.

Stage 3 Top 10:
1) Mark Cavendish, Columbia, 5:01:24
2) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
3) Cyril Lemoine, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
4) Samuel Dumoulin, Cofidis, s.t.
5) Jerome Pineau, Quick Step, s.t.
6) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, s.t.
7) Fabian Wegmann, Milram, s.t.
8) Fumiyuki Beppu, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
9) Maxime Bouet, Agritubel, s.t.
10) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, s.t.

General Classification
1) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, in 9:50:58
2) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at :33
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :40
4) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :59
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin, at 1:00
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:03
7) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, at 1:03
8) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:04
9) Maxime Monfort, Columbia-HTC, at 1:10
10) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at 1:11

Jussi Veikkanen holds the polka-dots of the King of the Mountains, Martin takes over the white jersey, Cavendish holds green, and Astana hangs onto the team classification lead.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2009 in 2009 Stage 3, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Tony Martin | Permalink

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Comments

Cav has been amazing and Columbia is clearly a strong and united team. But how long can they keep performing like this? Or do they understand that they're no threat at all to the real GC guys, so just figure they'll go as hard as they can for as long as they can and if they burn out early at least they kicked butt and went all out for the first week or two?

No matter their end game, they're really adding something fun and exciting to the mix.

Posted by: Tom at Jul 7, 2009 1:02:37 AM