It was destined to be a day of drama and that’s just what we got from a stage of the Tour contested on the road used for the ‘Hell of the North’, Paris-Roubaix. Thor Hushovd took the win on a day many lost. Frank Schleck’s Tour is over after a fall on the fourth of seven sections of cobbled roads but his brother survived the carnage and rode along with Fabian Cancellara and an inspired Cadel Evans to take time on his main rivals Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong who both punctured on the rough roads of northern France and lost significant time. Cancellara took back the yellow jersey he lost in stage two while Gerraint Thomas gave Team Sky its first appearance on the Tour’s podium with his second place, inheriting the white jersey as best young rider. Hushovd’s other coup was the acquisition of the green jersey that he believed he would have taken yesterday.
The Progress Report
The 213km third stage of the 2010 Tour de France began at 12.42pm with 191 riders at the sign on. Vande Velde (GRM) didn’t start because of broken ribs sustained in a crash in stage two, and Terpstra (MRM) abandoned because of fever. On the menu for the stage were three intermediate sprints – in Saint-Servais (Namur, at 35km), Nivelles (71.5km) and Pipaix (151.5km) – and one climb, the cat-4 cote de Bothey (at 48km). But the real talking point was the seven sectors of ‘pavé’ totally 14.15km. The first of these came with 85km to go. The final six sectors were from 44km to 10km to go.
Hesjedal Instigates Escape
At the 13km mark, Hesjedal (GRM) established the first successful escape. He was joined by five others: Cummings (SKY), Brutt (KAT), Kluge (MRM), Rolland (BTL), Erviti (GCE) and Auge (COF). By 22km they had a lead of 3’25”. The Quickstep team controlled the peloton but by 33km, Hesjedal was the virtual leader. The average speed for the opening hour was 45.8km/h. The maximum gain was 4’50” at the 48km mark. After the second intermediate sprint, the pace of the peloton picked up signicantly thanks to the Quickstep team’s efforts. The entire Liquigas team gathered behind the Belgian squad. At 75km, the six were 3’30” ahead.
Crash Leading To First Pavé Sector
At the 112km mark, the first crash of the stage occurred. Le Lay (ALM) could not continue and was forced to quit the Tour. Shortly after this incident, the Rabobank team sent troops to the head of the peloton. Quickstep was joined by the Dutch squad on the approach to the first pavé sector. Just before the Omeignies sector Sky moved forward but RadioShack won the race to the rocks – arriving 2’00” behind the escapees. Rast led the peloton safely over the rough road.
Between the first and second sectors, the peloton was speeding along at an incredibly rapid tempo with Saxo Bank, Cervelo setting the pace. There was a brief discussion between Voigt and Chavanel at the front of the pack about 5km before the Hollain sector. After a momentary truce in the battle for position, Saxo Bank assumed position at the front and Voigt led onto the cobbles, 1’20” behind the escapees. Essentially there wasn’t a lot of damage done on the Belgian pave sectors but a lot was yet to come from the French cobbled roads.
Saxo Bank Win And Lose
The real drama began with a crash that took out Frank Schleck on the fourth sector of pavé. This splintered the peloton and ended the Tour for the rider who was fifth overall last year. It prompted Cancellara to speed ahead with Andy Schleck on his wheel. This Saxo Bank pair was joined by Evans (BMC), Thomas (SKY) and Hushovd (CTT). By then Hesjedal had dropped his escape companions and was burying himself at the front of the stage. Armstrong (RSH) and Contador (AST) were in a group that was 30” behind on the exit of the fourth sector.
By the start of the sixth sector, Armstrong was in a group that was 50” behind the stage leader and Contador’s group was at 1’00”. And then the Texan punctured. He was quickly given a wheel by a team-mate but his pursuit began, with the assitance of Popovych. Shortly after Chavanel punctured (for the first time) and his tenure in the yellow ended almost as quickly as it began. The Frenchman would finish 95th, 3’58” behind the stage winner.
Hushovd Gets His Revenge
Hesjedal was caught just after the last sector of pavé and he rode to the finish with A. Schleck, Cancellara, Evans, Thomas and Hushovd. Evans set the tempo for much of the finale and used the situation to put time between him Armstrong and Contador. In the final kilometer Hesjedal tried one last attack but that simply prompted Hushovd to start his sprint. He easily won the stage and got his revenge from yesterday when he was convinced he could have been a winner. Cancellara finished sixth from the group of six but took back his yellow jersey.
Armstrong dropped from fourth overall to 18th after losing 2’08” in the stage. Contador lost less time than Armstrong but dropped from seventh to ninth, at 1’40”. The stage winner also took charge of the points classification and Hushovd will wear the green jersey in stage four.
“I know that when Cancellara attacks, you cannot let him get 20 meters because you’ll never see him again. In think, in the end, he realized that he could ride with the view of getting the yellow jersey back and also to help Andy with his cause. For me, it was up to me to play on what they were doing and make it work to my advantage – and go for the stage win.
“Every stage win in the Tour is special but this one is bit different – we’re here, near the Arenberg and that adds to the prestige a little.
"My team worked hard without being rewarded yesterday, but today I managed to win the stage and it’s a great satisfaction. Yesterday, I did not agree with the decision to cancel the allocation of points, but this morning I said that it is already ancient history, and I totally refocused on the race. I have long noted this stage because I know my strength on the pavé, and I knew I had a chance to be a factor. So, I decided to ’go to war’ for this stage. It’s not always so simple though because even the best plans can come undone in an instant on the cobbles. And you must be fit. Today I had everything.
“This is a first step for the green jersey. I know that for now, I’m glad I did what I did, and I still have the means to defend the jersey for long. My team is very strong, and I feel very fast, so I think I can still win other stages."
Fabian Cancellara finished sixth on the day that the Tour was contested on the roads he dominated this April when he won his second title in Paris-Roubaix. He knows how to ride on the cobblestones and was free to race on his terms and the Swiss rider benefited from a day of chaos on the cobbles... taking back the yellow jersey and helping Andy Schleck take time on his rivals, but it was bittersweet. Andy’s brother Fränk crashed out just as the crucial phase of the stage began.
“It was a stage of mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s very pleasing because I got the yellow jersey back and also Andy gained time on his rivals. It was a great day when it came to the work of a sensational team. We had an opportunity to get the most out of ourselves and we chose to do that but there was a major negative aspect that I cannot ignore: losing Fränk. We could call this an homage. It’s not pleasurable… it’s a great pity to see a team-mate and a friend crash out of the Tour. But everyone was aware that his was going to be a day of danger and we had to get through the Tour day by day. We were ready… but there was nothing that could be done to stop the crash. That’s sport, that’s cycling: some days you win, some days you lose.
“It’s special to be able to take back the yellow jersey, especially here in Arenberg. With regard to defending it, we’ll assess it this evening but we’ve just finished three exceptional stages – three very tough days. They’ve been very nervous stages and very important ones: first the day from Holland to Belgium with huge crowds, then the day to Spa and then today’s which was always highly anticipated. Now we can calm down a little and play for a sprint in stage four. It’s what we can expect from the next couple of days and I should be able to keep the lead until the mountains when we’ll reassess and work for Andy.”
The new top five after stage three is: 1. Fabian Cancellara 2. Gerraint Thomas - at 23" 3. Cadel Evans - at 39" 4. Ryder Hesjedal - at 46" 5. Sylvain Chavanel - at 1’01"
Alberto Contador finished 1’13" behind the stage winner while the other former Tour winner, Lance Armstrong lost 2’08" to Thor Hushovd.
The top 10 of the third stage of the 2010 Tour de France is: 1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) CTT 2. Gerraint Thomas (GBR) SKY 3. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 4. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) GRM 5. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX 6. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) SAX 7. Johan Vansummeren (BEL) GRM - at 53" 8. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) SKY - at 53" 9. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) OLO - at 53" 10. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST - at 53"
Hushovd has taken out a dramatic stage. He is the winner ahead of a group of six.
There is less than a kilometer to go in a dramatic stage three. Evans continues to lead the group but now it’s time for Andy to take a turn. Cancellara has taken command and they will now consider the sprint. Until now, it’s been about gaining time on Armstrong and Contador.