9 Big Photos from Stage 3sirotti

Full Results (click on "Stage Standing") —
Cavendish wins dramatic stage into La Grande-Mottecyclingnews
Twee op twee voor de snelle Mark
  Last 2 Km (03:10 dutch) — nos
Cav' crushes in stage 3 as late break astonishes fieldvelonews
  Mark Cavendish post-race interview (00:47) — eurosport
  Last Km (00:59 no audio) — eurosport
  Allan Peiper, the man in the car behind Cav's wins (02:33) — eurosport
Stage 3: Winners and Losers!podiumcafe
Differing accounts from Cavendish and Rogers on stage 3cyclingnews
Contador didn't follow the break, says French racer: It was Contador's failure to stick to the wheel in front of him which caused the split with around 30km to go — bikeradar
  Stage 3 Highlights (01:49) — eurosport
Graham Watson Stage 3 Photosgrahamwatson
A well edited montage of video highlights set to music (02:23) — eurosport
Tour analysis: Why the bunch split and who gained the
  Stage 3 Highlights, Interviews, Analysis (multiple clips) — versus
Armstrong Surge Comes in Early Tour Surprisenytimes
  Stage 3 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
  ITV stage 3 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris BoardmanITV
9 Big Photos from Stage 3sirotti

Post Stage Analysis

Two Straight for Cavendish
Columbia splits the field, Armstrong advances, Cancellara still in Yellow

Team Columbia-HTC once again showed its strength in this Tour de France, this time turning the screws in the crosswinds of the Camargue and riding away with the race. After a perfect lead-out from Mark Renshaw, Mark Cavendish won his second straight stage win over the small group who survived the Columbia whirlwind. Cavendish also added to his advantage in the points classification, which he now leads by a solid margin over Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam, who finished second today.

The Columbia-propelled split also revealed the fissures at Team Astana as Lance Armstrong joined the Columbia move with two team-mates and rode away from 2007 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. Armstrong finished the day only 19 seconds up on Contador, but the decision to ride, rather than sit on the Columbia move, surely made for awkward dinner conversation at Team Astana tonight. Fabian Cancellara, meanwhile, made the split and defended his Yellow Jersey for another day. The Saxo Bank rider leads Tony Martin of Columbia-HTC by 33 seconds and Lance Armstrong of Team Astana by 40 seconds.

The Story

The day began ordinarily enough, when a four man breakaway escaped early in the stage. The break included: Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis, Koen de Koert of Skil-Shimano, Maxime Bouet of Agritubel, and Ruben Perez Moreno of Euskaltel-Euskadi. The smallest rider in the bunch, Samuel Dumoulin won stage 3 of last year’s Tour de France. In bike racing, luck is where you find it.

The main field proved apathetic and the escape built up an advantage of 10 minutes after just 26 kilometers of racing. Mark Cavendish said after the stage that it reminded him of junior racing, because nobody wanted to work on the front. Saxo Bank, the team of race leader Fabian Cancellara, took responsibility for controlling the break, but none of the sprinters wanted to help Columbia-HTC deliver Cavendish to the line. After his dominance in the final kilometer yesterday, their reluctance is not especially surprising.

Midway through the stage, the breakaway crossed the two categorized climbs with about 8 minutes of their advantage intact. Koen de Kort of Skil Shimano won the points on both of the category 4 climbs. Counting down the kilometers to the finish, the race headed into the Camargue region, the marshy delta of the Rhône River. The Camargue is flat, open terrain, and runs along the sea. Winds are common here.

With 40 kilometers to go, both Saxo Bank and Columbia-HTC began riding harder on the front. The bunch began to shift and curve as the winds, alternating between headwinds and crosswinds, began to hit the riders. The gap to the breakaway, meanwhile, began to shrink, and the four escapers retained just over 3 minutes of their advantage. Liquigas-Doimo also began to contribute to the chase in support of their sprinter Daniele Bennati.

At first, the wind did not seem strong enough to make a difference. Then, suddenly it did. Inside 35 kilometers to go, Columbia-HTC turned the screws as the wind began to blow over their left shoulders. Gaps began to open up, as riders scrambled to stay in contact and Columbia-HTC put it in the gutter in yet another show of team dominance. If the other sprinters’ teams weren’t going to contribute to the chase, well, Columbia-HTC would simply ride to the finish without them. Cycling is a cruel sport somedays.

But the sprinters were not the only ones left behind today. Lance Armstrong of Astana proved quick to see the potential in the Columbia move. Armstrong and his loyal lieutenants Jaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia made the split. Alberto Contador, the ostensible leader of Astana, did not. Linus Gerdemann of Milram, who has general classification hopes, also made the move with his team-mate Fabian Wegmann. Skil-Shimano, wildcard team this year, managed to put four riders into this elite group. Race leader Fabian Cancellara made the split, but his Saxo Bank team’s general classification hope Andy Schleck did not.

With 35 kilometers to race, the gap had opened to 38 seconds. Behind, Silence-Lotto chased hard on the front with the help of Saxo Bank. Silence-Lotto team leader Cadel Evans even took a few turns on the front. Garmin-Slipstream and Liquigas-Doimo also helped. Under the pressure from the determined chase, the main field split again, but despite their best efforts, none could make a difference against the combined force of the Columbia-HTC team.

Up ahead, Astana began to cooperate with Columbia-HTC to increase the advantage of Lance Armstrong over the other general classification favorites, including Alberto Contador. In a moment of déjà vu, Jaroslav Popovych swapped pulls with former team-mate George Hincapie. Cancellara, meanwhile, sat on, despite the demands from Armstrong that everyone contribute to the pace-making. Loyal to his team-mates in the main field, Cancellara had no interest in helping either Armstrong or Cavendish.

Inside the 2 kilometers to go banner, the front group held 38 seconds over the chase and began to organize for the sprint. Skil-Shimano went to the front to set up their sprinter Cyril Lemoine, but they proved no match for Columbia-HTC. Mark Renshaw took over and delivered Cavendish to the 200 meter mark. With a headwind at the finish, Cavendish started his sprint closer to the line today. Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam finished second, Cyril Lemoine of Skil-Shimano, third.

The main field, containing the general classification favorites, crossed the line 41 seconds later. Though the winds led to a dramatic day of racing, in the long run, the split today seems unlikely to prove decisive. Alberto Contador trails his team-mate Lance Armstrong by 19 seconds, while Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto sits 24 seconds behind the American. With the high mountains still to come, those time gaps likely won’t count for too much.

At the same time, today’s stage certainly raises questions about the notion that Team Astana is united behind Alberto Contador. During the Giro d’Italia, we saw Astana split between Levi Leipheimer’s general classification ambitions and Lance Armstrong’s personal goals. Chris Horner, who did not make the Tour de France team, rode for Leipheimer, while Popovych frequently rode at the side of Armstrong. Today we saw a similar dynamic. Armstrong, with Popovych and Zubeldia for support, rode to his advantage, and against his team-mate Contador back in the main field. For Astana’s adversaries, the key to winning this Tour de France may lie in exploiting this division between Armstrong and Contador.

General Classification Update

Fabian Cancellara
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC :33
Lance Armstrong Astana :40
Alberto Contador Astana :59
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream 1:00
Andreas Klöden Astana 1:03
Linus Gerdemann Milram 1:03
Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto 1:04
Maxime Monfort Columbia-HTC 1:10
Levi Leipheimer Astana 1:11

Fabian Cancellara successfully defended his race lead today, with his trademark combination of strong legs and smart tactics. Cancellara holds a 33 second advantage over Tony Martin of Columbia-HTC, who moved up from eighth place thanks to his team’s hard riding in the finale. Lance Armstrong, who also made the split, moves up to third and sits 40 seconds behind Cancellara. Armstrong’s team-mate Alberto Contador, who did not make the split, is 19 seconds behind him.

Linus Gerdemann of Milram and Maxime Monfort of Columbia-HTC both move into the top ten after their smart riding today. The remaining general classification favorites finished in the main field 40 seconds behind the break. No doubt they would have preferred not to have conceded 40 seconds to Armstrong, but it remains to be seen just how well the American will ride in this Tour de France. He will need a significant improvement from the form he showed at the Giro d’Italia, if he hopes to rival the best riders at this Tour. The climb to Arcalis will be the first important test for the returning seven-time Tour winner, who said after today’s stage that he wants to wear Yellow in Paris.

Other General Classification favorites: Michael Rogers of Columbia-HTC @ 1:13, Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo @ 1:13, Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo @ 1:18, Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 1:25, Christian Vandevelde of Garmin-Slipstream @ 1:38, Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank @ 1:41, Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam @ 1:47, Vladimir Karpets of Katusha @ 1:48.

Other Jerseys: With his stage win today, Mark Cavendish increased his lead in the Points classification to 70 points. Thor Hushovd finished second and remains Cavendish’s closest challenger with 54 points. Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Slipstream, who finished second yesterday, finished out of the points today. Jussi Veikkanen of Français des Jeux leads the mountains classification ahead of Tony Martin and Koen de Kort of Skil-Shimano. Tony Martin, meanwhile, takes over the lead in the Young Riders classification from Roman Kreuziger. Kreuziger trails by 40 seconds. Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis received the award for most combative rider after his long day out in the breakaway.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow the riders face a 39 kilometer team time trial in Montpellier. The stage is an important test for the general classification riders, who will need their teams to ride well here. After today’s hijinx, some teams may bring tired legs to this important stage. With only 39 kilometers of racing on the menu, the time gaps should not be huge, but with few decisive stages in this Tour, the general classification riders will need to seize their advantages where they may.

Garmin-Slipstream has identified this stage as a major objective. The American team worked in the chase today, but they will hope to have good legs tomorrow. Though Columbia-HTC blew the race apart today, we can’t count out a good ride from them on tomorrow’s stage. Armstrong will certainly want to wear the Yellow Jersey, but he will need to take 40 seconds out of Cancellara’s Saxo Bank team. No slouches against the watch, Saxo Bank should be up to the task of defending the race lead. — Gavia

For more information about tomorrow’s stage, please turn the page.

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Course Preview

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Previa Etapa 3: Marsella

Día: Lunes 6 de Julio 2009
Distancia: 196 kms.

Las Cotas

Cota de Calissanne, 1.3 kms, pendiente media 5.5%, Categoría 4.
Col de la Vayède, 0.7 kms, pendiente media 7.4%, Categoría 4.

La Etapa 3 continúa por la línea costera del Mediterráneo. Inicia en la ciudad portuaria de Marsella, sigue al este del río Rhne, después terminara en el pueblo de La Grande-Motte. En el perfil de esta etapa tendremos dos premios de montaña categoría cuatro. Los equipos de los sprinters no se dormirán ni perderán la vista sobre esta etapa para que un velocista pueda celebrar la victoria en la avenida Robert Fages en La Grande-Motte.

Marsella es frecuentemente anfitrión en el Tour de Francia. La más reciente visita fue en el 2007 cuando Cédric Vasseur militaba con el Quick Step, después de una larga fuga ganó la etapa 10.  Después de salir de Marsella, la etapa pasa a través de la región de Camarga que es una zona de pantanos y lagos que los forma el delta del río Rhne. Los humedales del Camargo son el hogar de 400 especies de pájaros, incluyendo el Flamingo. Ésta pequeña región maravillosa es conocida como la “Florida Francesa”. Puede haber viento en esta área pero por lo general no es muy fuerte.

La etapa finaliza en La Grande-Motte, una ciudad turística, conocida por su par de hoteles de forma piramidal, además 300 días al año son soleados en esta magnífica ciudad. La última vez que el Tour de Francia visitó este lugar fue en 1969. El corredor belga Guido Reybrouck del equipo Faema fue el ganador de aquella etapa, mientras que Eddy Merckx vestía la maillot amarillo de líder general.

Detalles del Perfil 

Es un sube y baja en los primeros 100 kilómetros de etapa aproximadamente. Después todo el plano hasta el final. Y no cualquier tipo de plano, es en realidad muy, muy plano.

La etapa empieza con una pequeña cota seguida por un descenso. Al kilómetro 19.5, es una pequeña subida sin categoría que se pasará sin dificultad. Si la fuga no está estabilizada todavía en este punto entonces esta tachuela en la calle puede ayudar a los atacantes a conseguir la escapada. Para los próximos 20 kilómetros, la carrera desciende suavemente hacia el primer sprint intermedio en La Faire-les-Oliviers. El sprint viene después de 48.5 kilómetros de carrera y los puntos son contabilizados para la clasificación del maillot verde.

La primera cota con categoría del día, la Côte de Calissanne, aparece en el kilómetro 56. La cota es corta y bastante empinada con 1.3 kilómetros de longitud y una pendiente media del 5.5%. Luego se desciende rápidamente y se viaja por terreno llano en los siguientes 25 kilómetros para pasar por Grans y Eyguières. En el kilómetro 90.5 es donde se encuentra el segundo sprint intermedio en Mouriès. Desde Mouriès tendremos 106.5 kilómetros para concluir la etapa.

Inmediatamente después del segundo sprint intermedio llega el segundo puerto de montaña con categoría del día, la Col de la Vayède. Esta cota se sitúa a 183 metros sobre el nivel del mar y es una escalada de apenas 0.7 kilómetros. La Col de la Vayède es corta, pero empinada, su pendiente promedio en de 7.4%. Después 2 kilómetros de pendiente donde se desciende de forma gradual.

Los últimos 85 kilómetros para el final se tornan llanos. Hay un sprint intermedio en el kilómetro 118.5 en Arles. Durante el plano restante la elevación ronda los 20 metros sobre el nivel del mar y la competencia circula a través de Villaneuve y Sylvéréal.

El final en La Grand-Motte es sobre la avenida Robert Fages. Aquí tendremos una gran recta para la llegada, sin esquinas para no frenar a los sprinters. El último kilómetro es plano y la ausencia de montaña en esta etapa fue pensada para tener un rápido sprint final, digno de esta primera semana.

Corredores a Seguir

Hoy es un día para que los sprinters brillen. Podrá alguien retar la supremacía que Mark Cavendish ha mostrado en los sprints de toda la temporada? Ciertamente, sería difícil apostar contra él en una etapa como esta con pocas cotas y un gran plano al final. Aún así, los sprinters se reúnen para dar lo mejor de sus piernas y demostrar que nada es regalado en el kilómetro final. Podremos observar a Daniele Bennati, Oscar Freire, Heinrich Haussler y Tyler Farrar combatiendo por alcanzar la gloria en La Grand-Motte.

Translated by José Miguel Chacón, Costa Rica

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->