87th Tour de France - Grand Tour

France, July 1 - 23, 2000

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Complete live report

Stage 3 - July 3: Loudun - Nantes, 161.5 km

13:20 CET - 0.0 km

The riders are moving toward the starting area in preparation for today's short stage. The weather is fairly clear, and not too windy. The word is that Steels is the man to beat today, after his strong - but controversial - performance in yesterday's sprint.

Scheduled start: 13:37 CET

13:44 CET

The bunch have moved out of Loudon under neutral conditions, and they are racing as of 13:39. All 177 riders are starting today.

The three intermediate sprints are at: Argenton-l'Eglise (31km), Jallais (87.5km) and Bel-Air (128.5km). 6, 4, 2 seconds. The finish in Nantes is along the 980 metre Francois Blancho Boulevard, an 8 metre wide road. The last five kilometres running into town may be tricky though - they go over the Loire river and turn sharp right, and then down around a roundabout. Then they hit the last kilometre. A lot of people expect Mapei to ride a bit more of a train, and it should be a conventional bunch sprint.

14:08 CET

20 kilometres have been covered in the first half hour. The race has been agressive, with riders from Bonjour and Credit Agricole putting in several attacks. Nothing has been successful so far.

14:16 CET

After 26 kilometres, there have been no successful breaks. Only five kilometres to go until the first sprint.

14:19 CET

Two riders attack at kilometre 27 - Jens Voigt (Credit Agricole) and Michael Blaudzun (MC J&J). They have a 23 second gap with four kilometres to go until the first sprint.

14:25 CET

The first sprint at Argenton-l'Eglise (31 km) goes to Jens Voigt, with Blaudzun taking second. 37 seconds behind them was Credit Agricole's Stuart O'Grady, who took the two seconds for third. The leaders have 50 seconds after 32 kilometres.

14:32 CET

40 km covered. The two escapees (Jens Voigt and Michael Blaudzun) are now 1.45 up on the bunch, as a very rapid pace is being maintained.

There is a Tour tradition called Le Regional d'Etape (someone who lives in the area) being allowed to go and visit his family. Today Franck Bouyer (Bonjour) would like to say Bonjour to his family in the tiny village of Vihiers after 57 km of racing. However, it is located between the first two sprints, so it is unlikely at this point that he can sneak by.

14:55 CET - 54 km

The gap is up to 6.10 now, as the peloton are content to ride tempo for a while. Cofidis are at the front. This means that Voigt is the leader on the road, as he started the day just 46 seconds down. They are approaching the first feed zone now.

Some storm clouds are approaching from the Atlantic Ocean - a possibility of rain later.

15:09 CET - 64 km

We are inside the last 100 kilometres now, and Dave Millar's Cofidis team have massed at the front in order to bring the leaders in. They have knocked 10 seconds off Jens Voigt and Michael Blaudzun's lead, now at 6 minutes. Voigt is riding for the jersey, while Blaudzun is riding for exposure. Memory Card Jack&Jones need to make the most of the first week.

An update on US Postal's Tyler Hamilton, who was in a crash yesterday where he hurt his elbow. He told us today that "I had a few scratches, but it was nothing serious and I'm fine. I was scared because last year I hit the deck on the Passage du Gois, and it seemed like it was superficial at the time, but it got worse later."

15:25 CET - 74 km covered

The gap is still six minutes, as Cofidis ride at the front to control things. The leaders Voigt and Blaudzun have just 13 kilometres to go to the next sprint at Jallais.

15:40 CET - 88 km gone/73 km to go

Jens Voigt took the second sprint at Jallais at kilometre 87.5 He led Memorycard's Michael Blaudzun to take another 6 second bonus. Ag2r's Jaan Kirsipuu was third, over five minutes behind in the bunch. The average speed so far is 44.5 km/h, and the gap is slowly but surely coming down.

16:10 CET - 112 km gone/49 km to go

The peloton have been fed once more, and they continue to close the gap to the two leaders. A good ride from Voigt and Blaudzun, but it looks to be doomed to failure.

Frank Vandenbroucke dropped back to his teamcar momentarily - possibly complaining about the chase by his team. Too hard, too early?

16:20 CET - 120 km gone/41 km to go

Jens Voigt and Michael Blaudzun have really ridden well today. They are continuing to lose time, but they are not laying down yet. Currently, it's 3.23 with just over 40 kilometres to travel. No sign of the sprinter's teams at the front.

Note on the finish: the last turn into the finishing straight after the bridge over the Loire is quite tricky, and could really split the sprinter's trains. Then follows a 1 km drag up the Frank Blancho Boulevard.

16:38 CET - 132 km gone/29 km to go

The final sprint at Bel-Air (128.5 km) was won by Memorycard's Michael Blaudzun, who preceded Jens Voigt of the Credit Agricole team. In third place was Christophe Mengin (Cofidis), who was 2.30 back.

The two leaders have been away since kilometre 27 and are still hanging on. Their gap: has gone up to 2:50 seconds, and it looks like they might stay away. We could well see Jens Voigt in the yellow tonight, as Cofidis are not chasing their hearts out.

16:44 CET - 137 km gone/24 km to go

Jens Voigt and Michael Blaudzun look to be on their way to a 1-2 in today's stage, with just over 20 kilometres to travel. Their gap: 2'20 and falling ever so slightly. Last year's winner of the Vichealth Herald Suntour, Michael Blaudzun could be on his way to a big win, depending on how hard Voigt wants to push him for the yellow.

Voigt needed just 46 seconds to take the Maillot Jaune today, and he already has 16, courtesy of time bonuses.

16:52 CET - 145 km gone/16 km to go

Cofidis is starting to chase harder now - they've woken up now, but are not being aided by the sprinter's teams. They need to to pull back 5 seconds per kilometre now, and might catch the two on the bridge near the finish. The gap: 1'22.

17:00 CET - 151 km gone/10 km to go

The escape has been caught at last! Telekom and Ag2r got serious and closed it down. Voigt and Blaudzun tried valiantly, but that last stretch is always hard with a bunch bearing down on you at 60 km/h

17:07 CET - 156 km gone/5 km to go

A lot of action at the front. On the front is a Polti rider, followed by a Festina rider. A lot of Bonjour riders are up there, riding for Nazon. Vini Caldirola and Mapei are there - Steels is 20th and moving up.

17:10 CET - 158 km gone/3 km to go

Traffic islands aplenty now, as Francaise des Jeux rides for Damien Nazon, the younger brother of JP. Telekom still at the front - Zabel about 10th, Steels is up there.

17:12 CET - 160 km gone/1 km to go

A big crash at 2km to go! Francaise des Jeux and McJ&J. Millar is down and lost 5 secs. Lance may take the yellow jersey, but Millar is chasing hard.

17:13 CET - Finish

The finish - Mapei lead out Tom Steels for another win, with Rodriguez and Zanini powering through.

Millar "I crashed with 1 km to go, and it was really hard to come back".

Finish order: Steels, Wust, Zabel

17:22 CET

Tom Steels (Mapei) won his second stage in a row, just beating Marcel Wust (Festina) and Erik Zabel (Telekom). Although a crash took out Dave Millar in the last kilometre, he managed to keep the jersey. When Millar crashed, Jalabert was in the front group. He lost 9 seconds of the 16 he had to Jalabert, but was given the same time as Lance Armstrong, so he retains his lead.

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