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90th Tour de France - July 5-27, 2003

Main Page    Stage Profile    Start List    Latest live report

Commentary by Roger Hughes, with additional reporting by Jeff Jones, Tim Maloney, Chris Henry and Gabriella Ekström

Stage 3 - Monday, July 8: Charleville-Mezières - Saint-Dizier, 167.5 km

Complete Live Report

Time conversion guide: GMT = CEST - 2 hrs, AEST = CEST + 8 hrs, EDT = CEST - 6 hrs, PDT = CEST - 9 hrs

Start time: 13:17 CEST
Estimated finish time: 17:00 CEST

12:59 CEST    
Welcome to the Cyclingnews coverage of stage 3 of the Tour, brought to you in association with T-Mobile. Today's stage starts at Charleville-Mézières, familiar to many of the riders as the venue for the early season Critérium Internationale in recent years. Although we are on the southern fringes of the Ardennes today's stage features only one fourth-category climb, which is unlikely to have a significant impact on anything, even the spotty jersey (unless Walter Beneteau scores maximum points and Christophe Mengin doesn't get any); the three bonus sprints along the route are likely to be more enthusiastically contested. Expect a pattern not unlike yesterday, with long attacks more in hope of being seen than of actually staying clear to the finish; Frédéric Finot's brave but futile attempt yesterday won't have dampened many spirits, and if you get out in front you can at least avoid most of the crashes...

The riders are now rolling out of Charleville on a fairly lengthy neutralised section; the weather is warm (mid-20s for those of you who speak Celsius) and dry but clouding over, with a bit of a westerly breeze to help the riders along, basically a cross-tail wind over most of this route.

13:30 CEST    6 km/161 km to go
There have been no non-starters this morning, but Daniele Di Luca is clearly still suffering from the infection he started the race with and is in a bit of trouble as the peloton speeds up for some early attacks. The day's token listed climb, the Côte de Boutancourt, is only at kilometre 8.5.

Paolo Bettini is one of those trying to get clear on the approach to the climb.

Bettini takes the money at the top of the climb, followed by Venezuelan Basque Unai Etxebarria and Christophe Mengin, who is now safe in his spotty jersey for another day at least. With the excitement over, the trio ease up and the bunch settle down again, all together.

13:54 CEST    23 km/144 km to go
Jan Ullrich and David Millar have both had mechanical problems, but are now back with the peloton. The start has been quite aggressive, but the bunch is still together.

14:13 CEST    40 km/127 km to go
After a fairly brisk first hour of racing - predictable on this relatively short stage - three riders have gone clear, but have not been allowed their head yet. They are Unai Etxebarria, Maryan Hary and Carlos Da Cruz, for Euskaltel, La Boulangère and FDJeux.com respectively.

Their escape followed the first of the three bonus sprints for the day; in the scrap for bonus seconds, it was veteran Jaan Kirsipuu who took the flowers ahead of Jean-Patrick Nazon and green-clad Robbie McEwen.

14:33 CEST    
Etxebarria, Hary and Da Cruz are still clear but have never got more than a minute in front of a fast moving bunch on long, straight open roads, and they should be mopped up fairly soon.

The first hour of the stage was run off at a mere 50.3 kph.

The trio are swept up. Tyler Hamilton is having trouble at the back of the bunch and letting gaps open in front of him. The bunch are in one long line winding it up for the second bonus sprint.

14:52 CEST    74 km/93 km to go
The Jean Delatour team is doing the bulk of the work in the lead-up to the sprint, with Nazon now being in line to move into first place on the road if he can pick up a couple of seconds.

McEwen and O'Grady go first but Nazon sneaks through (cutting up Kirsipuu in the process) to take the six seconds on the line ahead of the Australians to become maillot jaune virtuel, race leader on the road.

The bunch eases up a bit and some stragglers make it back up from the convoy of team cars, but the attacks start again fairly soon, with Kelme's Muñoz and then Nicolas Jalabert trying their luck.

15:01 CEST    84 km/83 km to go
The wind is freshening up a bit and it looks as though the bunch might split into echelons on some of the more open stretches, but there's probably too much tailwind in it to threaten any serious splits. Jalabert is still clear as they pass through the feed at half distance, hanging off the front hoping that someone will join him.

A crash in the feed zone; Michael Boogerd comes down after touching wheels with a Telekom rider. He is back up now, but talking to the race doctor; looks to have banged one leg up a bit.

The speed drops as riders settle down for lunch or stop for a quick call of nature, helping Rabobank get Boogerd back into the bunch and Jalabert stretch his lead up to nearly 2 minutes.

Stage 2 winner Baden Cooke was looking happy this morning when we spoke to him, but still in shock about his win. "It's amazing," he said. "I didn't really sleep last night. Every time I watched the rerun on TV I just couldn't believe it. My form is not super, I'm not flying. I just think I've been working hard for a few months now and I just kept trying and trying and I was there." Cooke remained realistic about the team's chances for today. "It's only early. We could even look really bad today," he said, but added, "We're going to go out and attack today, we're not going to just sit back. We're going to go for it."

15:13 CEST    94 km/73 km to go
ONCE take their turn to drop back en masse to their team car as Beloki appears to have a problem with his foot, and demonstrates how you change your socks while on the bike.

Correction: the leader isn't Nico Jalabert, but Brioches La Boulangère's Anthony Geslin. The bunch have eased up a lot now.

15:25 CEST    102 km/65 km to go
The course passes through the Argonne forest, and the pace lifts again on the winding roads as one of yesterday's breakaways, Jegou, punctures. Geslin's lead is over three minutes now, though.

Once again it is the Jean Delatour team leading the chase in the interests of Jean-Patrick Nazon; after the furore surrounding their selection (well, outside France, anyway) the small French teams have some incentive to show us why they should be riding.

15:35 CEST    
In a great local tradition, the leader and then the bunch are held up briefly by demonstrating strikers, although they only slow the riders rather than actually blocking the road completely. After the delays Geslin's gap is stable at 3.12.

15:50 CEST    120 km/47 km to go
Alone at the front, Geslin's advantage is still rising gradually, at around 3.30 - useful, but not really enough to give a serious chance of victory yet. The average speed is still over the 50 kph mark, and still Jean Delatour riders leading the chase.

16:09 CEST    133 km/34 km to go
Geslin's lead is starting to melt away now, and it's outside the canonical minute per 10 kilometres supposedly required to stay clear, particularly when the rest of the sprinters' teams get going; it's still a solid block of Jean Delatour jerseys at the front.

First, however, there's the little matter of the day's third bonus sprint which is at 23 km to go. It looks as though Cooke is saving it for the finish, so we'll probably again see McEwen, who is clearly trying to pick up points at every opportunity for his green jersey, and Nazon looking for the bonus seconds.

16:19 CEST    144 km/23km to go
Geslin leads through the final bonus sprint with his lead down around the two minutes mark.

The Delatour train leads Nazon out for the gallop for second place; Kirsipuu comes through from nowhere to challenge but can't bridge the last gap, and the Frenchman stretches his lead by another four seconds (although they have to catch Geslin first).

16:25 CEST    149 km/18 km to go
Jan Ullrich is quite prominent at the front, as is Jimmy Casper, neck brace and all. Fassa Bortolo and Vini Caldirola are working hard, and Geslin will be caught very soon.

16:33 CEST    152 km/15 km to go
Geslin gives up the fight and is caught. Fassa Bortolo and Crédit Agricole are now prominent at the front of the bunch for O'Grady and Petacchi.

Prior to the stage, Stuart O'Grady (CA) thought it was going to be a hard stage as the long breaks which had gone clear in the previous days would inspire others to try again. Meanwhile, Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) said he was feeling much better today and ready for a sprint. He said that yesterday he didn't have good legs but today, he was sure his team would still work for him, even with tomorrow's team time trial looming.

16:37 CEST    157 km/10 km to go
The sprinters' teams are all showing now, as Jimmy Casper decides he's had enough of the bunch and sits up to cruise into the finish.

Hans de Clercq (Lotto-Domo) said "Robbie (McEwen) has to win today. The whole team will support him as much as possible, but Robbie is going really well".

He said morale in the team was still high despite his sixth place in yesterday's stage. "That won't affect the team spirit," he told Cyclingnews' Gabriella Ekstrom before the start.

He added that Lotto-Domo was looking other teams to support and help if they needed to chase down a break and set up the finish for a bunch sprint.

16:41 CEST    163 km/4 km to go
Still a lot of green jerseys at the front, while a steady stream of those with nothing to gain by being there are drifting off the back - Geslin and Jakob Piil among them.

Paolo Bettini takes a long pull on the front. Not as well organised as some sprint run-ins we've seen...

16:43 CEST    164 km/3 km to go
The switching and shoving starts; the finish is a bit winding, with two roundabouts in the last kilometre.

16:44 CEST    166 km/1 km to go
Rabobank jerseys lead under the kilometre flag

16:47 CEST    Finish
McEwen, Zabel and Petacchi force their way through the mayhem, seemingly from nowhere; Petacchi leads out a long one in the middle of the road and takes the stage challenged by Vainsteins, Freire and Zabel who just cannot get past him. A Gerolsteiner rider goes down against the left-hand barriers after a bit of bumping with a blameless McEwen.

The faller was Rene Haselbacher; he gets a doorhandle from the race doctor to cover the last couple of hundred metres to the line. None of the first three (who collect time bonuses) were in contention for the yellow jersey, so Jean-Patrick Nazon has taken it from Brad McGee, giving the host nation something to smile about. McEwen was fifth and will hang on to the green jersey although Petacchi must be getting close to him.

Results (provisional)

1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo
2. Romans Vainsteins (Lat) Vini Caldirola-So.Di
3. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
4. Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom
5. Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo

General Classification (provisional)
1. Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) Jean Delatour
2. Bradley McGee (Aus) FDJeux.com             0.08

Thanks for following the stage with Cyclingnews and T-Mobile; we hope to have you back with us tomorrow at 1400 CEST for our live coverage of the team time trial stage.

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