93rd Tour de France - ProT
France, July 1-23, 2006
Results & report
Stage 3 - Tuesday, July 4: Esch-sur-Alzette - Valkenburg (Netherlands), 216
Live Commentary by Jeff Jones, with additional reporting from Anthony Tan
and Brecht Decaluwé
Live coverage starts: 12:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:10 CEST
Stage 3 will be like a classics cross
between Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Amstel Gold as it winds north through the Belgian
Ardennes and into the hilly southeast corner of the Netherlands to finish atop
the Cauberg climb as in the Amstel Gold classics. If it comes down to a front
group, look for names like Dutch champ Boogerd, Valverde or Frank Schleck to
take the honours.
Welcome to sunny Luxembourg for the
start of the third stage of the Tour de France. Today's third stage starts in
Esch-sur-Alzette, which by an amazing coincidence, is where yesterday's stage
finished. We're heading pretty much due north today, through the Grand Duchy
of Luxembourg, then into Belgium, before finishing in Valkenburg, The Netherlands.
That's pretty impressive for one 216 km Tour stage, although if the organisers
really wanted, they could include France and Germany in their countries to visit
We have the usual three intermediate sprints today, planned
at Mersch (km 35), Spa (km 144), and Aubel (km 176.5). There are quite a few
small climbs too: Côte de la Haute-Levée (Cat. 3, km 131), Côte de Oneux (Cat.
3, km 155), Côte de Petit-Rechain Cat. 4, km 165.5), Loorberg (Cat. 4, km 189),
Trintelen (Cat. 4, km 201), and the Cauberg (Cat. 3, km 214.5). The last climb
is at 2 km to go, which could well be enough to stop the sprinters from having
their say again.
The weather today is very noice: It's already 30
degrees, with temperatures predicted to reach 34 or 35. There are masses of
Luxembourgish fans out to watch the start.
Today's stage starts with a 5 km
neutral section to take the riders out of Esch and into the Luxembourgish countryside.
12:13 CEST 2km/214km to go
175 riders started
the stage, as there were no overnight withdrawals. First town visited today
is Mondercange, which is where Discovery Channel's Benoît Joachim comes from.
Unfortunately for his fans, he is not riding in this Tour.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
is a favourite for today's tough finish. "The stage will be special to me because
after winning those classics (in spring, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège
- ed.], it will be very nice to ride on those same roads again," said Valverde
before the stage. "I hope I'm lucky and that I ride well. In the finale, we'll
climb the Cauberg, which made Amstel Gold Race so famous. My memory of it is
less pleasant, as I really suffered in that classic in April. That's also why
I would like to do well there today, but you can't really talk of a revenge
as the context is totally different."
Valverde knows that if he has
good legs today, he could reach for the overall leadership - even though it's
also clear that this would imply a greater responsibility in the race. "The
Tour counts 21 stages; it's still very long," he continued. "But I would still
like to win that stage, as any stage in the Tour. But this one could give me
the Yellow Jersey! We'll see what happens. As I'm part of the overall favourites,
this would mean a lot of responsibility for the team. But we could also take
it only for one day or two - in that case, the jersey would be very welcome!"
12:26 CEST 8km/208km to go
It's still together
in stage 3, as the bunch rolls through Ehlange, Reckange-Sur-Mess, and Roedgen
(pop. 336). It's fairly flat here, with the race travelling along a two lane
road through the farmland.
12:30 CEST 13km/203km to go
Sebastian Joly (Française
des Jeux) and Peter Weening (Rabobank) are the first to try and attack, but
are swallowed by the bunch. Thus, for the first time in this Tour, the first
attack of the day hasn't succeeded.
Christophe Laurent (Agritubel), Isaac
Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne) and then would be mountain king Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner)
have a go next, but they too can't get clear.
12:33 CEST 15km/201km to go
The real mountains
leader David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval) goes with Stephane Auge (Cofidis)
and Isaac Galvez again. The three get a small gap on the bunch, with CSC keeping
an eye on things. But after a short time, it's all back together.
12:35 CEST 16km/200km to go
Now it's time for
Jens Voigt (CSC) to have a crack. The powerful German is chased by Jerome Pineau
(Bouygues), with the peloton 15 seconds behind.
12:37 CEST 17km/199km to go
In pursuit of Voigt,
there are four riders: Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel),
Jerome Pineau (Bouygues), and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel). They are 8 seconds
behind, with the bunch another 17 seconds back. This looks promising.
12:39 CEST 20km/196km to go
The bunch is now
half a minute behind five riders: Jens Voigt (CSC), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R),
Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues), and Christophe Laurent
(Agritubel). Voigt is best placed on GC, sitting in 47th at 36 seconds.
12:42 CEST 21km/195km to go
This is an interesting
break establishing itself, with strong man Voigt, who will be looking for a
stage win today. The gap is up to the magic minute.
Joost, from Holland, reports that
it's already very busy at the finish zone in Valkenburg. This town is considered
the heart of cycling in the Netherlands, and it's in the beautiful region of
12:47 CEST 25km/191km to go
Well, I guess you
could say we had a mini-bagarre at the start of the stage, but it still didn't
take that long for the break to get established. The gap is up to 1'50 now and
growing. Anyone in the peloton with designs on the stage victory will not want
to let these guys get more than 7-8 minutes.
12:50 CEST 28km/188km to go
this leading group is big enough to absorb all the bonus seconds en route, so
the sprinters don't have to extend themselves behind. The yellow jersey wearer,
Thor Hushovd, has his Credit Agricole boys working on the front.
12:54 CEST 32km/184km to go
The five in front
now have 2'25 over the Credit Agricole patrolled peloton, as they get within
three kilometres of the day's first sprint.
13:02 CEST 36km/180km to go
It's Jens Voigt taking
the 6 points at the first sprint ahead of Arrieta and Laurent.
Casper didn't contest the sprint
because he is not actually in the breakaway. That makes it tricky, unless he
was channeling his friendly spirit through Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel-Euskadi),
who is in the break.
13:08 CEST 42km/174km to go
The bunch rolls through
the sprint point 4'25 behind the five leaders, who are heading up to Colmar-Berg.
13:15 CEST 48km/168km to go
The gap is still
going up, but not as quickly as it did yesterday. The latest time check was
4'45 as C-A ride a solid tempo behind the break of five.
Frank Schleck (CSC) won the Amstel
Gold Race this year, a race which finishes on top of the Cauberg. "It's good
to come back but it's not going to be easy, it‘s a hard course," he told Cyclingnews
at the start. "It's not going to be the same as in the Amstel Gold Race."
The man from Luxemburg is covered with some bruises on his face, reminiscent
of his fall a few weeks before he won the Amstel Gold Race: "That's a good sign
for me," he grinned. "I felt pretty good yesterday; but in the prologue and
the first stage, I didn't have good legs."
13:23 CEST 52km/164km to go
The average speed
in the first hour was a healthy 45.0 km/h, and the break of five now has five
minutes over the peloton. For those of you with a mathematical bent, all of
these numbers can be divided by five without leaving a remainder. On these stages,
it's the little things like that that count.
13:31 CEST 56km/160km to go
Well that didn't
last long. The gap is up to 5'20 after 55 km. The break and the bunch have just
passed through Fridhaff (pop. 6136) and are now back in the Luxembourg countryside.
The temperatures are climbing towards the mid-30s, and everyone is drinking
a lot by now.
13:39 CEST 60km/156km to go
World champion Tom
Boonen didn't manage to take a victory in the past two stages. Tomorrow the
race starts in Belgium, so he is like to be very motivated today. "I hope to
win, and if everything goes ok I'll be there," he told Cyclingnews.
Does he feel as though he is as strong as he needs to be? "There's no problem
with my condition, I just need that bit of luck that is needed to win."
Today's race finishes close to the Cauberg, which won't be easy for a sprinter
like Boonen. "I need to be in a good position at the Cauberg, then we'll see."
Boonen said that he was impressed with Thor Hushovd. "I think he's stronger
than last year. Then I could let him be in my wheel, and winning would've still
been no problem. This year, every mistake is crucial."
We were wondering
what the world champion's main goal is today. "If I take the stage win, I'll
take the yellow jersey...so I know my mission."
13:45 CEST 66km/150km to go
Well it looks like
the gap has stabilised a bit after 65 km. The five in front had 5'20, but Credit
Agricole is keeping a close eye on things and has them pegged to 5'00. With
someone like Jens Voigt in front, they don't want to give a breakaway too much
room, or Hushovd can kiss goodbye his maillot jaune. Voigt is the maillot
jaune virtuel for the moment, having started the day only 36 seconds down,
and picking up 6 seconds at the first sprint.
13:52 CEST 74km/142km to go
The leaders ride
through Marnach and Fischbach, skirting around the hillier part of Luxembourg,
which is in the west.
14:02 CEST 81km/135km to go
The break motors
through Heinerscheid, yet another small farming community in Luxembourg. Credit
Agricole has definitely decided that five minutes lead is enough, and has adjusted
the speed in the bunch accordingly. They have done the most work of any team
so far in the Tour.
14:06 CEST 85km/131km to go
The race is almost
through Luxembourg - it'll take them a little over two hours to get from the
southern end to the northern end, which is less than 100 kilometres.
14:13 CEST 85km/131km to go
The lead has nudged
up to 5'35, which is the biggest so far today. Another hypothesis: given certain
racing conditions, the size of the breakaway is inversely proportional to the
size of its maximum lead. At the end of the Tour, I can publish a thesis of
half-baked theories like these.
Bobby Julich has lots of experience
in the Tour de France, we asked him this morning how he saw this stage evolving.
"There will be differences today, as it will be nervous. But the main part of
the bunch will stick together. It's not like the classic, because the finish
is two kilometres away from the top of the Cauberg. It will depend more on your
position in the bunch and not on your fitness level."
14:26 CEST 98km/118km to go
The Tour crosses
into Belgium now, to great fanfare. OK, maybe not that great. Our five leaders:
Jens Voigt (CSC), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Jerome
Pineau (Bouygues), and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel) are holding 5'25 on the
peloton. Status quo.
The average speed after two hours is 43.6 km/h.
14:32 CEST 103km/113km to go
The leaders are
gradually descending now, increasing their advantage to 5'45 over the main peloton.
The gap will not likely start to come down for at least another 20-30 km.
The Cauberg is already packed solid
with cycling fans, who are hopefully staying well hydrated in his hot afternoon
Wilfried Peeters, team director of
Tom Boonen's Quick.Step team, spoke about the reaction of Thor Hushovd at the
finish yesterday. "I heard that Thor wanted to make a complaint against McEwen,
but he wasn't allowed to do it by his team director. That proves they're all
scared of Boonen."
Later on, after Hushovd viewed the footage, he
realised that he was in error and McEwen had sprinted fairly.
14:42 CEST 111km/105km to go
The lead is now
up to 6'01, still increasing slowly. It's unlikely that any chasing will be
done until after the feedzone at Trois-Ponts.
14:45 CEST 114km/102km to go
It goes up to 6'07
as Voigt does yet another strong turn, flicking his elbow twice to get Etxebarria
to come through for just a short time. Voigt is the engine of this breakaway,
and he knows these roads coming up very well, as they form part of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Voigt finished second in that race in 2005, behind Alexandre Vinokourov, after
the pair had made a great escape in the last 50 km.
14:51 CEST 120km/96km to go
It's not easy for
the CA boys, as they have to ride a fairly solid tempo to keep the breakaway
in check. This is going to hurt them by the end of the day.
14:56 CEST 123km/93km to go
The break passes
through the feed at Trois-Ponts, with everyone grabbing musettes and taking
time out to refuel. Drinking enough is very very important today, as dehydration
can knock you around for a few days.
Credit Agricole is getting a little
bit of help from Davitamon and also Phonak, with Dutch rider Koos Moerenhout.
The yellow jersey wearer is Thor
Hushovd, who is now grabbing a feed bag in Trois-Ponts. How do you pronounce
his name though? Ben, who has a Norwegian girlfriend, says it is the following:
"Tor Hus-hovd not Thor Hu-shovd. No "sch" sound in the surname and no "th" sound
in the first name."
Thanks to Ben's Norwegian girlfriend!
15:05 CEST 128km/88km to go
The road goes uphill
now, as the leaders hit the Côte de la Haute-Levée. It's a tough little climb,
averaging 5.5% for 3.6 km. After riding hard for so long in the year, this will
really take it out of the legs. Pineau will look to take the maximum mountain
15:06 CEST 129km/87km to go
The bunch sees Davitamon
on the front row, with Moreau (AG2R) keeping an eye on things, and a Quick.Step
rider. The gap is down to 5'20, and the bunch can keep things well under control
15:09 CEST 131km/85km to go
Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis)
punctures, but gets a very fast change and is under way. He knows this stage
like the back of his hand. He might try to win today like he did in the Giro
a few weeks back.
Victor Pena (Phonak) also punctures, but is already
going again. The bunch is on the Haute-Levee now, cheered on by plenty of fans.
The leaders sprint for the points,
and Pineau gets a jump on them and takes the 4 points easily. Etxebarria second,
then Laurent, Voigt and Arrieta.
15:13 CEST 132km/84km to go
Pineau has seven
mountain points now, but he still needs to win another few climbs to take the
mountains jersey from David de la Fuente, who has 14 points. Speaking of which,
his Saunier Duval team is working on the front of the bunch now, causing problems
for stage 1 winner Jimmy Casper. The Cofidis rider keeps his own tempo, and
regains the bunch near the top.
The gap is already down to 4'40.
The bunch spreads across the road,
and Phonak is also quite prominent in front with Landis, Merckx, and Hunter.
At the back, Casper is sheltering behind Bäckstedt.
Carlos da Cruz is next to puncture.
The roads aren't that bad here, but it is damn hot.
The FDJ rider
has Portuguese roots, so he might be concerned more about football these days.
The Tour is going international in the first week, and asked how he felt about
that. "It's good that the Tour crosses the borders, because we also have some
foreigners in our team," he said. "We have a Belgian, Philippe Gilbert. He's
got a free role today as the Tour starts in Belgium tomorrow. Although I think
there were not too many people in Germany, I think the crowds will be extraordinary
in Belgium and Holland tomorrow. We hope to take the win before that crazy crowd
Da Cruz gets some adjustment to his brakes and is back in
15:20 CEST 137km/79km to go
Vansummeren is up
the front with Brandt, but they're not riding hard yet. The leaders are passing
the racing track at Spa-Francorchamps, but unlike the Giro d'Italia, they're
not riding on it.
Hushovd is well placed in the bunch,
and looks good at the moment. Up front, Axel Merckx is near the head, while
Evans, Ekimov, Zabel and Savoldelli can also be spotted.
15:24 CEST 139km/77km to go
The leaders start
to descend into Spa, where there's another intermediate sprint scheduled. Arrieta
manages to grab a bidon from his team car on the descent.
An ambulance drives past the lead
group, maybe en route to the Cauberg. A few people will be suffering from heat
15:27 CEST 144km/72km to go
The leaders race
into Spa with 4'35 of their lead intact. No-one is really chasing yet.
Voigt attacks for the points and wins the sprint ahead of Laurent and Arrieta.
15:30 CEST 147km/69km to go
The bunch descends
into Spa now, with Vasseur leading with one of the Gerolsteiners. They get sprayed
with water from the side of the road.
Etxebarria is reported as taking
third in that last sprint. Didn't look like it to me, but I could be blind.
Credit Agricole leads the bunch past
the sprint point, with one rider handing off bidons to his teammates. The gap
is still 4'35, down from a maximum of 6'07.
A reconfirmation of the
sprint: Voigt won it, from Arrieta and Laurent. That's better - I wasn't sure
if Laurent pipped Arrieta or not.
15:35 CEST 150km/66km to go
White jersey wearer
Benoît Vaugrenard is being brought back to the bunch by an FDJ teammate, after
a mechanical or something similar.
The leaders are just about to
hit the cat. 3 Côte de Oneux (3.2 km at 5.1%).
15:36 CEST 151km/65km to go
Credit Agricole is
back on the front and riding tempo again with three riders. Agritubel has a
couple placed right behind.
Pineau sets the pace up front on
the Côte de Oneux, then Etxebarria takes over. He was also in the break on stage
15:40 CEST 153km/63km to go
The break continues
to work together on this climb, with all riders taking their turns. Voigt isn't
imposing himself just yet. Quite a few fans cheer them on, looking for shade
on the side of the road.
15:42 CEST 154km/62km to go
Pineau is pedaling
at about 80 rpm, not really what you'd call a fast cadence. Laurent is using
a smaller gear, but is suffering. This heat is stifling.
A man dressed
in a suit of armour tries not to fall over as the bunch passes him at the foot
of the climb. I hope he's not defending the country! If he is, he might need
a bigger sword.
The crowds thicken towards the top
of the Côte de Oneux, which flattens out a little. Pineau looks back at Etxebarria,
who is getting ready to pounce.
15:44 CEST 155km/61km to go
Arrieta leads for
a while before Pineau accelerates steadily, then jumps with Etxebarria almost
grabbing his wheel. But Pineau is the better climber and takes the points easily
from the Venezuelan. Laurent is third, then Voigt. Pineau now has 11 points,
with Etxebarria on 7. 14 points is the target to take the jersey.
Beads of sweat are dripping down
Pineau's face, as he washes them off with some water.
sets the tempo behind at 5'05.
Flecha and Bäckstedt struggle with
the climb, and even Pozzato is suffering.
Terje from Norway writes
in with a little more info about Thor Hushovd's name.
"Thor (or Tor)
is as you probably know the name of the god of thunder.
consists of two parts:
Hus - which directly translated is the Norwegian
word for 'house'. In this context though: A place where people live.
Hovd - which is an old name for a rock that has a form of a head.
The whole surname then actually means:
An inhabited place beneath
a rock formed as a head.
So then: Our cycling Viking is a thunder
god with a rock hard head!"
15:50 CEST 159km/57km to go
The race passes by
a representation of a giant crawfish of some sort riding a bike. These Belgians
Now Phonak and Caisse d'Epargne are massing behind Credit
Agricole. More firepower will be needed to chase down the break. The gap is
still over five minutes.
15:54 CEST 162km/54km to go
The leaders approach
the Côte de Petit-Rechain (1.7 km at 4.7 %).
There's been a crash
behind in the bunch: A Davitamon-Lotto rider and a Rabobank rider are both down.
The Davitamon rider is Fred Rodriguez.
That's bad luck for the American, who is sitting in the gutter being attended
to by the race doctor at the moment. Not sure who the Rabo rider is.
15:56 CEST 164km/52km to go
The front of the
bunch snakes under a railway bridge through Petit-Rechain (Verviers) as the
leaders commence the climb.
Erik Dekker was the Rabobank man.
Hopefully he and Rodriguez can get going again.
15:58 CEST 165km/51km to go
Arrieta sets the
pace on the climb, sweat pouring down his arms.
Rodriguez could be
out with a broken collarbone.
16:00 CEST 166km/50km to go
Pineau leads on the
Côte de Petit-Rechain, until 150m from the summit, then he looks back and starts
to accelerate. He doesn't have to do much to win the points from Voigt and Arrieta.
That puts him on 14 points, equal leader in the mountains comp. He should take
the outright lead before the end of today.
Dekker and Rodriguez are both out
of the race after crashing on the way into Verviers. Bad luck for the Rabobank
and Davitamon riders, who both had a bit to ride for today.
16:03 CEST 167km/49km to go
The peloton hits
the Petit-Rechain, with Rabobank's De Groot setting a hard tempo with Charteau,
De Jongh (puffing) and more Credit Agricole riders in tow. Michael Boogerd looks
good as he moves up the bunch.
Bäckstedt is once again OTB, but
gets a handy turbo bidon from his team car.
De Groot is riding hard
on the front of the bunch, which is at the summit of the Côte de Petit-Rechain
4'23 behind the break. That made a difference. Charteau is also working hard.
16:06 CEST 169km/47km to go
Casper is getting
back onto the peloton after being dropped once again. He's passed by all the
domestiques carrying bidons.
The leaders are going through Battice
(Herve), where a massive crowd is applauding them.
16:07 CEST 170km/46km to go
Pozzato and De Jongh
are now working with a Liquigas rider. Perhaps Liquigas fancy the chances of
16:10 CEST 173km/43km to go
Björn Schroeder (Milram)
gets a puncture and a push, and chases on through the long caravan. The bunch
cruises through Battice, working harder now and the gap is just 3'40. That was
16:12 CEST 174km/42km to go
The leaders are close
to the final sprint of the day in Aubel, still working well together, but losing
their advantage to the hard chasing peloton. Liquigas, Rabobank, and Quick.Step
are doing most of the chasing.
16:16 CEST 176km/40km to go
Arrieta steals the
6 sprint points in Aubel from Voigt, while Laurent is third. The points and
seconds aren't critical, but they might be if this break stays away to the finish.
Then Voigt could end up in yellow.
16:17 CEST 177km/39km to go
The break is starting
to work harder now, as is usual in the final 40 km of the race. They'll need
to in order to stay away from the bunch, but it's not out of the question at
16:18 CEST 178km/38km to go
Iñaki Isasi (Euskaltel)
is the next rider to flat. There have been quite a few today.
puts the power down on a mini-climb, putting people in difficulty. Laurent is
suffering. This is how to prepare for a real attack.
16:19 CEST 179km/37km to go
3'10 at the top of
this little hill. Arrieta looks across at Voigt as he does a turn lasting approximately
1 second. The pace eases in the break, but now Laurent rides off...
Good move by Laurent, but it might
cost him. He has 30m on the break and is riding hard, looking back. He was in
trouble on that climb, but it's harder to be dropped when you're off the front.
16:20 CEST 180km/36km to go
Laurent doesn't get
a big gap though, and the other four have him at less than 5 seconds. He comes
Puncture for Vandevelde next. The
road might be a bit sticky in this heat.
Vandevelde squeezes himself past
the Gerolsteiner car and a moto. He passes Moncoutié and Pozzato, who are both
16:23 CEST 182km/34km to go
Pozzato looks to
be gone, while Moncoutié is following a teammate back to the bunch. Hopefully.
The chases is really on in front though, with Milram, Rabobank and Quick.Step
hammering. The gap is 2'53.
16:25 CEST 183.5km/32.5km to go
The break is
working ok now, as it heads into Dutch territory. It's always green here.
16:26 CEST 185km/31km to go
There's a bit of
chit-chat in the break. Either the riders talking to their directors, or each
other. Does Voigt have the legs to go for a solo win today, or will someone
else try? They'd better decide quick, as the gap is 2'40.
16:27 CEST 186km/30km to go
The leaders race
towards the Loorberg, another of the climbs used in the Amstel Gold Race. There
is more urgency now.
Liquigas, Rabobank, Milram and Quick.Step
are driving the bunch, always getting closer to the five in front.
16:30 CEST 188km/28km to go
They hit the Loorberg
as De Groot, De Jongh and Boogerd get a small gap over the bunch. This climb
is 1.3 km at 5.8%.
16:33 CEST 189km/27km to go
Pineau sets the pace
on the Loorberg, looking at the rest. Arrieta attacks for the points, but Pineau
marks him and powers away. But it's a bit early. He saves it for the final 50m
and wins from Arrieta and Voigt. Pineau has the polkadots now.
Casper, Carlström, Auge and Charteau are all dropped from the bunch, which is
2'00 behind the leaders.
16:33 CEST 190km/26km to go
The pace is on in
the bunch, and Aitor Hernández is also shelled. Commesso leads the bunch with
Vasseur and Boogerd on his wheel.
The bunch gets to the top about 1'45
behind the break, where Voigt signals for water from his team car.
16:36 CEST 191km/25km to go
The leaders go under
25 km to go, with Voigt still signaling for his car. He gets the bidon he wanted.
De la Fuente is sitting towards the rear of the bunch, which is now being towed
by Vasseur and Tankink.
16:37 CEST 192km/24km to go
Tankink does a powerful
turn, and Vasseur has to work to get his wheel back. The bunch is lined out,
especially at the back. Hushovd is very well placed at the front.
16:38 CEST 193km/23km to go
Pineau and Etxebarria
attack, but are marked by the rest of the break. Here we go, it'll be on for
young and old now. 1'40 to the peloton.
16:39 CEST 194km/22km to go
The break works again,
as Arrieta signals to his car for a bidon. He gets it, and some food.
16:40 CEST 195km/21km to go
Iban Mayo flats and
gets a wheel from a teammate - Isasi. He's on his way again. It's not a good
day for flats. I even got two this morning and had to ride 20km on the rim,
which was great fun.
16:41 CEST 196km/20km to go
The breakaways should
cooperate for a bit longer, at least until they hit the next hill. Everyone
Mayo has three teammates bring him back to the bunch.
Christophe Laurent attacks again,
and the others don't react immediately. But again, he can't get a big gap.
Tankink hammers the bunch, pulling the lead back to 1'20.
16:44 CEST 197km/19km to go
Arrieta rides across
to Laurent, and continues to power away. Laurent grabs his wheel. Then Voigt
Pineau and Etxebarria are going backwards
though as they ride up towards the Trintelen, the second last climb of the day.
Another crash in the bunch: Valverde is down, holding his collarbone. That happened
about 30 riders into the bunch. Ooh - Valverde looks to be out.
16:47 CEST 200km/16km to go
the wheel of a teammate in front. He's sitting down, clutching his collarbone
as the race doctor looks after him. An FDJ rider waits with him - Seb Joly.
Back to the race. Three leaders: Arrieta, Voigt and Laurent, who have 1'20.
16:49 CEST 200km/16km to go
They are on the Trintelen
now, working pretty hard to keep their 1'20 gap. Etxebarria and Pineau aren't
completely out of it, trailing at 10 seconds.
Valverde is lying on
the grass now, and I think that's the end of his Tour de France. Yes, the ambulance
takes him away.
Arrieta jumps for the points and gets them from Laurent.
Voigt suffers, taking third.
Arrieta looks to be the best rider
today. He's not going to wait for Laurent and Voigt! Behind, Etxebarria has
ridden away from Pineau. All the breakaways are separated.
is another minute back.
16:51 CEST 201km/15km to go
Commesso leads the
bunch with Calzati and a Milram rider on his wheel. Calzati surely won't work,
with Arrieta away in front. De la Fuente has been dropped too.
looks in pain as he is stretchered into the ambulance.
16:52 CEST 201km/15km to go
Arrieta powers on
the flat/downhill, en route to the Cauberg. He's got a good lead, but can he
hold it? This will be a close finish.
16:53 CEST 202km/14km to go
Commesso keeps the
pace going in the bunch, as no-one really wants to chase. It's been a tough
day. That's to Arrieta's advantage of course. The experienced Spaniard could
take a great stage win today.
16:54 CEST 203km/13km to go
Arrieta, 35 years
old, is flying on this false flat/downhill, chased at 20 seconds by Voigt and
Laurent, who look a bit cooked.
Commesso has got a gap on the bunch
16:56 CEST 206.5km/9.5km to go
Gilbert was also
caught up in that crash with Valverde. He's back in the bunch now.
Arrieta goes under 10 km to go, with half a minute on the two nearest chasers.
Through a tunnel now.
Quick.Step and Liquigas are chasing hard. Commesso
is caught. The bunch is at 1'25!
16:57 CEST 208km/8km to go
Now the chase is at
full gas, with Liquigas and Quick.Step swapping off turns. They go under 10
km to go.
Arrieta has a lot of pain on his face, but he could definitely
Etxebarria and Pineau are caught by the bunch, which is 1'15
behind the leader.
16:58 CEST 208.5km/7.5km to go
Arrieta gets to
8 km to go, with another 4 km until the Cauberg. Credit Agricole, Liquigas,
Quick.Step and Milram have one rider each training.
Voigt and Laurent
will be caught next.
17:00 CEST 209.5km/6.5km to go
Jose Luis Arrieta
(AG2R) is en route to a great victory if he can hold this gap. It's 1'02!
Laurent and Voigt are swallowed. One rider left in front.
17:01 CEST 210.5km/5.5km to go
it the works as he nears the Cauberg. He's still the virtual yellow jersey.
Now the chase lifts a notch with Albasini burying himself, then a Lampre and
a host of Milrams. Boonen is up there on Garate's wheel.
17:01 CEST 211km/5km to go
Arrieta is under 5
km to go with 50 seconds. This will be close...
17:02 CEST 212km/4km to go
Now Arrieta is in
Valkenburg, direction Cauberg. Gerolsteiner has put men in front, pegging the
gap back to about 40 seconds.
O'Grady is dropped a long way back.
Not sure what happened to him.
17:03 CEST 212.5km/3.5km to go
Arrieta is under
4 km to go, still keeping his head down and focused on his speed. The Cauberg
is going to hurt. 31 seconds. Probably not enough.
17:04 CEST 213km/3km to go
Arrieta rides through
the crowded streets of Valkenburg, takes the left hander, then another, then
a right, and hits the Cauberg with 21 seconds. 800m at 7.3%.
Arrieta is cheered by the billions
of boisterous Dutch fans as behind him, Caucchioli? has attacked the bunch.
17:05 CEST 214km/2km to go
Caucchioli comes up
to Arrieta and passes him, but Boogerd drives the tempo up behind with Gilbert
and Boonen on his wheel. Freire next.
It's anyone's race now. Kessler attacks
with Gilbert. Boogerd blows with Boonen in tow.
17:07 CEST 214.5km/1.5km to go
it to the top with Gilbert. Then drops him. Full gas for Matze!
continues to work with Boonen, Freire on his wheel.
and will lose a bit of time.
17:07 CEST 215km/1km to go
Kessler hammers on
the flat and has 5 seconds. Gilbert is caught. Just one leader. Boonen still
on Boogerd's wheel. Freire still there. Now another Rabo rider comes up to chase.
Kessler has a great gap as he goes
under the km to go banner.
Kessler could do what he couldn't
yesterday, as it's a slight downhill finish. The T-Mobile rider is going to
do it, surely.
The sprint starts behind Kessler,
led out by Lampre.
Kessler wins from Rogers(!) and Bennati
Tom Boonen might be in yellow, as
Hushovd lost a little time. Boonen was fourth or fifth in that sprint.
Boonen is in yellow! He was only
five seconds behind Hushovd at the start of the day, and the Norwegian looked
to lose just a bit of time, which cost him yellow.
the line at 2'00, while Casar loses a good 3'30. Maybe he'll be credited with
the same time, as his flat happened in the final 3 km.
That's it from today's very eventful
stage. Kessler rode a great race to finish 5 seconds clear of the bunch, then
his teammate Rogers was second ahead of Bennati. Tom Boonen took fourth place
on a flat tyre (he had a slow leak before the Cauberg), but because Hushovd
lost time, he is in yellow. And green. That's a pretty impressive sprint by
the world champ. It was a good day for flats.
Signing off from sunny
Valkenburg, tot morgen!
1 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile 4.57.54
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.05
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
5 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
6 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita) T-Mobile
9 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner
10 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner
General classification after stage 3
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 14.52.23
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.01
3 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.05
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 0.07
5 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.15
6 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
7 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.16
8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balear0.17
9 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile
10 Matthias Kessler (Ger) T-Mobile
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