Thor Hushovd has won the third stage of the Tour de France today after a dramatic day on the cobblestones of northern France.
The Norwegian convincingly outsprinted Britain’s Geraint Thomas and World Champion Cadel Evans at the stage finish in Arenberg.
Also finishing in the front group of six was Fabian Cancellara and Andy Schleck who were the driving force in the winning move. Their efforts were rewarded with prologue winner Cancellara reclaiming the yellow jersey from yesterday’s stage winner Sylvain Chavanel, while Schleck (along with Evans) gained a march on his most serious overall Tour rivals who suffered a mixed bag of fortunes on the pave.
Least fortunate, in fact, was Schleck’s big brother Frank who came down in a crash as the decisive move went clear on the day’s fourth section at Sars-et-Rosieres. As Cancellara dragged the move clear with Andy on his wheel, Frank was rolling around on the roadside clutching at his collarbone. His race is now over.
Lance Armstrong, Bradley Wiggins and Alberto Contador were distanced by Cancellara’s acceleration and the general carnage that ensued. While Wiggins and Contador fought hard to minimise their loses to the break, Armstrong had the misfortune of suffering a front wheel puncture on the following section.
At the line, Wiggins was the best finisher of the rest of the GC contenders, taking eighth place, 53 seconds behind Schleck’s group. Denis Menchov was also in this small chase group.
Contador finished on his own, a handful of seconds further back after being dropped from this group by the finishing effort of his team mate Alexandre Vinokourov.
Armstrong meanwhile lost over two minutes while Ivan Basso and Michael Rogers trailed in one group further behind him. Chavanel was even further back. Having suffered a puncture and made two bike changes, he lost all that he gained from yesterday’s break and more.
As a result of today’s stage, Cancellara now leads the race from Thomas at 23 seconds. Evans is third a further 16 seconds adrift.
How it happened
The sprint that unfolded at the end was a simple affair – unlike the final forty kilometers which included six of the day’s seven sections of Paris-Roubaix style cobbles.
Driving for time to both his own immediate benefit and Schleck’s long-term prospects, Cancellara led it out down the left hand side of the road until Garmin’s Ryder Hesjedal manoeuvered to the right and tentatively opened it up.
While Hesjedal was no doubt exhausted from his status as the only survivor from the stage’s early break, Hushovd, Thomas and Evans were considerably fresher. They’d spent the vast part of the run-in to the finish in the two Saxo Bank riders’ slipstream. Once Hushovd turned on the gas there was no stopping him.
While Hesjedal had been a member of a seven rider group that escaped early in the stage, the other five had blasted clear of the field on a 2.4km section of cobbles with 27km to go.
The previous three sections of cobbles had done little damage to the race – although Damiano Cunego, Charly Wegelius and Simon Gerrans had been among a number of fallers on more innocuous sections of the route.
But with Frank Schleck’s crash, all hell broke loose in the bunch. Several other riders went down with Schleck and the field splintered into several pieces.
For a brief while, Sky had two riders in Cancellara’s group after they picked up Steve Cummings from the early move. After Cummings got dropped, he was replaced by Canada’s Hesjesdal who had done a good job of holding off the chase alone for over 15km.
Tour de France 2010, stage three: Wanze-Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 213km
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo in 4-49-38
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky same time
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
4. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions
5. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
6. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
7. Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin-Transitions at 53secs
8. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky
9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 14-54-00
2. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 23 secs
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 39secs
4. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Transitions at 46 secs
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 1-01
6. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 1-09
7. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
8. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
9. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
11. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R at 1-42
13. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-49
14. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 1-49
15. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 2-06.
18. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 2-30
48. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 3-19
49. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 3-20
Lance Armstrong puts in a solo effort to catch the Contador group
Thor Hushovd heads the chase group as Ryder Hesjedal is up the road
Thor Hushovd takes the stage, with Geraint Thomas second
Fabian Cancellara regains the race lead
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Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins