Cancellara Wins Stage 3 of Tour
Fabian Cancellara (CSC) has won his second stage of this year's Tour. Cancellara powered out of the peloton to overtake four escapees in the final km to win Stage 3, a flat, 236.5-km ride from Waregem, Belgium to Compiegne, France, in 6:36:15. Erik Zabel (Milram) outsprinted Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) for second. Cancellara remains the maillot jaune and has padded his lead, a lead that he might keep until the Alps this weekend.
Because of the length of today's stage (the longest of this year's Tour) and possibly because of yesterday's crash-marred finish, Stage 3 began at a pedestrian pace. At one point, the peloton was one hour behind the slowest expected time. Initially, the only riders who showed aggression were Nicolas Vogondy (Agritubel) and Matthieu Ladagnous (Francaise des Jeux). The Frenchmen attacked at six km and were joined at 52 km by Stephane Auge (Cofidis) and Frederik Willems (Liquigas). Vogondy and Ladagnous led by 13:50 at 44 km. Only then did CSC up the tempo.
At 104 km, the escapees led the bunch by 7:50. The chase was not hard, however. The peloton was together, and no riders had trouble following the pace.
With 61 km left and the fugitives' lead down to 4:00, Auge attacked his companions and Willems followed. Two km later, the pair waited for Vogondy and Ladagnous. Behind, CSC and Credit Agricole stepped on the gas. The escapees led by 3:00 at 52 km.
With 21 km remaining, the break led the bunch by 2:36. Predictor, Quick Step, and Credit Agricole upped the tempo. Within five km, the lead had dropped half a minute, and with 10 km left, the bunch was 1:30 behind the break. A capture, however, was not certain, and Willems kept attacking his companions to keep the break's pace high.
With one km left, the breakaway looked like it could be a winner. Cancellara attacked from the peloton. With 700 m remaining, he overtook the escapees. The peloton charged after him, but the world time trial champion held on for the win.
In the overall, Cancellara leads Andreas Kloden (Astana) by 0:33 and David Millar (Saunier Duval) by 0:41. Stage 4 should see the Swiss remain in yellow. The rolling, 193-km ride from Villers-Cotterets to Joigny has many uncategorized climbs and twists and turns, but the sprinters' teams should still keep the race together enough to set up a cavalry charge. Who will win it? Robbie McEwen (Predictor)? Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!