Kessler Wins Stage 3 of Tour; Boonen in Yellow
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) has won Stage 3 of the Tour de France.
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) has won Stage 3 of the Tour de France. The German, who came within 200 m of a solo victory in Stage 2, completed the job today, winning the rugged, 216-km ride from Esch-zur-Alzette, Luxembourg to Valkenburg, Holland in 4:57:54. Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) outsprinted Daniele Bennati (Lampre) for second at 0:05. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has taken the maillot jaune from Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole). <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
From the start, the racing was fast. At 15 km, Jens Voigt (CSC) attacked and Jose Luis Arrieta (Ag2r), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Christophe Laurent (Agritubel), and Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel) joined him. The break?s lead grew to 6:00 at Trois Ponts (122 km). Credit Agricole rode tempo to peg the break.
Gradually, the bunch drew close to the break. At 155 km, the escapees? lead was down to 5:05. Behind, a crash occurred, and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon) and Erik Dekker (Rabobank) abandoned with concussions.
Rabobank and Quick Step joined Credit Agricole at the front. With 27 km left, the escapees led the field by 1:40. Five km later, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) crashed, broke his right collarbone, and abandoned. With 16 km remaining, Arrieta attacked his companions on the Category 4 Cote de Tintelen.
For a while, Arrieta looked as though he would stay away. With seven km left, the Spaniard led the peloton, which had captured his erstwhile companions, by 1:02. Three km later, Arrieta had 0:40 on the Discovery Channel-led peloton. On the Cauberg, however, Arrieta cracked and the bunch nabbed him.
Kessler surged into the lead, Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) followed the German to the summit but was then dropped. Kessler soloed home.
In the overall, Boonen leads Rogers by 0:01 and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) by 0:05. Stage 5 will be another battle for seconds. The flat, 215-km run from Huy, Belgium to Saint-Quentin, France should end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Boonen? Robbie McEwen (Davitamon)? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!