Thor Hushovd (CTT) took his revenge after disappointment Monday to win a dramatic day over the cobblestones of Belgium and northern France. The newly (re)crowned Norwegian national champion was the fastest finisher in an elite winning group containing Saxo Bank teammates Andy Schleck and Fabian Cancellara, world champion Cadel Evans, Ryder Hesjedal and British national champion Geraint Thomas.
"I knew a stage like today was something for me so I told my team I wanted to go out there today and win the war," Hushovd said Tuesday. "I'm happy and I'm happy for the team."
Stage winner Thor Hushovd of Norway rides on a cobblestone section during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race
AP Photo/Christophe Ena
For Hushovd, the frustration of Monday's neutralized finish was wiped away with his victory in Arenberg.
"Yesterday I didn't agree with what happened because I don't think there's any rule that they can neutralize the points," he explained, "but I agree totally with the way we waited for everybody who was involved in the big crash. I said to myself that I just wanted to forget what happened. When I went to bed yesterday it was out of my head, I slept well, and this morning I was fresh and motivated."
Fabian Cancellara, thanks to his strong ride and misfortune for yellow jersey Sylvain Chavanel (who flatted twice), reinstalled himself at the top of the general classification ahead of Thomas and Evans.
"I've got mixed feelings, that's for sure," Cancellara said of his team's fortunes. "I think it's beautiful to take the jersey after a good ride and what happened yesterday. Andy and the team did a great job. On the negative side, we lost Frank. It's too bad."
"But on the other hand, we all knew that today would be a difficult and dangerous stage, and we were ready for it," he added. "That's sport. One day you win, one day you lose."
In the jersey competitions, Hushovd now wears the green jersey heading in to stage 4, while Geraint Thomas' finish with the leading group propelled him into his first white jersey in the Tour and the lead of the best young rider category.
Not Exactly as Predicted
The pre-race consensus among riders and journalists was that Lance Armstrong would emerge as the best-placed general classification rider by the end of stage 3. Clearly the American has the experience of riding the cobblestones and a strong team around him, but few expected that Alberto Contador would end up taking 2 minutes 30 seconds from the American on a flat, strong man's stage.
Armstrong was riding well, and RadioShack was there to protect him before the entry of the early sections of cobblestones, but as the attacks came and crashes began to split the field, the organization broke down. An ill-timed puncture put Armstrong instantly out of contact with Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans, and suddenly the American was chasing not only the leading group, but a second group on the road including Contador and Bradley Wiggins. By the time he crossed the line he had lost 2 minutes 30 seconds to his chief rival Contador.
"Some days you're the hammer and some days you're the nail," Armstrong said, expressing his frustration at losing so much time. "We lost significant time; we just have to keep our head up and take our chances on the climbs."
Besides Armstrong, the big losers of the day were Frank Schleck and Sylvain Chavanel. Schleck suffered the worst fate, crashing with 26km still to race and breaking his collarbone. Chavanel, who is no stranger to riding the cobbles, was forced to chase back from two punctures and ultimately lost contact with the leading groups. He finished nearly four minutes behind Hushovd, conceding his yellow jersey to Cancellara in the process.
A breakaway of seven riders animated the early part of the race, from which Hesjedal powered away alone in search of solo glory. Along for the ride for the majority of the race were Stephane Auge (COF), Pavel Brutt (KAT), Steve Cummings (SKY), Imanol Erviti (GCE), Roger Kluge (MRM), and Pierre Rolland (BBO).
Hesjedal's solo bid fell short but it was nonetheless an impressive ride for the beleaguered Garmin-Transitions team that lost its leader Vande Velde and saw numerous riders including Tyler Farrar hit the ground hard in stage 2.
The team noted after its disastrous day Monday that priorities would shift and men like Hesjedal would seek new opportunities. Tyler Farrar finished stage 3 but was clearly not ready to fight with the leaders, nursing an injured wrist from his crashes a day ago. So today it was Hesjdeal, who has the power required to churn big gears on the pav?, helped drive the early break and ultimately took his own initiative in the closing 25K.
Hesjedal was caught with 6.5K to race, but he still managed a token sprint to challenge for a stage win he surely would have deserved. The most aggressive rider prize for the day was his compensation, and his result should help the Garmin team get its GPS back on course.
"It's disappointing, but on the other side it was a really hard day and to get through in the way I did is great," Hesjedal said after the finish.
Stage 3 Results
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 04:49:38
- Geraint Thomas (SKY) +00:00
- Cadel Evans (BMC) +00:00
- Ryder Hesjedal (GRM) +00:00
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +00:00
- Fabian Cancellara (SAX) +00:00
- Fabian Cancellara (Sax) 14:54:00
- Geraint Thomas (SKY) +00:23
- Cadel Evans (BMC) +00:39
- Ryder HesJedal (GRM) +00:46
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) +01:01
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +01:09
- Saxo Bank 44:45:55
- Garmin Transitions +00:11
- Sky Pro Cycling +00:25
- Astana +02:21
- BMC Racing +02:50
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 63 Points
- Geraint Thomas (SKY) - 49 Points
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) - 44 Points
Best Young Rider
- Geraint Thomas 14:54:23
- Andy Schleck +00:46
- Roman Kreuziger +02:01
213K (132.4 miles) - Tuesday July 6
- This is the first year for both towns to play host to the Tour
- There are 13.2 kilometers of cobbles in this stage
- Sprint Points at: Saint Servais, Nivelles, Pipaix
- Mountain Pass: Cote de Bothey located at 48 kilometers - 1.4km climb to 3.4 percent grade - Category 4