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Tour de France stage 3 – live (part 1)

Stage 3: Wanze > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut (213 km)

Hello! Welcome to my first live-blog of the 2010 Tour de France, which today covers stage 3 starting at Wanze in Belgium and crossing the border back into France before finishing at Porte du Hainaut.

At 213 km, today’s stage is the third-longest of the 2010 Tour. It will take us over some of the famous cobbled roads used in the Paris-Roubaix classic, and will be an adventure into uncharted territory for many of the riders, including defending champion Alberto Contador.

Here is today’s stage profile:

The last time a similar (but much shorter) cobbled section featured in the race back in 2004, Iban Mayo, one of the race favourites that year, crashed and lost four minutes, effectively ending his challenge for the yellow jersey. With that in mind, and after all the crashes over the past two days, this is going to be a nervy, bumpy ride. Hold onto your helmets!

Sad news this morning that Garmin-TransitionsChristian Vande Velde had been forced to abandon overnight. He crashed on the Stockeu descent and broke two ribs. This comes after a broken clavicle sustained at May’s Giro d’Italia. Last year, he also broke two ribs at the Giro, which severely compromised his 2009 Tour.

Vande Velde said:

I worked really hard to get myself ready to be here again and I was just starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m indescribably disappointed to not be starting. I don’t ever want to have to see another day like today, whether I’m in the race or not.

He also posted the following on Twitter:

Laying in bed beat down, full of painkillers. Thanks for all the well wishes. I am gutted to have to leave in this fashion.

I’m still waiting on official news about any further abandonments. Tyler Farrar reportedly has a broken wrist, so he must be a doubt.

10.30 am: Here’s BMC team leader Cadel Evans on Twitter:

Busy time here at [the Tour de France]. Preparing/repairing damaged bikes and riders from yesterday’s carnage for today’s … err … ‘interesting’ stage.

Chris Horner

10.40 am: Still sifting through the aftermath of yesterday’s crash-laden stage. You can read my stage review here for a host of quotes from various riders. In the meantime, here is an extract from RadioShack‘s Chris Horner‘s fascinating daily blog, providing a first-person view of what happened on the Stockeu descent:

Andy Schleck yelled something at me that generally meant, “Let’s not take any risks!” I was descending on the right side of the road with Levi on my left, when riders just kept squeezing by us. Half way down, after at least 20 riders had passed Levi and I, there was a huge crash with riders everywhere – left side, right side, and in the middle of the road. When I hit the brakes to slow the bike down, I could hear the riders behind me starting to crash. Their bikes were sliding so fast that they were passing by me as they slid down the road. There wasn’t much space left on the road with bodies and bike in all directions. The bikes that were sliding by me were now hitting the bikes and the bodies that had crashed in front of me. I squeezed through a small opening in the road, with one leg out and one leg still in the pedal. I finally came to a stop on the left side of the road, where Lance had gone down.

By the time Lance and I had gotten his bike fixed enough to ride again, we had been passed by a lot of riders. We took off in pursuit of the front group, but 200 meters later, there were another 20 riders down in the next corner. They were spread all over the road again, but this time a motorbike was down with them as well. The very next turn was more of the same, with bikes and bodies covering the road yet again. When we finally got to the bottom of the hill and away from the chaos, we were greeted with some cobblestones to remind us of how much fun we were having, just in case we had forgotten …

11.30 am: Some wise words from the veteran Robbie McEwen ahead of today’s stage:

There is a natural selection of the rider who actually wants to ride on the pavé and who knows how to ride on it. Then there’s the natural selection of the race too. At the Tour we’ll have the classics riders wanting to win the stage, the overall contenders trying to make sure they don’t lose time and then all their domestiques, some who won’t have a clue about the cobbles, doing everything they can to help them. It’s going to be carnage.

11.45 am: The riders are under way! Christian Vande Velde and Nicki Terpstra of Milram (fever) are the two overnight abandons, in addition to Mickaël Delage of Omega Pharma-Lotto, who withdrew mid-stage yesterday. Tyler Farrar is banged up, but starts. An immediate attack is quickly reined in by the peloton.

Yellow jersey Sylvain Chavanel

11.55 am: After the decision to neutralise the chase and final sprint yesterday, Sylvain Chavanel has the honour of carrying the maillot jaune back into France. He leads former yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara by 2:57 and Tony Martin by 3:07.

Andy Schleck, who was lucky to escape serious injury yesterday, is the lowest-placed of the main contenders, 4:06 behind. He can ill afford to lose further time to his rivals today.

Chavanel also leads the green jersey competition. After yesterday’s sprint was nullified, the fast men will be itching to get back into action today.

Chavanel’s Quick Step teammate Jérôme Pineau leads the King of the Mountains classification with 13 points. With just one fourth category climb today, Pineau will retain the polka dot jersey no matter what. The competition here doesn’t really start until we reach the Alps in a few days.

12.30 pm: A breakaway of seven riders has established itself. The escapees are Steve Cummings (Sky), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin), Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Roger Kluge (Milram), Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Imanol Erviti (Caisse d’Epargne) and Stephane Auge (Cofidis). Their lead over the peloton is currently 4:25.

1.30 pm: I’m back. Let’s catch up with what’s happened in the past hour.

The first intermediate sprint came at Saint-Servais after 35 km. The first three across the line were:

1. Roger Kluge (6 pts), 2. Ryder Hesjedal (4 pts), 3. Steve Cummings (2 pts).

At 48 km, we also had the fourth category Côte de Bothey, the only categorised climb of the day. First over the summit were:

1. Ryder Hesjedal (3 pts), 2. Steve Cummings (2 pts), 3. Stephane Auge (1 pt).

Just to confirm, Jérôme Pineau will continue to wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow.

And here are the results of the second intermediate sprint at Nivelles, which came at 71.5 km:

1. Roger Kluge (6 pts), 2. Pierre Rolland (4 pts), 3. Imanol Erviti (2 pts).

So, significant changes at the top of the green jersey competition. Not yet, anyway. The escape group’s lead has come down slightly to 3:27. I would think the peloton will keep them on a fairly tight leash. Things will be bad enough over the cobbles without having to worry about a desperate chase. The onus is on Quick Step here to defend Chavanel’s yellow jersey.

1.50 pm: Here is a bit of info about today’s start town, Wanze. It’s situated in the province of Liège in Belgium, has a population of 13,000 and today is its first time as a Tour start.

Wanze is close to Huy, where the Flèche Wallonne race finishes every year. The town hosts an international flea market for cycling collectors and enthusiasts. (At least, that’s what it says on the Tour website.)

No commercials here, but if you don’t mind I’d like to give a few shout-outs to friends and fellow bloggers. In no particular order, let’s start with:

You’re going to what? – Adventures in cycling from an average gal.

2.00 pm: Alessandro Petacchi stopped to change a wheel, but no problem.

Here’s Bradley Wiggins, never a man to mince his words, on the decision to neutralise yesterday’s final descent and sprint finish:

I think it was just bulls**t, to be honest. That’s bike racing. No one waited for me when I crashed at the Giro. If it is a dangerous time trial prologue, Fabian ain’t going to slow down and wait for everyone else.

Today’s finish town is Arenberg Porte de Hainaut, the first time it has featured in the Tour. With the finish here, the Tour pays homage to Paris-Roubaix with a run over the famous cobbled sector Drève des Boules d’Hérin – also known, more prosaically, as the trouée (trench).

Situated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, Porte du Hainaut is an urban district community of 150,000 people. Its 39 towns and villages offer a wide range of attractions: architecture inherited from the industrial era, waters with beneficial properties used in thermal baths, gastronomy based on local produce and colourful festivities celebrating the Giants. The finish at the mining site of Arenberg has been proposed by France as a UNESCO world heritage site. So now you know.

The peloton has just passed through the feed zone. 114 km to go, 3:27 is the gap to the escape group, which is now holding fairly constant as Quick Step measure the pace at the front of the bunch.

2.10 pm: Of the lead group of seven, Hesjedal is the biggest threat to Chavanel’s hold on the yellow jersey. He is 3:43 behind, so that is the safety margin for Quick Step if they want to keep their man in the jersey.

As well as being a possible sprint, today’s stage presents opportunities for some of the Classics riders who are familiar with riding over the cobbles to launch themselves clear of the main field to contest a finish among themselves. Today’s run-in shares sections of pave with Paris-Roubaix, and the top three from this year’s edition are all present today: former yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky). Don’t be surprised if one or more of them edges their way towards the front as we approach the final 30 km.

2.20 pm: Garmin’s Tyler Farrar, who had been a question mark to start this morning, has just dropped back for a bike change. He’s up and running again now. 100 km to go, and the gap has slipped back out to 3:48. Dangling on a string.

2.25 pm: Crash!

While I’m sorting out what happened, here’s another blog you might like to read:

SportPH – Covering every sport under the sun … and artificial light for that matter.

2.30 pm: The who, how and why of the crash still isn’t clear. It looks like so many people were so keen to get up the front in advance of the first cobbled section that someone went down in the gutter at the edge of the road. Anyway, everyone’s back on their bikes, with the exception of AG2R‘s David Le Lay, who has abandoned. It looks like the rest of the peloton has reformed.

2.35pm: Approaching the first section of pavé now, which is only 350 metres long. Nevertheless the peloton is stretching right out at high speed regardless. No one is being complacent about the dangers today, obviously. Consequently, the lead group has seen its advantage slashed to 2:25.

A quick shout-out for:

Micaiah sells out – Jeremy’s personal blog includes regular coverage, thought and insights on the Tour.

2.40 pm: Looks like the bunch is through that short first cobbled section safely. RadioShack and Saxo Bank drove the front of the group, with Astana dotted around behind them. Clear statement of intent by the teams of Armstrong, Leipheimer and the Schleck brothers – they will look to be aggressive today and see if they can dislodge Contador on the longer pavé sections closer to the finish. Take a deep breath – 40 kms to the next set of cobbles.

2.50 pm: Good God, ITV4 are going to commercial pretty much every ten minutes. They had better be doing this so they can give us uninterrupted coverage of the closing kilometres!

Which reminds me. And now, a message from our sponsors …

Todd Kinsey’s TDF blog – Great depth of knowledge from a cyclist and endurance athlete.

The gap has stretched back out to 2:46 with 75 km left – having dipped under two minutes over the cobbles – as the peloton relaxes a bit.

3.00 pm: Sky team principal Dave Brailsford explains that it was always the team’s intention to get Steve Cummings into the break today to hedge their bets tactically, just as we cut to images of one of his riders, Simon Gerrans, on the ground after an accident at the back end of the peloton. Oh dear. He’s back on his bike, but he’s on his own and faces a long solo chase to re-establish contact with the bunch.

3.10pm: Gerrans has been receiving treatment from the doctor’s car on the go. He looks like he has got plenty of cuts and scrapes for his troubles, and he will be needing a brand new racing kit tomorrow, unless he’s happy with the moth-eaten look.

Right, that’s enough for one post. For commentary on the final 60 km including the critical final sections of pavé, switch over to part two of my live blog here.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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