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Tour de France stage 3: Farrar’s green jersey challenge is born on the 4th of July

Stage 3: Olonne sur Mer to Redon, 198km

Like buses, you wait four years for a Tour de France stage win to come along – and then two come along at once. Having claimed their debut victory in the team time trial on Sunday, Garmin-Cervélo‘s sprint train brought their American sprinter Tyler Farrar to victory in Redon, somewhat fittingly, on Independence Day. Farrar was led out to his first individual Tour win by teammate and yellow jersey Thor Hushovd.

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish found himself bumped twice. First he was declassified for clashing with Hushovd at the intermediate sprint and then he was clipped by another rider at the final corner, killing his chances of contesting the finish.

Farrar claimed his first Tour sprint win and dedicated it to his deceased friend Wouter Weylandt (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

Cavendish and Hushovd go head-to-head (literally)

After two days’ waiting, the first truly flat stage of this year’s Tour finally saw the sprinters properly coming out to play as the day’s route took the peloton north out of the Vendée into Brittany. A five-man break formed inside the opening kilometre. Two Frenchmen, Mickaël Delage (FDJ) and Maxime Bouet (AG2R La Mondiale), were joined by a pair of Spaniards, José Gutiérrez (Movistar) and Rubén Pérez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Quick Step’s Dutchman Nicki Terpstra. They gradually pulled out a maximum advantage of 8:05 before Garmin picked up the pace in defence of yellow jersey Hushovd.

Cavendish was punished by the UCI commissaires again (image courtesy of highroadsports.com)

At the intermediate sprint with 94km to go Delage sprang out of the breakaway group to claim the maximum 20 points. Over five minutes later, the peloton wound up to chase the ten points on offer for sixth place. Lampre set up the sprint, but Alessandro Petacchi found himself on the front too soon with the green jersey of Philippe Gilbert on his wheel, and Cavendish and Hushovd jostling for position behind him. Hushovd edged over slightly on the Briton, who protected his line – and his balance – by leaning into him with his head. It was over in a moment and Cavendish duly ‘won’ the sprint, signalling a slight change in his tactics by showing a willingness to contest the intermediate points.

That appeared to be that, with both riders shrugging the incident off without complaint. Hushovd even joked:

It’s true we rubbed shoulders, but it’s [part of] the race. I also think he needed some sun-cream on his arm so I thought I’d help him put it on.

However, about an hour after the finish the race commissaires stated that both riders would be declassified from the sprint and lose their points, citing “irregular sprinting” and a desire to clamp down on unruly riding early on. Nonetheless, it seemed excessive. Chris Boardman, reporting for ITV, was dumb-founded by the decision, stating that small amounts of contact like this occur all over the place during a bunch sprint. Robbie McEwen, one of the most experienced sprinters around, added on Twitter:

Gotta say I disagree with the DQ of Cav & Thor [in the] intermediate sprint today. That was nothing more than a bit [of] balancing and didn’t influence the result.

I have to agree with both Boardman and McEwen. This was frankly ludicrous, and why the commissaires decided to intervene when neither rider involved muttered so much as a word of complaint is astonishing. It is at times like this when Cavendish’s occasional paranoid claims of conspiracies against him have the slightest hint of truth about them. What next? Sprinting in lanes?

Cavendish tweeted his reaction after the event, and even claimed Hushovd had offered to accept the punishment solely:

Just discovered Thor and I have been disqualified from the intermediate sprint today. Seriously no idea why?!

Just heard that Thor’s offered to take the punishment solely. What a true gentleman. I reckon it won’t change f*** all though. But thank you.

HTC-Highroad go off prematurely, while Garmin’s fireworks are perfectly timed

The chase continued, with a minor lull to allow Europcar’s Anthony Charteau – last year’s polka dot jersey winner – to ride off the front of the peloton to say hello to his family. After that, the gap to the leaders continued to come down. By the time they reached the day’s one classified climb to the top of the Saint-Nazaire road bridge at 66 metres – no, I don’t know how this merited being a fourth-category climb either – the deficit was down to two minutes. Delage produced a repeat performance, getting the jump on his comrades to claim the single point on offer.

The peloton, however, had rather more difficulty negotiating the crossing. All the major general classification contenders moved to the front – a wise move,  as strong crosswinds caused a big split in the field. With all the favourites in the front group, however, common sense prevailed and the pack was soon reintegrated.

All that was left was to time the catch and set up the sprint. The break was left dangling half a minute or so off the front for a while before HTC-Highroad finally moved to the front with 15km left and bridged the gap, with Gutiérrez and Pérez the last to be caught at 9km. Cavendish’s lead-out train powered on, touching speeds of up to 70kph and perhaps forcing the pace too hard too early as first Bernhard Eisel and then Tony Martin pulled off the line earlier than usual.

An otherwise flat finish featured a small but significant ramp just inside 3km, and this caused the pack to bunch up, resulting in first Danilo Hondo (Lampre-ISD) and then Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacking off the front. The now undermanned HTC train consequently lost control of the front to Garmin as the pack closed in on the flamme rouge, causing Cavendish to drop back a few places into the pack as he sought to improvise his own finish.

Farrar claimed his first individual Tour stage win

There remained only one obstacle for the sprinters, a tight left turn inside 500 metres, and it was here that Farrar’s competition disintegrated. A Sky rider seemed to brush the inside barrier and lose control, causing a ripple effect which knocked Cavendish off course – he did well to stay upright – and ultimately sent Cofidis’s Samuel Dumoulin into the barrier on the other side of the road, disrupting everyone behind him. Sky’s Geraint Thomas, in the white jersey, accelerated hard off the front coming out of the corner, expecting to lead out Ben Swift, but looked over his shoulder to discover that none of his teammates were there.

This left Hushovd and Julian Dean with the relatively easy task of setting up Farrar to apply the finishing touch, which he duly did, holding off the fast-closing Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil) by two-thirds of a bike length. As he crossed the line, Farrar made a ‘W’ sign with his fingers in memory of Wouter Weylandt, his close friend and training partner, who was killed in a crash on stage three of the Giro d’Italia in May. It marked the first time an American rider had ever won a stage at the Tour on the 4th of July.

Movistar’s José Joaquín Rojas was close behind in third, while Cavendish made up 40 metres on his own to latch on to the back of the leaders in fifth spot. It was an impressive turn of pace by the Manxman, even if it did not deliver him the desired result.

Hushovd remains in the overall lead of the race, as the order at the top of the general classification was materially unchanged. Having given up the yellow jersey yesterday, Gilbert also lost the green jersey today to Rojas. However, he still retains the polka dot jersey and with tomorrow’s finish a difficult uphill one, he will be confident of both regaining the points lead and taking the stage win on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.

Farrar was overjoyed to finally claim his first individual Tour win in his third attempt at the race. It made him only the 13th active rider to achieve the hat-trick of stage wins at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta (Gilbert became the 12th such man on stage one):

I’ve been through a lot of emotional ups and downs the past few months. I wasn’t even sure I was going to come to the Tour, but I decided the best way to honour Wouter was to come to the Tour and win a stage for him. It’s hard to believe it happened, but everything went perfect today.

I’ve been close to victory, with second, third, second, so to finally win is a dream come true. And to win the way we rode as a team makes it even better. It was a special situation with Thor in yellow. When you have the world champion and yellow jersey leading you out, you’d better do a good sprint.

Before news of his disqualification in the intermediate sprint, Cavendish was disappointed with the result but pleased with his speed:

The form is there and the team is strong. I felt good. You could see how I pulled them back in the last 500 metres. I couldn’t win it, but I managed to keep in contention for the green jersey.

Now the holder of just one jersey, Gilbert was looking forward to tomorrow’s stage with enthusiasm:

Since the start of this Tour I’ve worn almost all the jerseys and tomorrow I’ll race with the polka-dot jersey. It’s a rather beautiful collection. The stage to the Mûr-de-Bretagne is one that I’ve waited a long time for because I think it’s a great stage for me. I hope to win again.

Stage 4 preview

There are only two categorised climbs, but there is barely a flat section worth the name all day, and in addition to the usual day-long breakaway a nervy peloton can expect to have to deal with a number of speculative attacks on the run-in to the final climb of the Mûr-de-Bretagne – known as the ’Breton Alpe d’Huez’. This is a sharp 2km ascent averaging 6.9% with constantly varying gradients which will require the winner to exercise patience and a keen sense of timing. Attack too soon and you will run out of steam before the finish; leave it too late and you risk being swamped by the charging pack.

Even more so than the opening stage, this is a finish straight out of the Ardennes classics handbook, which makes it squarely Philippe Gilbert territory. Everybody else will be sitting on the Belgian’s wheel waiting for him to make his move, but whether they are able to live with him is another matter entirely. Coincidentally, it is also his 29th birthday, coming after his stage one win coincided with his wife’s birthday. In addition, do not be surprised if Contador attacks on the climb in an attempt to regain a few seconds on the other yellow jersey contenders.

Stage 3 result:

1. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) 4:40:21

2. Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) same time

3. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) s/t

4. Sébastien Hinault (AG2R La Mondiale) s/t

5. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) s/t

General classification:

1. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 9:46:46

2. David Millar (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:00

3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:01

4. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:04

5. Linus Gerdemann (Leopard-Trek) +0:04

6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:04

7. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +0:04

8. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +0:04

9. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) +0:04

10. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:04

Points classification:

1. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 65 pts

2. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervélo) 58

3. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 52

4. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 50

5. Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM) 38

Mountains classification:

1. Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 1 pt

2. Mickaël Delage (FDJ) 1

Links: Tour de France official websiteSteephill.tv

Tour de France recaps

Stage 1: Gilbert climbs to victory as Contador faces uphill battle

Stage 2: Hushovd takes yellow as Evans misses out by one second

Tour de France preview

The Tour in numbers

Teams and sponsors (part 1)

Teams and sponsors (part 2)

Official Tour teaser video

Ten riders to watch

Six key stages

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

33 Responses to Tour de France stage 3: Farrar’s green jersey challenge is born on the 4th of July

  1. Kitty Fondue says:

    I have a theory about the DQ – which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you, Tim! 🙂 And it is this: it’s an understatement to say that Garmin and HTC are known to mix it up (headbutting last year, the big crash in the Tour de Suisse last year) and I think the powers that be have decided that they needed to do something now, even though as everyone says it was nothing. The fact that it was a Garmin and an HTC rider makes me think this – if it had happened to someone else, I doubt it would have caused consternation. So it wasn’t all about Cav, it was about his team and it wasn’t about Thor, but his team – if you see what I mean.

    I think that the crash last year in the TdS (whether Cav caused it or not, the officials believed he did) was so bad, that they want to shut the door on anything untoward immediately. I also reckon, next time it happens, someone will be thrown off the Tour. Is it the right thing to do? Over-reaction absolutely but they obviously felt they needed to make a stand.

    I wonder what kind of odds I could get for Cav missing out on the green jersey again this year?

    • Tim says:

      You make a very good point that I hadn’t considered, Kitty. I’m still surprised they penalised both of them – if they were going to punish anyone, surely it should have been Thor alone? Despite his claim that it was he who had Gilbert’s wheel and not Cav, the overhead shot suggests otherwise. What was Cav supposed to do? Jump out of the way and let him through?

      I’ve always suspected this year’s competition was stacked against Cav. Not deliberately, but there just aren’t enough flat finishes for me. I’m fully expecting Phil Gil to finish in the top 3 or 4 in the green competition.

  2. Sheree says:

    I totally agree that the commissaires over reacted and think Kitty might well be right in them wanting to make a point to the two teams.

    It’s hard to look beyong PhilGil for today’s stage however I think you make a good point about Contador. He’s going to be seizing every opportunity to take back time. I think Alex might also have a dig today to see if he can take the yellow jersey for a day or two.

    I also agree that PhilGil may well set his sights on the green jersey. My only fear is that he might feel this justifies yet another sartorial outrage and dye his hair to match!

    • Tim says:

      I think we will see Contador attack for sure, which means we will also see Cadel and Andy looking lively and Wiggo hanging in there too. My guess is that Leopard will pre-empt Contador by sending Fabian up the road, with Frank on hand to chase Alberto down. And it would certainly be a good chance for Alex to have a go, although I can’t see it working as everyone will be looking out. It will certainly be an exciting finish.

  3. Kitty Fondue says:

    Wouldn’t it be beautiful if Spartacus took the stage? well, for me it would be…

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