Cavendish utilized his team to perfection winning his second stage in as many days.  The real news was a crosswind induced break that led to an irreparable split in the field that shook up the GC standings.

It was another hot stage today in southern France.  The 196km Marseille to Le Grande Motte route was rolling on the first half and dead flat on the later half.  Strong crosswinds were expected on the flats which have the potential to force echelon formations and possibly induce breaks in the peloton.

Stage 3 Winner, Mark Cavendish

Stage 3 Winner, Mark Cavendish

A single break got away from the gun which included Moreno, Bouet, De Kort and Domoulin.  They held a lead over much of the stage with a gap of as much as 11 minutes.  The peloton was content to pedal at a comfortable pace, seemingly not worried about the break.  About halfway through the stage Saxo Bank, Rabobank then Columbia moved to the front in sequence to do the work of reeling in the escapees.  The lead steadily fell over the next 70km.  As the Columbia led peloton approached the break, the pace and cross winds, fractured the field.  Almost all of the Columbia team made the front group of 29 as well as Cancellara, Cavendish, Martin and Hushovd.  Three Astana riders made it including Armstrong, Zubeldia and Popo. Many contenders were in the chase group including Contador, Evans, Sastre, Leipheimer, the Schlecks and several of the sprinters. The gap hovered between 20 to 40 seconds into the final kilometers.  Even with strong chase effort the lead group held on to the line taking 40+ seconds out of the chase.

Cavendish was well positioned for the sprint with a single rider left on lead out.  Hushovd was on his wheel but didn’t have enough to get by.  Another great win for Cav.  Cancellara made a nice effort to snag 6th.  The GC changed considerably with Armstrong and Martin moving up and Contador, Kloden, Evans and Leipheimer moving down.

I’ll be very interested in reviewing the video and race reports today.  It seems Armstrong was urging his team on in the lead group even though his team lead, Contador, got caught in the chase group.  Hopefully an interviewer will extract an explanation.  Regardless, Lance has situated himself to possibly take the Yellow Jersey tomorrow with a high probability win tomorrow in the TTT.  That of course would have him protected as leader till the mountain top finish in Arcalis on Stage 7.  All bets are off at that point.

P.S. After reading and viewing interviews and commentary, It seems to me that Lance thought under the conditions that it was wise to stay up front in case a split developed.  Contador had been near the split but missed by a hair.  At that point, Lance mostly hung on to the Columbia freight train and ended up with a windfall.  Lance was unapologetic mind you but seemed to have a proper perspective of the time gain relative to the weeks ahead in the context of team politics.  Contador didn’t seem concerned in the least.

Stage 3 Race Reports

ESPN (best of the reports)
Velonews
Cycling News
Cycling Weekly
Yahoo Sports
Cycling Weekly (Lances Motives…Not to Top Contador)

Stage 3 Video

Versus Race Recap
Versus Post Race Recap

Stage 3 Results

1. Mark Cavendish Team Columbia – Htc in 5:01:24
2. Thor Hushovd Cervelo Test Team
3. Cyril Lemoine Skil-Shimano at 00:00
4. Samuel Dumoulin Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne at s.t.
5. Jérôme Pineau Quick Step at s.t.
6. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank at s.t.
7. Fabian Wegmann Team Milram at s.t.
8. Fumiyuki Beppu Skil-Shimano at s.t.
9. Maxime Bouet Agritubel at s.t.
10. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram at s.t.

GC Standings

1. Fabian Cancellara Team Saxo Bank in 9:50:58
2. Tony Martin Team Columbia – Htc in 9:51:31
3. Lance Armstrong Astana in 9:51:38 at 00:40
4. Alberto Contador Astana in 9:51:57 at 00:59
5. Bradley Wiggins Garmin – Slipstream in 9:51:58 at 01:00
6. Andréas KlÖden Astana in 9:52:01 at 01:03
7. Linus Gerdemann Team Milram in 9:52:01 at 01:03
8. Cadel Evans Silence – Lotto in 9:52:02 at 01:04
9. Maxime Monfort Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:08 at 01:10
10. Levi Leipheimer Astana in 9:52:09 at 01:11
11. Michael Rogers Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:11 at 01:13
12. Roman Kreuziger Liquigas in 9:52:11 at 01:13
13. George Hincapie Team Columbia – Htc in 9:52:15 at 01:17
14. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas in 9:52:16 at 01:18
15. Gustav Larsson Team Saxo Bank in 9:52:20 at 01:22
16. Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel – Euskadi in 9:52:23 at 01:25
17. David Zabriskie Garmin – Slipstream in 9:52:26 at 01:28
18. David Millar Garmin – Slipstream in 9:52:27 at 01:29
19. Jérôme Pineau Quick Step in 9:52:29 at 01:31
20. Haimar Zubeldia Astana in 9:52:29 at 01:31

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