Astana Cycling Team teammates Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong share a moment during Stage 3. Who is the team leader now? Astana manager Johan Bruyneel faced a dilemma when the 2007 winner was left in the bunch and he answered in the neutral. Image Credit: Eurosport
TDF Stage 3: Lance Armstrong Makes Wind Aided Big Move
Who says that the only places that Lance Armstrong can make-up time on the field is in an individual time trial or in the large mountain stages? Today saw a flat stage in Stage 3 with a bunch of wind traversing the winding (Esses - back and forth) road at the final 15 kilometers. Team Columbia with George Hincapie decided that if the teams with sprinters were not going to take the race to the smaller, original four rider breakaway, then this team was going to place their rider, Mark Cavendish, in a position to take the stage.
Team Columbia took advantage of an echolon move, where the nine riders of the team block the wind by riding in an angle, in kind of a half-chevron, to shield from the wind which caused another breakaway which eventually caught up with the smaller breakaway and on to the end to have this lead group gain 39 seconds against the rest of the field. Lance Armstrong saw what Team Columbia was attempting to do and along with two other Team Astana teammates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia, rode with this wind aided break to move at the end of the day from a 10th overall position to 3rd in the overall classification.
With Stage 4 being a Team Time Trial, Team Astana may be in a position to take the lead and if enough time is gained against the leader Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank and Tony Martin of Team Columbia ... at 37 years old, Lance could be in Yellow in his bid to win his eighth Tour de France.
Briton Mark Cavendish won the third stage of the Tour de France as seven-times champion Lance Armstrong climbed up to third overall in the standings at La Grande Motte. Caption and Image Credit: Eurosport
This excerpted and edited from Eurosport -
Tour de France - Sprint king Cavendish doubles up
Eurosport - Mon, 06 Jul 18:08:00 2009
Cavendish, who also won the stage on Sunday, outsprinted Norway's Thor Hushovd after a 196.5km trek from Marseille with France's Cyril Lemoine coming home third.
Swiss Fabian Cancellara of the Saxo Bank team retained the overall leader's yellow jersey and now leads German Tony Martin and American Armstrong by 33 and 40 seconds respectively.
Favourite Alberto Contador, who was trapped behind after a sharp acceleration by Cavendish's Columbia-HTC team by the end of the stage, dropped to fourth overall, 59 seconds off the pace.
With the peloton gradually closing down a four-man breakaway composed of Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Maxime Bouet (Agritubel) and Koen de Kort (Skil-Shimano), a bunch sprint finish seemed in store.
Among the top contenders, only Armstrong, back in the saddle after 3 1/2 years in retirement, was in the front group of some 28 riders who caught the four early fugitives.
Seeing Armstrong and Cancellara further up the road, Cadel Evans' Silence-Lotto team, Andy Schleck's Saxo Bank squad and Christian Vande Velde's Garmin team took turns to try to reel the leaders back in, but they lacked the organisation of Columbia's well-oiled machine.
As the finish neared so the gap grew and the Columbia train began to move into position.
Bert Grabsch and George Hincapie, both of whom had given their all on the front for a large part of the crucial final 30 kilometres moved aside, and Mark Renshaw hit the front as they entered the final straight.
With Hushovd and Cancellara in contention, victory was by no means a formality for Cavendish, though when he moved out of the slipstream of Renshaw with 200 metres to go and surged for the line, it was clear Hushovd did not have the power to match him.
The Norwegian rolled in second with Dumoulin claiming a well-deserved fourth place, having managed to stay with the relentless pace of the lead group, despite having ridden out front for over 160 kilometres in the breakaway.
Martin and Armstrong were the day's big winners as the gap between the two groups reached 41 seconds on the finish line.
The general classification will receive a more significant shake-up in Tuesday's fourth stage, a 39-kilometre team time-trial around Montpellier.
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