Kessler gets it right; Boonen takes maillot jaune
Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) has done what he couldn't quite do yesterday: crossed the line ahead of the peloton to win a stage in the Tour de France. The German attacked on the key climb of the Cauberg with just over two kilometres to go, and soloed away to win by five seconds. Behind him, Michael Boogerd tried to get Oscar Freire up for the win, but the gap was too big, and instead it was Kessler's teammate Michael Rogers second, then Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) ahead of Tom Boonen. Yellow jersey wearer Thor Hushovd (CA) was 17 seconds back, meaning that Boonen took his first maillot jaune and will wear it in tomorrow's Belgian start.
The day was filled with punctures and crashes, with the most serious involving Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). The ProTour leader clipped a wheel with 20 km to go, coming down hard and breaking his collarbone. He is out of the Tour, as are Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), who crashed at 54 km to go and also couldn't continue.
The 216 km stage from Esch-sur-Alzette to Valkenburg saw a breakaway form after 16 km with Jens Voigt (CSC), Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Unai Etxebarria (Euskaltel), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues), and Christophe Laurent (Agritubel). The leaders weren't given a big advantage - at the most 6'07 - but were still 1'20 ahead of the bunch when Arrieta dropped everyone on the Trintelen with 16 km to go. The experienced Spaniard looked good for a while, but only had 20 seconds when he hit the Cauberg, and was quickly caught. After Caucchioli tried to attack, it was the turn of Kessler and Philippe Gilbert, but the latter had to pass after having spent some of his energy chasing back on after a flat. Kessler made it to the top with a 5 second gap, which he kept over the final 2 km to the finish.