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Stage 3 of the Tour de France is another short one with four ranked climbs.
Welcome back to the Tour de France – our last day in Corsica! Again today the peloton will face four ranked climbs, category 4 to 2.
It's a short stage today, only 145.5 kilometer, and we think that the day's break group will have a good chance to stay away until the end.
Things are scheduled to start at 12:35, with an 8.7km neutralized zone.
Rumours of some sort of politicial protest which may delay today's start -- let's hope it is just rumours.
The sun is shining once more, and the temperature at the start is 23°C.
Here are the day's climbs, courtesy of letour.fr:
Km 12.0 - Col de San Bastiano3.4 kilometre-long climb at 4.6% - category 4
Km 58.0 - Col de San Martino7.5 kilometre-long climb at 5.4% - category 3
Km 75.0 - Côte de Porto2 kilometre-long climb at 6.4% - category 3
Km 132.0 - Col de Marsolino (443 m)3.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.1% - category 2
The riders have taken off on the neutralized section -- no sign of a protest there.
Pierre Rolland is in polka dots. And how! Helmet, jersey, shorts, bike...... all is with with red dots.
This is called the "Stage of 10,000 curves" and we are told will show us Corsica's finest scenery. We have seen love some lovely landscapes so far!
All 198 riders were at the start again.
We have had the sharp start, and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) Is the first to jump.
Several riders now give chase, which will probably make him happy. We doubt Westra really wanted to go all the way by himself.
Four riders have now joined Westra. Let's see if this turns out to be the group of the day.
The five in the lead are: Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM), Sebastien Minard (AG2R), Alexis Vuillermoz (Sojasun), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge).
This is indeed the group of the day. They now have two and a half minutes over the peloton.
The stage starts out with a climb, basically going uphill right from the start. That is followed by a mor-or-less flat section, (well, compared to the rest of the stage, that is), before going up and down all the rest of the way to the finish line. The final climb, a cat. 2, tops out only 12 km from the end, and from there it is all downhill to the finish.
Our first abandon: Andrey Kaschechkin of Astana.
RadioShack leads the way, as the gap has now grown to 3:37.
The five leaders come to the top of the first climb, the cat. 4 Col de San Bastiano. The five sprint for the point -- looks like Clarke took it ahead of Vuillermoz. There was only one point to be had here.
That point did indeed go to Clarke.
Today's intermediate sprint comes early, at 28.5km.
Quite naturally, Jan Bakelants was over the moon after his win yesterday. The RadioShack rider called it “definitely the most beautiful day in my life as a cyclist.”
Jan Bakelants of RadioShack-Leopard moved into the yellow jersey with his stage win yesterday. Here is the top ten coming into today's stage:
1 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 8:40:03
2 David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:01
3 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun
4 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica GreenEdge
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
6 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica GreenEdge
7 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team
8 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
9 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
Now the five lead riders near the day's intermediate sprint. The real fun will come some four minutes later, when the field comes to that line, and the sprinters fight it out for a handful of points.
A puncture for Suitsou (Sky).
The intermediate sprint -- and the top points go to MInard, as the quintet doesn't challenge for it.
The sprinters out of the field sprint for the remaining points. Kittel, in green, takes the points ahead of Greipel and Sagan.
The maximum gap was 4:19, but now it has come down to 3:36.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) finished way down and lost yellow, but managed to hang on to the green points jersey.
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano 47 pts
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 43
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha 41
4 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Procycling Team 40
5 Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 39
6 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 30
7 David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp 30
8 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 22
9 Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 22
10 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun 21
Both Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Biel Kadri (AG2R) have five points in the mountain ranking, but it is Rolland who is wearing the polka dots today.
1 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 5 pts
2 Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 5
3 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar 2
4 Lars Boom (Ned) Belkin Procycling Team 2
5 Brice Feillu (Fra) Sojasun 2
6 Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi 1
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 1
8 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling 1
9 David Veilleux (Can) Team Europcar 1
10 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel Euskadi 1
We are all familiar with those stages with long, straight flat roads.
We are not having one of those today. As predicted, it is aull up and down and turning and curving. Nothing terribly dramatic, but enough to keep one busy.
David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) came so close to taking the yellow jersey – he is now in second place, only one little second down."It's very disappointing,” he said.
101 kms to go, and the gap is 3:50.
Clarke signals to his team car that he needs a drink.
The second climb of the day is coming up. That is the Col de San Martino7.5 kilometre-long climb at 5.4% - category 3.
Geraint Thomas is the very last rider at the end of the field. He is suffering from injuries from that first stage crash.
Michal Kwiatkowski of OPQS is the best young rider, and RadioShack-Leopard the top team.
Saxo Bank moves up near the front of the peloton. With 9 km to go and the second climb approaching, the gap is 2:56.
G. Thomas is back at the race doctor's car, getting some care and a pain-relieving spray on his tailbone.
1 km now to the top of the next climb for the break group. This is a cat 2 climb, so the first three riders will get points.
Another sprint for the mountain points -- and the winner is Clarke ahead of Vuillermoz.
According to Letour.fr, Clarke has a "small facture of the pelvis". Ouch.
Saxo Bank is now leading the peloton and the pace has picked up. The gap has even dropped to under two minutes.
Sky was not happy with Saxo-Tinkoff possibly setting something up for Alberto Contador, so the British team has jumped into the lead work now.
Cannondale's Ted King was one of the victims of the Stage 1 crash and yesterday was happy to simply finish the race. As he explained it, “Fortunately my legs are great, it’s the body that's taken its toll. The road rash is one thing, I can handle that. But it's the shoulder that the problem."
This seemed like a good day for a break group to stay away to the end, but that is beginning to look unlikely. The gap is under a minute now as the peloton has really put on the speed.
Belkin is now the ones pulling the peloton along. With 78 km to go, the gap is only 49 seconds.
The peloton is winding its way down this climb, lots of hairpin curves.
As soon as this descent is over, the next ascent starts. There is no rest for the weary here....
And up the leading quintet goes, with only a 39 second gap.
And another sprint for the mountain points. Clarke takes them once again!
Just like last time, the mountain points went to Clark ahead of Vuillermoz.
Stage two was one of those “good news-bad news” sort of days for Team Sky. The good news was that Chris Froome felt perky and attacked in the finale. The bad news is that two of his helpers, Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard are struggling after the Stage 1 crash.
Yoann Bagot of Cofidis is the second rider to abandon the race.
With 65 km to go, the gap has crept backup to 1:07. And the temperature is now 29°C -- that's hot!
A crash. 4 or 5 riders involved. It looks like the ridersa are all ok but we can't necessarily say the same for the bikes.
Niki Terpstra's bike seemed to have suffered the most. He too looked to be moving a bit slowly and stiffly.
FDJ's Jeannesson is the next to have some sort of mechanical problem.
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) , going from yellow to green today. His jersey, that is, not him!
Sorry about that, it is supposed to read:
Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) has changed colours, going from yellow to green today. His jersey, that is, not him!
The gap has gone back up to 1:32, and Sky is now back leading the chase.
But now RadioShack has taken back control of the peloton.
Jens Voigt is the man on the front setting the tempo for RadioShack Leopard. We're a shade under 40 kilometres from the final climb of the day, the second category Col de Marsolino, but there's scarcely a metre of flat in the intervening period.
Sky, Saxo-Tinkoff and BMC are all marhsalled behind the long string of RadioShack riders and maillot jaune Jan Bakelants. Froome, Contador and Evans all know that positioning is crucial on a sinuous parcours like this.
The five escapees are continuing to collaborate as smoothly as these twisting roads allow, and their advantage stands at 1:20 over the main peloton.
The pace has slowed somewhat over the past few kilometres. The peloton will be happy to let the break dangle out there a little longer.
50 km to go and a gap of just under two minutes.
Pierre Rolland of Europcar said the team's aim was to take the KOM jersey yesterday, but that he is more concentrated on the GC than on the polka dots.
The peloton is flying alone single-file on this curving road, and the gap is back down to 1:37.
The five in front are working well together and grimly hanging on to their lead.
Another crash. Vichot of FDJ.fr went down alone it looks like. Needs to get his chain back on, though.
There are (were) 198 riders in this race. Where do they all come from? Not surprisingly, the largest contingent is French, with 42. That is followed by Spain 42, Italy 18, Netherlands 18, Belgium 12, Australia 11 and Germany 10. In all, 27 nations are represented here.
The gap hs now fallen to under a minute again.
The youngest rider in the race is Danny Van Poppel, who is still a teenager. The Vacansoleil-DCM rider won't turn 20 until after the race is over, July 26.
The oldest is none other than Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard), who is 41 years old. He beats out Stuart O'Grady (Orica-GreenEdge) who is only 39, and Matteo Tosatto, who is a mere 38 years old.
Vichot gave chase for about 7 kms, but has now successfully re-joined the peloton.
This is truly a sinouus, snaky road.
What does Tony Martin (OPQS) think of the Tour? "I don't know what it is with me and the Tour de France. It's a love-hate relationship. Well, to be honest, right now there's more hate.”
The five leaders go under the 25 km marker, with only 38 seconds in hand.
They will all soon start up the final and most difficult climb of the day. That is the Col de Marsolino (443 m) witih a 3.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.1% - category 2.
Minard tried to attack out of the lead group, but the otehrs went with him. The peloton is getting closer and closer.
Saxo-Tinkoff agains moves to the front of the field, in fact Contador rides side-by-side with Froome. Who will try something on this final climb?
Meanwhile, Clarke and Mnard have taken off out of the lead group.
Neither Clarke nor MInard is a threat to the yellow jersey, as they were both in that 17 minute group yesterday.
A puncture for Izaguirre of Euskaltel. Not a good time.
Riders are starting to fall off the back of the peloton, as Gautier takes off to chase the ltwo leaders.
The peloton has now caught Westra, with Vuillermoz the next to be overtaken.
The sprinters have fallen back -- Cavendish, Greipel, & Co. But Sagan is still up front.
Minard has dropped back from teh lead and Gauteir has caught him. Clarke now alone in the lead.
There was even more serious climbing in the Tour of Austria today. Take a look at who won.
Two riders have attacked out of the peloton and have only a few metres. Clarke is only 12 seconds ahead.
Igor Anton is the Euskaltel rider who has a few meters lead on the field. And Clarke is not that far ahead of him.
Rolland and a helper easily pass Anton and then join Clarke.
More and more riders dropping back, including Andy Schleck.
The two Europcar riders have dropped Clarke.
Rolland was shortly joined by Euskaltel's Nieve, but now the Frenchman continues on alone.
Rolland of course wants the mountain points. No doubt he would also be happy to take a stage win as well.
It looks like a Belkin rider has jumped from teh field, as Rolland takes the five mountain ponts.
Nieve is second across, followed by the Belkin rider and then the field.
Rolland decides to go for it alone the remaining 12.7 kms.
The Belkin rider was Lars Nordhaug.
An OPQS rdier has a slight lead over the peloton on this descent.
It is of course Sylvain Chavanel.
The field is only 16 second back. We have just noticed that Rolland even has polka-dot gloves.
Chavanel, Nieve and Nordhaug catch up to Rolland. Well, Chavanel has, the rest are a bit further back.
Nordhaug and Nieve catch the two leaders btt the peloton is breathing down their necks.
This foursome is workign hard to stay away for the final 5.3 kilometers.
The peloton rides by the airport to which they will shortly return. They will fly over to Nice this evening.
Nordhaug tries to jump but first Chavanel and the rest give chase. The field will have them in a few seconds.
It is a small field, perhaps 50-60 riders. None of the pure sprinters are there, but importantly, the yellow jersey is in there.
And Peter Sagan too -- will he finally get his stage win today?
It could be one for Philippe Gilbert, as well.
Two km to go and an ARgos rider has a slight iead.
It is Tom Dumoulin.
He is ahead with one km to go, but Cannondale is racing along behind him.....
Dumoulin caught and passed.
Cannondale leads the way and..... Simon Gerrans makes it a photo finish with Sagan!
It looks like Gerrans has taken it by a whisker over Sagan!
Sagan must really be wondering what he has to do to win in this year's Tour.
Sagan will at least take over the green jersey.
This is Gerrans' second Tour stage win. He won the 15th stage in 2008.
Bakelants retains his one second lead and the yellow jersey.
The top ten today:
1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 3:41:24
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
7 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
8 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun
10 Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
And the top ten in GC:
1 Jan Bakelants (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 12:21:27
2 Julien Simon (Fra) Sojasun 0:00:01
3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
6 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge
7 David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp
8 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
9 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
10 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
And so we bid farewell to the very lovely island of Corsica. No doubt a number of cycling fans have now put it on their vacation destination list, after seeing all the loveliness there.
Things continue tomorrow with the 25km team time trial in Nice. Join us then!