Procycling's daily Tour de France dispatch - stage 3

Not quite the combativity ASO had in mind

Had his vote for Ryder Hesjedal not already been dispatched, Procycling's "Prix de la Combativité" panel member might have considered the claims of Mark Renshaw, Iban Mayoz and Linus Gerdemann in Arenberg on Tuesday. While an innocuous tangle after the finish-line almost escalated into a brawl between Renshaw and Mayoz, a few metres away, Gerdemann unleashed his inner John McEnroe with an unprintable three-word tirade at a TV journalist.

Career change, anyone?

If there was also a daily prize for hand-wringing, yesterday's might well have gone to Omega-Pharma directeur sportif Roberto Damiani. "Riders who don't want to race in these conditions ought to ask themselves whether they'd rather go and spend their day in a factory," Damiani commented of Monday's go-slow.

Poulidor dissed

French daily Libération noted yesterday that among Floyd Landis's startling revelations to the Wall Street Journal was the claim that he and his US Postal team-mates chose the home village of French Tour legend Raymond "Poupou" Poulidor, St-Léonard-de-Noblat, for a blood-doping binge during the 2004 Tour. "Imagine doing that in St-Léonard-de-Noblat!" Libé trilled. "Without losing our sense of perspective, it's like pissing in the Grotto in Lourdes. Raymond will never be able to forgive such an affront!" Raymond Poulidor was not available for comment.

Mr. Verbosity....ummm, not

Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen on whether he asked his teammates for advice before tackling his first Tour de France: "No, I haven't spoken much with them. I don't speak much generally." He can say that again...but probably won't.

Fuel for thought

French sports minister Roselyne Bachelot yesterday confirmed that the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) would not carry out its own dope controls at the Tour de France, but was at liberty to notify the UCI or WADA's independent observers if it wanted riders "target-tested". WADA inspectors are attending the Tour this year for the first time since 2003. At around lunchtime today, Procycling can reveal that the only thing the WADA boys were targeting was the coffee machine at a Belgian service station.

A cobblestoned entrance to the centre du presse

If on Tuesday's third stage you thought the pavé ended at the seventh ‘secteur' in Haveluy, for the press it continued all the way to the press room in Arenberg's Porte du Hainaut. To enter, scribes had to negotiate their way over a final 30-metre section of pavé - although it turned out to be carpet with a cobblestone imprint rather than the real thing. Faux pavé is far less brutal on the body.

Mining for answers

Watching the television coverage at the end the third stage of the Tour, you may have noticed some strange monolithic steel structures in the background. Don't be alarmed: while the scenes in Porte du Hainaut may have looked like something out of Terminator 2, the steel structures are in fact part of an old mining site that dates back to 1903. Taking big hits during both World Wars, it was eventually closed 21 years ago and rebuilt to its former glory, with a proposal submitted to UNESCO for it to be included as a world heritage site. The Arenberg mine now operates as a R&D facility for audiovisual and digital programs and services, with plans to convert the site into a filming location.

A restrained Cadel

It helps when you rode as well as Cadel Evans did on Tuesday's cobblestoned stage, but so far at the Tour, the BMC leader appears to be coping far better with pressure from the media. Despite a hoard of reporters chasing the world champ all the way to his bus and engulfing him with a barrage of questions minutes after he crossed the line, Evans sat down quietly on its steps and responded accordingly - and without the need for his erstwhile bodyguard Serge Borlee, who once was Lance Armstrong's protector of choice, to intervene. In fact, we haven't seen Borlee accompany Evans so far this race, which probably indicates he's most likely not needed. Two years ago, the former Belgian policeman said of Evans, "He could be more aggressive. He is too nice. But that can change if he takes the yellow." Watch this space...

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