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Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Stage 3

Welcome to the third stage of the Criterium du Dauphine.  Today's 167km from Givors to La Clayette offer the race's only chance for the sprinters.

The sprinters will have probably their one and only chance today. That is, if an escape group doesn't spoil their plans!
 

56km remaining from 167km

We have a duo in the lead today: Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). They got away practically as soon as the race started, and flew to a lead of six minutes. It is now down to 3:50, with 111km to go.

There are actually three climbs in today's race, but all in the first half. One was category three and the next two category four, so we aren't talking major mountains here.

What exactly does the stage look like today? You ask, we answer. Click me.

Tony Martin (OPQS) crashed a few minutes ago, but was up and going again quickly. He will have his big chance in tomorrow's time trial.

63km remaining from 167km

FdJ and Argos-Shimano are leading the chase right now.

101km remaining from 167km

Two of the climbs have been climbed so far, and Mate took both of them.

And I see I have managed to get the kms wrong as well.... we now have 101 kms to go.

Things got off to a slow start today, as only 33.7km were covered in the first hour.

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) came into this stage still with that narrow one-second lead over Cadel Evans (BMC).  Here is the top ten overall:

1     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     8:45:42      
2     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     0:00:01      
3     Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team     0:00:02      
4     Carlos Barredo (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team            
5     Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep     0:00:04      
6     Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team            
7     Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep     0:00:05      
8     Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun     0:00:06      
9     Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team            
10     Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling     0:00:07    

Evans wears the green jersey for the points ranking.

1     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     41      pts
2     Tony Gallopin (Fra) Radioshack-Nissan     36      
3     Julien Simon (Fra) Saur - Sojasun     35      
4     Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team     33      
5     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     24      
 

Mate has won the third and last climb. That doesn't help him much with the mountain jersey. However, Giovanni Bernadeau of Europcar has managed to snatch points at two of the climbs, and has now moved into the lead of this ranking, two points ahead of former leader Biel Kadri (Cofidis).

Biel Kadri of AF2R gathered enough mountain points yesterday to give him the polka-dot KOM jersey. But as we now know, he will turn it over to Bernaudeau this evening.

    Result
1     Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale     36      pts
2     Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra) Team Europcar     35      
3     Christophe Kern (Fra) Team Europcar     31      
4     Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     28      
5     David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     28      
 

Best young rider?  None other than Tony Gallopin of RadioShack-Nissan, who finished third on yesterday's stage.

1     Tony Gallopin (Fra) Radioshack-Nissan     8:45:54      
2     Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     0:00:03      
3     Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team     0:00:08      
4     Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team Europcar     0:00:20      
5     Dominik Nerz (Ger) Liquigas-Cannondale            

 

90km remaining from 167km

90km to go, and the gap is 3:45.

And of course there is the team ranking:

1     Sky Procycling     26:17:19      
2     Rabobank Cycling Team     0:00:02      
3     Omega Pharma-Quick Step     0:00:04      
4     Astana Pro Team     0:00:12      
5     Saur-Sojasun     0:00:24     

Ricardo Garcia of Euskaltel is the next to crash.

Yesterday's stage wasn't an easy one, but Wiggins managed to defend his lead. And he knew who to thank. “Once again the team were incredible, they were fantastic throughout the day and they made my job a lot easier.”

This has the makings of a long day. The average pace for the first two hours was only 32.25km/h.

Finally the reason why Andy Schleck has had such a tough time of it so far: his knee! He spent three days in a Swiss clinic last month getting it treated, and lost a week of training. So he says: no panic!

66km remaining from 167km

About 66km to go, and the peloton seems to have finally woken up. The gap is creeping down to just over three minutes, now at 3:07.

Argos-Shimano continues to lead the peloton. They want to set up a mass sprint for German sprinter John Degenkolb.

Cadel Evans drops back to the team car for a short visit.


Fortunately for Andy Schleck, his boss believes him. Johan Bruyneel says he can see that the 2010 Tour de France winner is improving, and is not panicking.

So what do you think of this idea? The Schleck brothers go back to Bjarne Riis and Saxo Bank and in exchange, Alberto Contador joins Johan Bruyneel and RadioShack-Nissan.

A pipedream? Well, Italian sources say plans are fairly advanced....

Wiggins is hunched low over the handlebars on one of the small descents on the course. He looks to be rather further back in the field than one might expect.

58km remaining from 167km

The gap has crept back up to 3:27. There are still nearly 60km to go, so plenty of time.

Argentinian sprinter JJ Haedo abandoned this race yesterday, rather to the surprise of Team Saxo Bank, as we heard today.

Two rivals having a friendly chat in the field: Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck share a laugh.

Evans is quite chatty today, now riding alongside Tony Gallopin with a few laughs.

The two Spaniards at the head of things are still grinding away.

50km remaining from 167km

50km to go and the gap is down to 2:44.

Argos-Shimano and FDJ still at the head of things, but Sky is right behind them. WIggins is safely tucked in amongst them.

Martinez grabs a bidon from the team car, as the gap drops to 2:15.

Evans took a strong win in the first stage here, and says things are looking good for him to defend his Tour de France title. He sees Wiggins as his main opponent, but doesn't count out Andy Schleck.

Andreas Klöden doesn't talk to the press. Which is a pity, as he probably has a lot of interesting things to say. For a look at his withdrawn but fascinating rider, read our feature story on him: What's eating Andreas Klöden?

Either the two leaders are very determined to stay away, or the chasing field doesn't really have its act together. The gap is yo-yo-ing around (is that a word?) and has now yo'ed up to 2:40.

37km remaining from 167km

And now the gap is at nearly three minutes again!

Who is going to win the Tour de France this year? Good question, says Miguel Indurain, who finds there is no clear favourite.

Argos-Shimano is, of course, riding for John Degenkolb. The German sprinter has five wins so far this year. Most recently he won two stages at the Tour de Picardie to win the overall title.

30km remaining from 167km

Only 30km to go now. It looks like things are going to plan for the field, as the gap has dropped to under two minutes and is now 1:51.

FDJ is pinning its hopes on Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman has three wins so far, including the overall title in the Circuit de Lorraine. He also won the sprint of the field in the first stage, which was fourth place.

24km remaining from 167km

24 km and still 1:24.When do you reckon the field will catch these two?

A BMC rider drops back to stock up on bidons for his teammates. 

Degenkolb has dropped back and is making his way up through the team cars. We don't know what happened, but this is not good for him.

19km remaining from 167km

Less than 20km to go and the gap is now at 53 seconds. Looks like the peloton knows what it is doing!

Lampre now jumps in to help with thlead work.

The peloton is really flying along now, and the gap is at 26 seconds.

It will happen any second now... gobble gobble gobble

And that was it. With 15.6km to go, the break is ended.

Will the group stay together now? Or will we see another break attempt?

The field has scared a herd of cows. We must say that cows run awkwardly.

FDJ - BigMat is really powering things along here. No one is going to get away at this pace.

7.7km to go.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep moves up to take over the lead work from FDJ.

We can only assume that OPQS is riding for Gerald Ciolek......

Chavanel is pulling the field along now.

Well, it won't be Degenkolb today.  He is at the back of things..... mechanical problems?

Gilbert attacks with 1.5km to go!

The Belgian has only a slight lead but would dearly love to win here.

RadioShack and Rabobank lead the charge to catch Gilber.

The sprint is on!

Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky proves to have the best legs today! He takes the win.

Boasson Hagen put on a real Cavendish-tpye move to come from behind and take the sprint. Second place went to Gerald Ciolek (OPQS) and third to Borut Bozic of Astana.

Our top ten today:

1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 
3 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 
4 Roger Kluge (Ger) Argos-Shimano 
5 Murilo Antonio Fischer (Bra) Garmin - Barracuda 
6 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan 
7 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre - ISD 
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team 
9 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 
10 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Team Saxo Bank

FDJ and Argos-Shimano did much of the work today, and certainly weren't rewarded for it. Bouhani was 11th, and Degenkolb had fallen back, not at all involved in the outcome.

And the top ten in GC:

1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team  0:00:01
3 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team  0:00:02
4 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team   
5 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  0:00:04
6 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team   
7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep  0:00:05
8 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun  0:00:06
9 Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar Team   
10 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling  0:00:07

That's it for today! Thanks for reading along and join us again tomorrow for the long individual time trial.

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