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Tour de France 2010: Stage 3

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Hello and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of stage three of the Tour de France.

After crashes and chaos on stages one and two, there could be even more today as the race heads back into France and covers seven sections of cobbles.

The peloton is curnetly in the neutral section of the race. The action is about to begin.  

The Garmin-Transitions team has confirmed that Christian Vande Velde has not started today. He fractured two ribs in his back. 

New Dutch road race champion Niki Terpstra (Milram) is another non-starter. He has been fighting a temperature for several days and the team pulled him from the race.

206km remaining from 213km

The peloton is packed with riders in bandages after the crashes of the last two days. George Hincapie put it well on his twitter feed, saying: Woke up feeling like a played tackle football yesterday. But otherwise all good. Hoping for better today.

Setting the mood for today, he also said: Preparing for battle. Today you have to be an a-hole, to stay in front. So I will go ahead and apologize in advance.

201km remaining from 213km

The six on the attack are: Steve Cummings (Team Sky), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Roger Kluge (Milram), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis) and Imanol Erviti (Caisse d’Epargne)

It seems that Canada's Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) started the attack.

There are seven riders in the move. Hesjedal could perhaps go all the way if the peloton allows the break to open a significant gap. Remember his gutsy ride in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of California?

23km remaining from 213km

183km remaining from 213km

Of the seven in the break, Ryder Hesjedal is virtual leader on the road. He started the stage 3:43 down overall.

177km remaining from 213km

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions) is heading home to Spain as the Tour heads to France but showed the damage to his eye in a photo he posted here on Twitter. He wrote: 5 stitches and a pimpin' Ryan Air exit row. I am smiling on the inside, really.

Niki Terpstra was thrilled to secure a place in the Milram team for the Tour de France but is now also heading home after struggling with a fever. He spoke of his disappointment in a statement from the Milram team:

The riders have covered 45.8km in the first hour of the stage and have already  gone through the first sprint and over the first minor climb of the day.

161km remaining from 213km

At the start in Wanze there was a lot of debate about the decision of the race judges not to award the points at the finish for the green jersey competition. What are you're thoughts? Let us know in the Cyclingnews forum or on our Facebook page.

Opinions differ but many beleive it was right for the peloton to wait for the riders who crashed and especially the overall contenders such as Andy Schleck. However many people do not agree with the rider's protest at the finish. As Scott Sunderland explained in his daily stage analysis here on the stage report page under the list of photographs, riders like Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) and Robbie McEwen (Katusha) were stopped from scoring points.

Hushovd looked furious after crossing the line. He got on the Cervelo TestTeam bus to cool down before speaking to Cyclingnews. Read what he said here.

Chris Horner (RadioShack) defended the protest, saying the race organisers got what they deserved after opting for a route that was out of place for the opening stage of the Tour de France. 

151km remaining from 213km

Other teams angry about the protest included Omega Pharma-Lotto. Team leader Jurgen Van Den Broeck crashed and hurt his wrist but the cancelation of the points at the finish, apart from those awarded to Chavabnel for winning the stage, stopped Jurgen Roelandts taking the special jersey.

For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: 

128km remaining from 213km

The seven breakaway riders are not losing heart. They will not give up without a fight and are all good in breaks. Pavel Brutt, now with Katusha, was part of the former Tinkoff team which attacked the Giro d'Italia almost daily in 2007 and 2008. Most of their efforts went to naught, but Brutt managed to win stage 5 to Contursi Terme in 2008, making his team owner Oleg Tinkov ecstatic.

Steve Cummings (Team Sky) is another hardman of the peloton. He is writing a blog for Cyclingnews during the Tour de France, revealing how he is working for team leader Bradley Wiggins. Cummings is in the break today so that Team Sky does not have to do any early work chasing at the front of the peloton. That way, the rest of the team wil lbe fresh for the finale on the cobbles. 

115km remaining from 213km

Alessandro Petacchi punctured a moment ago. He got a quick front wheel change from his mechanic and will  soon be back in the bunch. He was lucky. Now is the right time to have problems. if a rider punctures later on, in the cobbles, they might not get back up the peloton. That's why today's stage is so feared by the overall contenders.

Looking at the riders in the break,  Pierre Rolland one of the younger riders up there. Just 24 years-old, got his start with Credit Agricole before moving across to Bbox Bouygues Telecom. His claim to fame is a win in the mountains classification at the 2008 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré.

108km remaining from 213km

Stéphane Auge is no stranger to being in Tour de France breakaways. We’re hard pressed to think of another rider in this race who's spent more kilometres off the front. He has worn the polka dot jersey in two different Tours due to his aggressive efforts - in 2007 and last year after a romp in the Barcelona stage. At 35, he's the oldest rider in the breakaway.

The first of the seven sections of pave is one of three inside Belgium and comes after 128km of the stage. It is only 350 metres long but will be a taste of what is to come later in the stage.

It will perhaps show who will ride aggressively on the pave and who will be on the defensive.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) is still in the peloton, despite his painful crash yesterday. He was diagnosed with a hairline fracture of his left wrist and has other multiple abrasions and bruises but seems to okay for now. He has just changed his bike but was quickly back into the peloton.

The lead of the breakway has gornw again as and is up to 3:55. That means Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) is once again virtual race leader. He is 27th in the overall classification at 3:43.

CHUTE! First crash of the day in the peloton.

99km remaining from 213km

Unfortunately David Le Lay (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went down hard in the crash. The other riders are back up and still in the race. It seems like Le Lay's Tour is over.

93km remaining from 213km

The peloton squeezes over a narrow bridge. And up front the break hits the first section of cobbles. Here we go!

It is only 350 metres of pave and is straight but the entrance is narrow and there are huge crowds on both sides. It's more like a mountain climb than a section of pave.

85km remaining from 213km

83km remaining from 213km

The bunch stayed togerher on the pave, with the riders staying on the crown of the road to avoid tangling with the spectators.

That first section of pave was only 350m long. The next one, with 44km to go, is 1200m - that should split things up a bit.

79km remaining from 213km

The Cyclingnews reports were at the start in Wanze, talking to riders and directeur sportif on what happened yesterday and what will happen today.

Saxo Bank team manager said: "Nothing has changed since yesterday. We will protect the Schleck brothers throughout the stage today. They are hurt, but they're fine. Today is not a day to cry..."

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) was having a great time showing off his yellow jersey to the crowd this morning in Wanze

71km remaining from 213km

Another crash! Simon Gerrans (Team Sky).

He seemed to touch wheels and his pedal  hit his head. However he is up and chasing back on. He seems okay.

Nicolas Roche (AG2R) avoided the big crashes yesterday but is still hurting:

Some riders were happy to have avoided the crashes but are not too confident about today. They know it is going to be a crucial day for their team leaders.

Gerrans is at the team doctors' car. He is getting treatment on the cut on his face. He has a hole in his jersey but quickly accelerates back into the bunch.

Dmitriy Muravyev has dropped back to the RadioShack car. The mechanic is changing his race radio. He wil lneed that later.

We also spoke to Martin Elmiger (AG2R). He was hurting.

We got some photographs of the special bikes the riders are using today. Some teams are using their Paris-Roubaix bikes and most have low profile rims to handle the pave.

60km remaining from 213km

53km remaining from 213km

48km remaining from 213km

Jens Voigt is driving hard on the front now, at the head of a line of Saxo Bank riders. There is a lot of grappling for position behind them as they approach the cobbles. Alberto Contador is up near the front about fifteen riders back.

44km remaining from 213km

The main group are on the second cobbled section. Saxo Bank are pushing hard. Thor Hushovd is moving up the outside and world champion Cadel Evans is well-placed too. Menchov and Armstrong up towards the front too.

41km remaining from 213km

Crash! Francesco Bellotti (Liquigas-Doimo), Grega Bole (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Rein Taaramae (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne), David Zabriskie (Garmin - Transitions) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Farnese Vini) are among those held up.

The gap is down to 60 seconds on the break. the third sectuion of pave is coming soon. Hold on!

Saxo Bank riders are bakc on the front. Stuart O'Grady is giving it big, taking a huge turn on the front. Behind there are already spltis in the peloton.

Christophe Moreau (Caisse d'Epargne) is already off the back.

We're into France. The next section of pave, and the start of the four sections that come one after the other, begin with 24km to go.

French champion Voeckler is also right up front behind Chavanel. Van Summeren is up there for Garmin.

33km remaining from 213km

Carlos Sastre is also there, well protected and up front. [15:48:42] Laura Weislo: Evans is up there with Armstrong and Contador.

The break is doomed. The neutral serivce car has passed them the gap is falling fast.

Saxo Bank are back, driving up the left of the road. Everyone else is in the wind.

Chavanel is still up front in the yellow jersey. He hands off another rider as Cadel Evans avoids any problems.

Jeremy Hunt and Brett Lancaster (Cervelo Test Team) driving the pace now. riders are moving up on the footpath, including Contador!

The peloton is bunched up as riders trying to hold on. A tail wind is making it very, very fast. Full gas, as they say.

27km remaining from 213km

The peloton is also on the pave.

Crash!

Fank Schleck is down! It's carnage.

Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) also went down.

Frank Schleck lost contorl in the middle of the road and landed hard. His race could be over.

Up front Fabian Cancellara has surged clear, shredding the front group.

George Hincapie has also flatted. 

Lance Armstrong is still up there, so is Cadel Evans, as the cobbles end and riders take a bottle.

The Cancellara group is ahead of Johan Van Summeren (Garmin - Transitions), Lance Armstrong (Team Radioshack) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) led group.

The front group is not waiting for anyone. Contador is in the second but Armstrong is up front.

The second group contains 40 riders so may catch  the front group.

Hesjedal is still off the front.

The front group includes Thor Hushovd Fabian Cancellara, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) Geraint Thomas (Sky), Cadel Evans (BMC), Steve Cummings (SkY) and Armstrong.

20km remaining from 213km

There are multple groups on the road.

Armstrong is in the second group, 20 seconds behind hushovd, Evans and Cancellara.

Hesjedal hits the next section of cobbles. He's opted for the gutter in this 3.7km section.

The two groups merged but is splitting again.

Armstrong has flatted.

Armstrong is slipping back. There are no team cars up there, just Mavic neutral service on a motorbike.  

Popovych is pacing Armstrong but they are off the back of the group.

14km remaining from 213km

Cancellara is leading Andy Schleck up front as one section of pave ends and other begins. There is no respite to the suffering.

Cancellara and Schleck are working on the front. They know that Basso, Contador and Armstrong are all losing time behind them. Armstrong is at 40 seconds.

12km remaining from 213km

Hushovd brings Cancellara back.

Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharms) crashes on a corner. It's crazy out there. 

There's Contador with Menchov but they've lost significant time.

Official time gaps have shuffled Armstrong and Contador. The Texan is shown as 1:40 down.

10km remaining from 213km

8km remaining from 213km

Armstrong knows he has to close the gap to the team cars behind the front chasers before the cobbles end.

Hesjedal is still out front, parting the crowds better than Moses.

Chavanel has flatted again. He's fighting to hang onto his yellow jersey.

5km remaining from 213km

Armstrong is still chasing Contador's group. He may yet catch them.

Armstrong is back! Almost He weaves through the team cars but there's still a 50 metres to close. 

Armstrong gets on and takes a big drink from his bottle.

We've got an update on Chavanel. He's 3:40 behind and so is likely to lose the yellow jersey.

2km remaining from 213km

It's still crazy out on the road, with different groups chasing each other.

Race radio has corrected its times again, putting Armsttong at 2:00 not in the Contador group.

1km remaining from 213km

Hushovd gets it! He takes the sprint and precious points.

Geraint Thomas gets second.

Vino leads home a group but has left Contador behind! Wiggins is with Vino.

Where's Armstrong? McEwen brings in another group.

Here is Basso and Rgoers. Cavendish is already in. Good ride. Hincapie finishes too.

Armstrong finished with Basso, it seems.

Here comes Chavanel. It's close. but he's going to loose yellow.

Cancellara will be in yellow. But Saxo Bank has lost Frank Schleck.

Thor Hushovd banged his chest as he crossed the line.

Cancellara is confirmed in yellow.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) is second at 23 seconds

Alberto Contador limited his losses and is ninth at 1:40. 

Here is the top ten on the stage and the provision top ten overall. Some big winners and some big losers!

We're hearing that Frank Schleck has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken collarbone.

The big winners today, after Thor Hushovd, are Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. They gained almost a minute on Contador.
 

Lance Armstrong lost 55 seconds to Contador after he flatted in the finale. According to provisional results, he was 32nd at 2:08 on the stage and is now 18th overall at 2:30.

Wow! What a day. And it's only stage three. That's it for live coverage today. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Sorry for any confision there with times and gorups. It was crazy out there.

Provisional top ten results:

1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
4 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - Transitions
5 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank
7 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:53
8 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team
9 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
10 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana

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