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Tour de France 2012: Stage 3


Welcome to our live coverage of stage 3 of the 2012 Tour de France. After starting off in Belgium for the first three days, the race now moves into France for the first time for this 197km stage from Orchies near the Belgian border to the northeastern seaside town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

195km remaining from 197km

Yesterday's stage was a bunch sprint and as a result there was little change in the overall general classification. Fabian Cancellara starts the day in yellow. Here’s the top ten:

Things started yesterday at a very sedate pace. Already it's looking different here on stage 3, and I'm sure that it won't be long until we have our first breakaway.

Today’s stage should be one for the all-rounders. After a pretty flat opening 100km the riders will encounter more undulating terrain in the second half of the race. There are six categorised climbs in all, including four in the closing 16km. One of these is a 700m ascent to the finish line.

And on that note, here's a link to our preview page for this stage. There's a map, descriptions and a video preview from former yellow jersey holder Chris Boardman.

And, as predicted, we have our first breakaway. Five riders have gone clear after 6km: Morkov (Saxo Bank), Bernaudeau (Europcar), Grivko (Astana), Moreno (Euskaltel) and Minard (AG2R). They have already buolt a lead of 15 seconds and are pulling away.

189km remaining from 197km

Morkov was involved in yesterday's three-man break, which held the lead for well over 100km. How long can he stay with this leading group today? He's obviously feeling strong at this early point.

In terms of the general classification, Grivko is the highest placed of the quintet. At the start of the day he was in 43rd position, 38 seconds off the pace. So this now means that the Astana man is the virtual leader of the Tour.

And the leaders are really turning on the afterburners. At the 11km mark they are almost three-and-a-half minutes ahead.

184km remaining from 197km

Today's finishing town of Boulogne-Sur-Mer is the birthplace of French track cyclist Mickael Bourgain, who is a double Olympic bronze medallist. It's also the birthplace of France and Bayern Munich footballer Franck Ribery.

Morkov was also in the breakaway group on stage 1, don't forget. So this is a pretty full-on display from the Dane...

174km remaining from 197km

And back in the peloton RadioShack are the most prominent over the early part of the stage. There are four or five of them at the front, dictating the pace for Cancellara.

As we've discussed, Cavendish's victory yesterday came without a leadout train and underlined his status as the world's best sprinter. They're not our words - they're from Sky team boss David Brailsford. Read exactly what Brailsford said about Cav right here. Warning: contains back-slapping.

In more Tour news for the future, the success of this year's start in Belgium has got plenty of countries thinking. Read about Scotland's bid for the 2017 start here. This morning we also learned that the power brokers in the Belgian province of Limburg are looking to follow suit in 2018 - and you can read all about that here.

Lead has come down to 4:40. Peloton clearly keeping their eye on things up front...

We've already heard a lot about Morkov over the last couple of days. Those of you following our live coverage closely will know that it's his debut in the Tour de France this year. It's the same for Bernaudeau, who tackles his first Tour at the relatively late age of 28.

The other three have more experience but none have won a stage. The best they have achieved is a fifth-place finish. Grivko has finished fifth in a stage twice and Minard once. But not in recent years.


150km remaining from 197km

Check out @cyclingthealps preview of stage 3 from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer. Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb. Visit the website here.

142km remaining from 197km

As my mind starts turning towards the salad I'll be eating for lunch, I've just been reliably informed that today's start town, Orchies, is known for its asssociation with chicory. There's even a chicory museum there...

Tour Shorts: Here's the latest brief dispatches from our crack team out there in France

Team Sky DS Sean Yates has identified this stage as one where the team will be trying to stay safe. He said that Peter Sagan (Liquigas) is the favourite for today's finale but that it could also suit Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen...

130km remaining from 197km

Apologies - lost connection there, folks

125km remaining from 197km

Sagan has "The Tourminator" written on his bike...

It's pretty overcast, weather-wise. Local reports suggesting that there could be rain before the end of the stage here today. It would make an already difficult finish even tougher.

The final 35km are packed full of short challenging climbs, tight turns and technical descents. Rain would make it even more interesting. At least for those of us who have the luxury of just watching...

Amazing sight here - eight RadioShack riders at the front of the chasing group...

113km remaining from 197km

Janez Brajkovič (Astana) appears to have been the main culprit in that crash...

Still the gap remains pretty constant. Around the four-minute mark. No moves being made here.

Liquigas ride to the front of the peloton for the first time today...

Average speed for the second hour was 42km/h - slower than the first hour, but only marginally.

Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar) is building up towards the Vuelta here at the Tour de France. Last year's winner of the Spanish grand tour caught up with Cyclingnews' Alasdair Fotheringham earlier on and had plenty to say about Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Full interview right here.

100km remaining from 197km

99km remaining from 197km

The gap has now dropped under four minutes, and is in fact now at 3:46 with 98.7km to go.

A Katusha rider has a a few metres' lead, but apparently he just waned to grab his feed bag safely. It is lunchtime for the peloton now.

The terrain will now become more and more rolling. We will have our intermediate sprint before the climbing starts.  Remember, we have six ranked climbs still to come, all category 3 or 4.

The field must be enjoying the contents of those feed bags -- they have let the gap creep up again, to over 5 minutes.

We assume that Peter Sagan didn't like that five-minute gap, as Liquigas has sent Sylvester Szmyd to the head of the field again.

RadioShack is again at the head of things, spread across the road in front of the bunched up peloton.

Have we mentioned that Morkov is covered with red polka dots?  Even his helmet is, too!

85km remaining from 197km

The break group will hit the intermediate sprint in 5km.  It is not so important for them, but we expect to see some activity in the field when they get that far.

The race is passing through a very area at the moment -- fields on one side of the road, forest on the other. But there are still a handful of fans along the way.

The gap has settled in at about 4:50.

The sprint group just rolls on through the sprint, as expected, with the top points going to Minard, ahead of Bernadeau and Morkov.

Back at the ranch, er, we mean, back in the field, Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel are all unobtrusively working their way up to the front, to grab as many points as they can.

And here is Mark back again, to take you through the sprint!

Thanks Susan. For the main pack, there's 1km to go until the sprint points...

And Cavendish finishes ahead of the other chasers in the sprint. Made it look easy. Has a word with Van Hummel after crossing the line. Van Hummel was close to colliding with him. Full results to come in a moment when confirmed.

72km remaining from 197km


Leaders are approaching the top of the first climb now, the Cote de L'Eperche

And Morkov takes the solitary point available, extending his lead at the top of the mountains standings.

62km remaining from 197km

Still no sign of any rain just yet, but still plenty of grey overhead...

Hearing that there's been a crash back in the peloton. Ryder Hesjedal is the biggest name involved.

Vinokourov is strugging at the back. Presumably he was also involved in the crash.

Peloton appear to be on the move. Gap coming down reasonably rapidly. Under four minutes again.

My favourites for the finish? Sagan and Gilbert. Don't rule out the Spanish duo of Sanchez and Valverde though. Plus Chavanel may also make a bid for glory and could end up taking yellow tonight...

Another crash, this one a much heavier one as the pace increases. Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) is still down clutching his ankle. Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel) also involved.

Puncture for Sagan

ABANDONMENT: Siustou becomes the first man to abandon the 2012 Tour de France. He hasn't recovered from that heavy crash a few kilometres ago.

43km remaining from 197km

Less than 10km to go until the next categorised climb. The race could well break up all over again after that point...

Grivko doing most of the work on the front here. Looking really strong as we approach the last 40km.

Peloton is now only two-and-a-half minutes back. This is mainly down to the work of Movistar's José Iván Gutiérrez, who has been dragging them along almost single-handedly for the last few minutes.

37km remaining from 197km

The leaders have reached the next climb. It's a category 3, the Cote de Mont Violette.

Loads of fans lining this climb. Minard is getting the most encouragement...

And the leaders reach the top, and Morkov takes the climb again. This time he gets three more points and, once again, extends his lead in the standings.

Our reporter Pete Cossins has caught up with Sky's Rod Ellingworth ahead of what promises to be an exciting last few kilometres. He's not ruling out Cavendish:

29km remaining from 197km

ABANDONMENT: Rojas (Movistar) also involved in that crash. Looks like he has hurt his collarbone. He's out of the race.

How worried are Sky about Bradley Wiggins being isolated this afternoon as the finale approaches. Here's what DS Sean Yates told us a few minutes ago:

We're getting closer and closer to this frantic finale, which will see four categorised climbs in the last 16km. How ios this going to play out?

20km remaining from 197km

Gilbert, Cavendish and Voeckler are all in that second chase group. All three are stuggling.

17km remaining from 197km

They have dropped Moreno and Minard, whjo have been swallowed up by the first chase group...

15km remaining from 197km

Morkov takes the next climb - the Cote de Quehen. Two more climbs to go, including the one that ends on the finish line. Punishing final few kilometres ahead.

10km remaining from 197km

This leading duo have been out there in front for almost 180km. Morkov has been "out there" since Sunday, actually. The word "strong" doesn't seem to do him justice.

There are now two further groups behind the main chasers. Field getting well strung out.

Morkov has cracked, at last. Grivko on his own in front now.

Plenty of big names in contention in this main chase group: Cancellara, Sagan, Evans, Wiggins, Chavanel, Hesjedal, Nibali and Rolland. Ivan Basso is setting the pace at the head of this group.

6km remaining from 197km

5km remaining from 197km

He now has a lead of 15 seconds with 3km left. BMC in hot pursuit. RadioShack too.

Chavanel needs to finish seven seconds clear of Cancellara to take yellow...

RadioShack charge to the front of chasing pack. Sagan and Boasson Hagen are almost touching eack other

1km to go - surely he doesn't have enough of a gap? Charging downhill now

Massive crash with 500m to go. Dozens of riders down


Sagan has time for some showboating as he crosses the line ahead of Boasson Hagen and Peter Velits

1 Peter Sagan (Liquigas)

More on the crash when we get some news

So Sagan wins his second stage in three days and strengthens his grip on the points classification.


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