Nazon Wins Stage 3 of Tour; McEwen Takes Yellow Jersey
Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r) has won his team's second Tour stage in three days. Nazon took a bunch sprint from Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Robbie McEwen (Lotto) to win Stage 3, a rolling, twisting, 210-km ride from Waterloo, Belgium to Wasquehal, France, in 4:36:45. McEwen took the maillot jaune from Stage 2 winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole).
Jens Voigt (CSC) started the racing early. At three km, he attacked and took Bram De Groot (Rabobank) with him. By 42 km, the pair led the field by 5:35. By 105 km, their advantage had grown to 6:30. Behind, mechanicals and punctures riddled the field.
With 70 km left, U.S. Postal Service led the field onto the first stretch of pave to protect Lance Armstrong. Iban Mayo and Iker Flores (both from Euskaltel), Michael Rogers and Davide Bramati (both from Quick Step), Benjamin Noval (U.S. Postal Service), Gerrit Glomser (Saeco), and Marco Velo (Fassa Bortolo) crashed. Velo broke his collarbone and abandoned.
With 40 km left, the 40-rider strong lead group caught the break. Fifteen km later, on another stretch of pave, the lead group accelerated. Mayo's group lost ground, and the gap would reach nearly four minutes by the end of the stage.
With eight km left, Sylvain Calzati (RAGT) attacked the lead group. Fassa Bortolo and Gerolsteiner caught him. The sprinters' teams chased down other attacks.
McEwen made the first move, but he jumped too early. Nazon countered and took Zabel with him. After the stage, McEwen said that he would have preferred the stage win, but he had to content himself with the yellow jersey.
Some teams used special equipment to handle the pave. For example, Phonak used wider-than-usual tires to provide better grip on the cobbles. Tyler Hamilton, Phonak's captain, said after the stage, "I felt okay on the pave...Everybody did what they needed to do." However, Hamilton added, "Cobbles belong in Paris-Roubaix, not in the Tour de France. They don't put L'Alpe d'Huez in Paris-Roubaix, do they?"
In the overall, McEwen leads Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) by 0:01 and Voigt by 0:09. Stage 4 will change the standings. The 64.5-km team time trial on a fairly flat course from Cambrai to Arras will see CSC, Phonak, U.S. Postal Service, and T-Mobile battle for victory. Which team will prevail? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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