95th Tour de France
Stage 3 - Saint-Malo to Nantes - 208.0 km (129.0 mi)
07 July 2008
Every road stage at the Tour de France inspires its attempts to break away and fly in ahead of the pack to claim a prestigious stage victory. Usually the pack will manage to allow the leading riders to take their moment of glory, to string out a long lead before reeling the breakaway back in and contesting a bunch sprint. The domestiques, the team riders who work tirelessly for their leaders, have their own dreams of glory, though, and the breakaways continue unabated by their low rate of success... because sometimes a breakaway group WILL stay away, and an unheralded rider WILL get his moment of glory on the world's biggest stage
Today, four riders stayed clear and changed the complexion of the race going into tomorrow's short time trial -- Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Will Frischkorn (Garmin-Chipotle), Romain Feillu (Agritubel), and Paolo Longo Borghini (Barloworld). Dumoulin, a 27-year-old Frenchman riding in his fifth Tour de France, ended up capturing his first Tour de France stage victory. He has shown great promise ever since winning the under-23 Paris-Tours one-day classic back in 2002, and it is refreshing to see the Cofidis team riding strong -- Dumoulin's victory is even sweeter given Sylvain Chavanel's hard-fought yet vain breakaway in yesterday's stage. Will Frischkorn, an American riding in his first Tour de France, has long been among the top riders on the American professional road cycling circuit. Now that his time with Jonathan Vaughters and the Garmin-Chipotle (formerly TIAA-CREF, Slipstream, Slipstream-Chipotle) team is paying off with big-time invites, Will is showing his ability to match wits with the best, and narrowly missed the stage win yet emerged with the Most Aggressive Rider award for the day.
The rider who won the most, though, is Romain Feillu. This French rider, only 24 years old and in his second Tour de France, has been a bit player in the peloton before today, learning the ropes with the Agritubel team after turning professional ony last year. The third stage of the 2008 Tour de France, however, marked a graduation of sorts for the young cyclist, who will take to the time trial course tomorrow in Cholet as the yellow jersey.
The day started in Saint-Malo, just east of yesterday's finish in Saint-Brieuc along the northern Breton coast. 179 riders took to the start, only yesterday's withdrawal Herve Duclos-Lassalle gone from the original starters. The rain and wind were relentless today, setting the tables for an epic breakaway to form right from the drop of Christian Prudhomme's flag to start the stage. Frischkorn started the breakaway, drawing the other three who ultimately formed the break to follow down the road. With no categorized climbs on the day's stage, Thomas Voeckler and the Bouygues Telecom team were able to rest in the peloton and enjoy the polka-dot jersey for another day.
The peloton reverted to a holding pattern, allowing the breakaway to extend its lead. Dumoulin took the first intermediate sprint at Saint-Piat ahead of Borghini and Feillu; by the time the peloton reached the second intermediate sprint at Becherel, Borghini already having taken the six points ahead of Feillu and Frischkorn, the breakaway had already amassed a lead of over ten minutes on the road. With all the intermediate sprints out of the way by the sixty-second kilometer, Frischkorn taking the final sprint at Montauban-de-Bretagne, the four breakaway companions were able to concentrate on consolidating and widening its lead to have the greatest chance at staying away to the finish.
Initially, the peloton looked to the Caisse d'Epargne team of yellow jersey Alejandro Valverde to set the pace. But with Valverde content to let someone else take the jersey this early into the race, his team had no incentive to chase after the breakaway on what was assumed by many to be a perfect day for the sprinters. As the final intermediate sprint was left behind, the advantage had pushed to nearly fifteen minutes. The sprinters' teams started to take matters into their own hands.
First Columbia (for Ciolek and Kirchen), then Credit Agricole (Hushovd) and Liquigas (Bennati) put riders at the front of the peloton to ratchet up the pace. The lead started to evaporate -- at kilometer 103, the advantage had shrank back down to under ten minutes, and with another hundred kilometers of racing it appeared that the sprinters would have their day. Yet the breakaway continued driving ceaselessly toward Nantes, pressing their luck and hoping for their break to succeed.
Outside intervention nearly unseated the breakaway's chances. Protesters sat in the roadway, fifty-seven kilometers from the finish, and blocked the passage of the Tour. Several of the protesters' numbers held flags denouncing recently-elected French president Nicolas Sarkozy, though it is yet unclear just what was being protested. After race director Christian Prudhomme met and spoke with the protesters, they cleared the road and allowed the race's passage. The breakaway lost several minutes, but by the time the peloton passed through -- now only seven minutes down on the leaders -- there was no interruption.
The peloton continued charging, but the four determined riders at the front were working efficiently and holding off the pack. With thirty kilometers remaining, the gap was hovering just under six minutes... the peloton was failing to pull back time quickly enough. The winds, always a daunting challenge for a cyclist on the coastal roads of Brittany, were shifting and forming terrible cross-winds which broke up the peloton and disintegrated its ability to work cohesively and efficiently to pull back the break. Several teams started forming echelons, long chains of riders angled to pace each other and block the wind. Quick Step, working for the chances of Gert Steegmans now that Tom Boonen is back at home after ASO disinvited him to race following his out-of-competition positive test for cocaine, turned the screws at the head of the first echelon, breaking the peloton and stranding former GC favorites Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) behind in the second chase group.
Several crashes took down riders in the final minutes as the frantic pace picked up even further. The four riders at the front were able to start thinking about victory when, with only fifteen kilometers to go, they still had a 3:40 advantage on the first chase group led by Quick Step. As the four wound into Nantes, Feillu -- the highest-placed rider in the group and the one who would stand to take the yellow jersey -- opened the attacks. Dumoulin started to go at about 1500 meters, and Feillu countered aptly and competently. Opening a gap, Romain looked like he might take the stage for a moment... but then it became obvious that he had opened up his sprint far too soon. With 500 meters left, Dumoulin passed his countryman and remained in the lead to the line. Frischkorn, the catalyst for the early move which stayed away all day, pipped the new yellow jersey at the line to take a second-place finish on a stage in his first Tour de France.
Results - Stage 3
- Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) Cofidis -- 5.05.27
- William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- both s.t.
- Paolo Longo Borghini (ITA) Barloworld -- + 0.14
- Robbie McEwen (AUS) Silence-Lotto -- +2.03
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole
- Robert Forster (GER) Gerolsteiner
- Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia -- all s.t.
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 13.27.05
- Paolo Longo Borghini (ITA) Barloworld -- +0.35
- William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- +1.42
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- +1.45
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- +1.46
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
- Jerome Pineau (FRA) Bouygues Telecom
- David Millar (GBR) Garmin-Chipotle
- Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
- Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas -- all s.t.
- Kim Kirchen (LUX) Columbia -- 69 pts
- Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole -- 64
- Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank -- 55
- Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 49
- Erik Zabel (GER) Milram -- 46
- Samuel Dumoulin (FRA) Cofidis -- 43
- Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld -- 40
- Jerome Pineau (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 39
- William Frischkorn (USA) Garmin-Chipotle -- 38
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 36
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Bouygues Telecom -- 19 pts
- Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Cofidis -- 11
- Bjorn Schroder (GER) Milram -- 9
- David De La Fuente (ESP) Saunier Duval -- 4
- Lilian Jegou (FRA) Francaise des Jeux -- 3
- Christophe Moreau (FRA) Agritubel -- 3
- Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
- David Le Lay (FRA) Agritubel -- 1
- David Arroyo (ESP) Caisse d'Epargne -- 1
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Romain Feillu (FRA) Agritubel -- 13.27.05
- Andy Schleck (LUX) Team CSC -- +1.52
- Iouri Trofimov (RUS) Bouygues Telecom
- Maxime Monfort (BEL) Cofidis
- Thomas Lövkvist (SWE) Columbia -- all s.t.
- Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Liquigas -- +2.03
- Riccardo Ricco (ITA) Saunier Duval -- +2.24
- John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) Barloworld
- Roman Kreuziger (CZE) Liquigas -- +2.30
- Martijn Maaskant (NED) Garmin-Chipotle -- +2.46