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2010 Tour de France

 

 

97th Tour de France

Stage 3 - Wanze to Arenberg - 213.0 km (132.1 mi)

06 July 2010

 

 

2010 Tour de France - Stage 3 Map
2010 Tour de France - Stage 3 Profile

 

 

NOT UP TO DATE ON THE RACE? CHECK OUT MY PREVIEW HERE!

 

The cobblestones proved chaotic, to say the least. Some people loved them, some people hated them, but you can't say they were inhumane or unjustified. Just as riders are forced to continue soldiering bravely onward, Le Forcats de la Route, through rain and mud and snow and cold and searingly hot sunshine and any other condition that may present itself -- be it ten-percent grades or toppling crosswinds along the oceanside -- they must also be expected from time to time to be able to brave the cobblestones. The pave, giant bread-loaf-sized hunks of stone used to pave all through the northern French and Flemish Belgian countryside, are an integral link to the history of bicycle racing.

Yet I hear some people clamor that it was unfair to include the cobblestones into Stage 3 of the 2010 Tour de France. To contest the world's greatest bicycle race and be afraid of how eight kilometers of cobblestones -- less than one-sixth the 52.9 kilometers used in this year's Paris-Roubaix -- would affect the general classification in a three-week race is ludicrous. When favorites can lose a minute in an 8km prologue time trial, every challenge has its place in the race. Now you'd expect a guy like Jim Caple over at ESPN to make it sound like the minute or two lost by Lance was the Armageddon for the Texan's chances after just four of twenty-one days of racing...

... but to hear someone who has a reputation as one of the self-sacrificing hard men of the sport -- a lieutenant with a diesel engine in his legs the likes of Jens Voigt -- bellyaching about the course design it really saddened me: "It was a stupid race, and a stupid mistake from the race organization. All I want is a public apology. They should say 'Dear riders, it was a mistake, putting on a stage like that.' It was stupid, it's as simple as that."

Sure, he lost his teammate Frank Schleck in a nasty crash... but that crash could just as easily come on the cobble-less roads that took down so many others yesterday. Every rider had their opportunity to test their mettle on these roads before July; the route has been well-known worldwide for half a year now, and anyone is welcome to take the challenge of these old farm routes. The race didn't even tackle the most infamous of them all, the Arenberg Forest -- while ending in the nearby town, the Tour was merciful in sparing the peloton this true test of grit that gets so bad from time to time it must be deleted from even the Paris-Roubaix parcours. To taste the cobblestones, eight kilometers in a two-hundred-plus stage, is not to threaten everything. They even came late enough in the race not to throw everything into disarray; after all, it's hard to argue with an organization that has maintained public interest for well over a century.

 

The race is what it is, a three-week test of riders in everything from team discipline as echelons form on the flats to climbing prowess up the steeps in the Alps and Pyrenees to individual form in the race against the clock that is the time trial. Why eight kilometers can't be made to fit into race containing thousands of them is plain absurd; the Tour should look to include them annually, not shy away from them as guys like Voigt have demanded.

It also led to a lot of discrepancy in the overall classification -- but that, too, was part of the design. When there is no action in the first week of the race save sprints and breakaways, the maillot jaune loses some of its luster as it bounces from one set of shoulders to another. So to see time splits like these:

  • Cadel Evans (BMC), 00:00
  • Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), 00:00
  • Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), 00:53
  • Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), 00:53
  • Dennis Menchov (Rabobank), 00:53
  • Alberto Contador (Astana), 01:13
  • Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), 01:46
  • Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), 02:08
  • Chris Horner (RadioShack), 02:25
  • Ivan Basso (Liquigas), 02:25
  • Carlos Sastre (C??rvelo TestTeam), 02:25
  • Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), 02:25
  • Andreas Kloden (RadioShack), 02:25

 ... is honestly a reassuring thing at this point in the race. When the general classification gets shaken up, it forces GC contenders to stay on their toes all the way throughout. Just as drug testing in cycling is just as dependent on the element of surprise (unannounced mandatory out-of-competition tests) as the simple need to test every stage winner and jersey leader and the lucky winners of the drawing of names from a pot, so too is a successful grand tour dependent on the elements of both surprise and familiarity. You're always going to see Alpine stages, Pyrenean stages, a time trial or two and the ride onto the Champs-Elysees on closing day -- why should we be denied the pageantry of a Sunday (or a Tuesday, as the case might be) in Hell?

 

But the good also comes with the bad. Seeing Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) bolting out of the sextet of riders at the front, claiming the stage win as pre-race contenders Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and world champion Cadel Evans (BMC) hung tough with traditional cobbles riders like Hushovd and reanointed yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara. Schleck, like Voigt, had to endure losing his teammate to a broken clavicle... and worse for him, it was his older brother and confidant in the peloton, a man who was to be his right-hand man up the cols of southern France in the final week. Yet here is what he had to say after the stage: "It was a bad day because I lost Frank. I am content that it sounds like he's only broken his clavicle. I had a few bad days to start this Tour, bad in the prologue and then I crashed twice yesterday. The first bike I lost into a ravine, then I took the bike of Breschel, that was too big and then I crashed 300 meters later. Today I didn't crash or get a puncture. I stayed on the wheel of Cancellara. We gained back some time today. We're content, but sad to see Frank go home."

See, it's all about taking the good with the bad. Sure, Andy lost a brother and a key teammate... but at the same time, those who remained (Cancellara) were crucial in helping him carve crucial seconds out of guys like Contador and Armstrong and Basso. So the yellow jersey rightfully passes back on to the shoulders of the man whose performances the last two years at Roubaix would've made it all the more strange to see someone else drinking in the accolades on the podium in this locale. Cancellara is the man of the hour, but the word by the end of the Tour might just be that Schleck was the biggest beneficiary of a long-overdue test of an all-around rider's bike handling and confidence as Stage 3 saw man meet ancient road construction...

 

 

RESULTS - STAGE 3

  1. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)                             4:49:38
  2. Geraint Thomas (Sky)
  3. Cadel Evans (BMC)
  4. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)
  5. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)
  6. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
  7. Johan Van Summeren (Garmin)                    +0:53
  8. Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
  9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma)
  10. Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)                    all s.t.

 

 

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION

  1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)            14:54:00
  2. Geraint Thomas (Sky)                             +0:23
  3. Cadel Evans (BMC)                                 +0:39
  4. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)                         +0:46
  5. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)                +1:01
  6. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)                       +1:09
  7. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)                          +1:19
  8. Alexander Vinokourov (Astana)               +1:31
  9. Alberto Contador (Astana)                      +1:40
  10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega)             +1:42
    Nicolas Roche (AG2R)

 


POINTS CLASSIFICATION

  1. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)                              63
  2. Geraint Thomas (Sky)                                 49
  3. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)                    44
  4. Robbie McEwen (Katusha)                          38
  5. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)                   37
  6. Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto)   36
  7. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre)                    35
  8. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)                             30
  9. Mark Renshaw (Columbia)                          30
  10. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)      30

 

 

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS

  1. Jerome Pineau (Quick Step)                       13
  2. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)                     8
  3. Rein Taaramae (Cofidis)                              8
  4. Maxime Monfort (Columbia)                         5
  5. Matthew Lloyd (Omega Pharma-Lotto)       4
  6. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin)                             3
  7. Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto)   3
  8. Carlos Barredo (Quick Step)                        2
  9. Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre)                        2
  10. Marcus Burghardt (BMC)                              2
  11. Steven Cummings (Sky)                               2

 

 

BEST YOUNG RIDER

  1. Geraint Thomas (Sky)                                   14:54:23
  2. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)                               +0:46
  3. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)                            +2:01
  4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Caisse d'Epargne)           +2:12
  5. Tony Martin (Columbia)
  6. Arkaitz Duran (Footon-Servetto)                     +2:26
  7. Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank)                           +2:35
  8. Kristjan Koren (Liquigas)                                 +2:44
  9. Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Lotto)       +2:47
  10. Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Caisse d'Ep)         +2:51



Be sure to come back every day to follow the Tour de France here in the Non-Traditional Sports World... and to keep up with all of Bigalke's writing, follow him on Twitter or Facebook!
July 7, 2010  08:26 AM ET

I loved the idea of the cobbles when I first saw it on the schedule. I recorded the race so I could watch it when I got home. (Also, because Versus fills the evening show with so many commercials that it's almost unwatchable, and the recording lets me fast forward.)

But, the thing that bothers me about the cobbles is the utter randomness of all the flat tires. The race is supposed to be about the riders, not the equipment managers and the repair teams. Crashes can be avoided by good bike handling skills and smart placement in the peloton. Flats, though, can undo all the careful training and preparation, and let a lesser rider take the prize.

Yeah, putting the cobbles near the end of the race spreads the pack, but at the same time it gives any rider who flats out no chance to make up time, no matter how much effort he's willing to put out.

And where, oh where, was the rest of Team Radio Shack when Lance needed them? He was riding alone between groups.

At the end of the mountain stages, we're going to look back and say that this was the day when Lance Armstrong lost any chance to beat Contador. It shoudn't come down to a flat tire.

July 7, 2010  01:16 PM ET
QUOTE(#1):

I loved the idea of the cobbles when I first saw it on the schedule. I recorded the race so I could watch it when I got home. (Also, because Versus fills the evening show with so many commercials that it's almost unwatchable, and the recording lets me fast forward.)But, the thing that bothers me about the cobbles is the utter randomness of all the flat tires. The race is supposed to be about the riders, not the equipment managers and the repair teams. Crashes can be avoided by good bike handling skills and smart placement in the peloton. Flats, though, can undo all the careful training and preparation, and let a lesser rider take the prize.Yeah, putting the cobbles near the end of the race spreads the pack, but at the same time it gives any rider who flats out no chance to make up time, no matter how much effort he's willing to put out.And where, oh where, was the rest of Team Radio Shack when Lance needed them? He was riding alone between groups.At the end of the mountain stages, we're going to look back and say that this was the day when Lance Armstrong lost any chance to beat Contador. It shoudn't come down to a flat tire.

I completely understand the frustrations for those teams that saw their leaders lose time on the general classification, and the aggravations that come with seeing a teammate crash completely out of the race. But the thing we must also realize is that flat tires on the cobblestones are as much an indication of the preparatory work the mechanics did before the race began.

For Paris-Roubaix and other cobblestone classics, we usually see riders' tires deflated by 10-20 psi to reduce risk of tire failure, and the bicycles are usually also fitted with 700x25c tires rather than the usual 700x23c tires (or skinner) used for flat stages and time trials. But even then, cycling is a sport with hundreds of variables. Cobblestones are but one of them.

Flats are bound to happen. We saw Armstrong lose time due to a flat, but as has been pointed out the fact that he had just Yaroslav Popovych to help pace him back in contact rather than more teammates (and ones more suited to the flats and the cobbles at that) is a curious bit of strategy by Johan Bruyneel and company. And one could also argue that Contador's flat tire in the final kilometers, where he ended up losing twenty seconds on the group containing teammate Alexander Vinokourov and subsequently more time to both Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans, was just as unfortunate a turn of events. Armstrong at least had time to repair his tire; Contador was forced to ride on his rim to the finish line.

Ultimately, a truly-diverse grand tour offers opportunities for every type of rider to excel. Six years ago, we saw Armstrong benefit six years ago when Iban Mayo crashed on Stage 3 from Waterloo to Wasquehal... and his first Tour victory could potentially have never come about had Alex Zulle not crashed on the Passage du Gois in the early part of the 1999 Tour. There are always risks to be taken in a 3000+ km stage race... but that's no reason for race organizers to either rule against using the cobblestones or apologize when it leads to some detriment for certain teams.

July 7, 2010  01:18 PM ET

Another word on the mechanics:

Keep in mind that the mechanic crew working with Radio Shack is largely the same loyalists that have been with Lance and Johan and the rest for much of the past decade. Why do I mention that? Because, we must remember when thinking about how Armstrong punctured to recall how many times his former teammate, George Hincapie, experienced malfunctions and setbacks on these very roads all the times he bid for a Paris-Roubaix win with U.S. Postal/Discovery. They are some of the most skilled mechanics in the world when it comes to bicycles, but this group hasn't figured out the magic formula like, say, Saxo Bank or Quick Step.

 
July 7, 2010  03:43 PM ET

I guess we just disagree on the philosophy of this. Einstein said "God does not play dice." To the extent that they can control the conditions of the Tour, the race organizers shouldn't play dice, either. Yes, there will always be unknowns and variables, but part of maintaining the "level playing field" of sport is trying to eliminate any randomness which might favor one or the other athlete on any given day.

While anyone can have a flat tire anywhere, anytime, the cobbles greatly increase this probability. In earlier Tours, the small amount of time lost to a flat would be washed out by the length of the overall Tour, and could be made up by greater effort on subsequent stages. Now, though, it is only the climbs and the time trials that really separate the GC riders. It is these events which should determine who wears yellow on the final day. The breakaways are too tightly controlled to even be possibilities for GC contenders.

Quantum Mechanics, incidentally, tells us that God does indeed play dice, despite Einstein's opinion. But, the Tour's organizers shouldn't try to play God.

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