Riders remaining: 187
Distance: 236.5 km
- Cote de Blérancourt 1 km; 4.6%; 4 Category
With a high percentage of stiff riders, sore from the crash on Stage 2, the race continued today on the roads of Belgium and France. A relatively flat profile of 236.5 kilometers with overcast weather, it was a day for either the sprinters or a breakaway. The latter prevailed, but at the slowest speed in almost ten years (according to the official Tour de France newsflashes), the day ran quite late. Four escapees, Stéphane Auge, Frederik Willems, Nicolas Vogondy, and Matthieu Ladagnous, managed to stay ahead of the peloton for over 140 miles; yet, in the end, they were caught in the closing meters, passed by none other than the man in the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara. Praise the Lord, no one crashed in the finish. With cobblestone roads in the final two kilometers, combined with the speed of racing, the situation was (as usual) somewhat dicey.
Speaking of dicey, study of the big crash on Stage 2 by race officials showed that Erik Zabel, an extremely experienced rider from Team Milram, touched the wheel of sprinter Tom Boonen of Team QuickStep. In compensating for that mistake, Zabel collided with Manuel Quinziato of Team Liquigas. The rest was just a domino effect. Even so, the strong men of the Tour de France are back for more. Listen to this comment by a rider from Team Saunier Duval, found on the Tour de France website:
“I just couldn’t avoid the crash,” said one of the riders caught up on the crash of stage two, Francisco Ventoso of the Saunier Duval team. “I tried to brake, but there was nowhere to go…even if I’d managed to stay on my bike, I would’ve been caught by those coming behind. “I was feeling good and confident, well=placed, but this is what you expect of this kind of finish. I fell on my bike, and I think most of my injuries came from hitting it. I’ve injured my knee and my elbow, and my hand hurts badly. But I’m really worried about my hip. I hope it’s nothing serious, but I can tell I’m having a hard time walking.”Of course, this same gentleman boarded his bike this morning to ride 200+ kilometers at an average speed of 20-30 mph. When I have trouble walking, I usually visit the doctor rather than heading out on a torturous bike ride.
Team Discovery Channel status
George Hincapie came in 16th on the stage today and remains in fourth place overall. Levi Leipheimer was 126th. The white jersey, denoting the best young rider in the race, still lies on the back of Vladimir Gusev, where it has been since Day 1. Way to go gentlemen!