Swiss leader wins Tour de France stage
Vaill, CO Colorado
COMPIEGNE, France ” Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara extended his overall lead in the Tour de France, winning the third stage and longest stage in a sprint finish Tuesday as cycling’s showpiece event entered its home country.
The Swiss rider, who also won Saturday’s prologue, finished the 147-mile ride from Waregem, Belgium, to Compiegne, northeast of Paris, in 6 hours, 36 minute, 15 seconds.
“I have no words after winning something like that,” said Cancellara, who overtook four riders in the final stretch.
Erik Zabel of Germany was second and Danilo Napolitano of Italy was third.
Cancellara, who has held the yellow jersey for all four days, extended his overall lead by 10 seconds by gaining bonus points for the victory. He leads Andreas Kloeden of Germany by 33 seconds. David Millar of Britain is third, 41 seconds behind.
All 187 riders that began the stage finished, carefully negotiating sharp turns and cobblestone patches near the end.
“It was a really long day, but because of the wind we couldn’t go faster,” said Cancellara, who was caught in a group crash Monday and slightly injured his left hand. “We are not machines.”
The Tour, which started in London for the first time this year, features mostly flat early stages that favor sprinters. But Cancellara, a time-trial specialist, and his Team CSC have worked hard to keep him out of the wind, allowing him to save energy.
“Today, I was a little bit scared to lose the jersey because the four riders in the front had a good gap,” Cancellara said. “I attacked. It was instinctive.”
On Saturday, the race heads into the Alps for three days, and the climbers are expected to begin moving closer to the overall lead. Other pivotal stages in the three-week race are time trials in the 13th stage and the next-to-last stage before the July 29 finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
Pre-race favorites include Kloeden, Alexandre Vinokourov, Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde.
The Tour is hoping to move past a string of doping scandals, allegations and admissions during the last 14 months. Most notable were Floyd Landis’ positive test for synthetic testosterone in the last Tour, and a blood-doping scandal in Spain known as Operation Puerto.
Tour organizers said 53 riders submitted blood tests Tuesday morning. There were no abnormalities, and all received the go-ahead to race. The six teams tested were: Astana, Discovery Channel, T-Mobile, Francaise des Jeux, Predictor-Lotto and AG2R.
Wednesday’s fourth stage is a 120-mile route from Villers-Cotterets to Joigny.