Even though stage 3 of the Tour de France turned into another sprint win for Mark Cavendish it was anything but another long, boring trek through southern France. When the race turned south with 30km to go, the peloton encountered a heavy westerly crosswind. Team Columbia used the winds to drop the hammer causing a split at the front of the peloton as 30 riders went clear.
Leading up to the split, the race had been marked by a general lack of cooperation among the teams as to who would work to chase down an early breakaway that contained four riders and reached a maximum time gap of 13 minutes. For the first hour the peloton managed a meager 17-18mph.
Team Columbia-HTC owner Bob Stapleton commented on the situation. "It was frustrating. I thought Garmin would come up and do some work for Farrar, but they were basically saying 'We are not going to do any work. We are betting all our chances on the team time trial.'" "I think their chances of beating Astana are small. I am disappointed they didn't ride today. Tyler showed a lot of quality yesterday. They should have supported him today. He maybe could have done something."
"I think Saxo Bank got no support either and they basically said screw it. We basically said screw it. Let's get super agressive and see if we can make something happen," added Stapleton.
Second place on the stage, Thor Hushovd echoed Bob's sentiments. "It was a big game during the whole stage. Saxo didn't want to control the race the whole day. They wanted to save their legs for tomorrow. And Columbia didn't want to do the work alone. It was just a big game the whole day."
Team Columbia was aided in their efforts by some intel from a former team member. "Erik Zabel came through this morning and had a look at the last 30kms for us. He gave us all the technical info. It was very good," explained Columbia Team Director Alan Peiper.
At the finish, six Columbia riders powered the lead group to a forty-one second advantage. Lance Armstrong proved that he hasn't lost any of tactical abilities. He was the only overall contender to make the split and has moved up to third place. If Astana wins the team time trial tomorrow, as expected, and can take more than 40 seconds out of Cancellara's Saxo Bank squad and 7 seconds out of Tony Martin's Team Columbia the Lance could be in yellow at the end of the day.
This guy could be in yellow tomorrow!
Thor Hushovd looks pretty thin probably so he can climb in the mountains and fight for the green jersey all the way to Paris.
Cadel was on the wrong end of the split and lost 40 seconds