At the last possible second, Belgian Quick-Step sprinter Tom Boonen found the open door from inside the peloton and ignited his turbos, clinching first place in Stage 3 and the race's green jersey for the second consecutive day. With his finishing burst timed to perfection, sprinter-of-the-moment Boonen even had time for a victorious two-handed salute.
Another stage win for Tom Boonen,this time in Tours.
Another stage win for Tom Boonen, this time in Tours.
After a surge to the front in the final 325 feet, 24-year-old Boonen crossed the finish line in Tours in four hours, 36 minutes, and nine seconds, just inches ahead of the spoke-to-spoke melée of chasing riders. He held off Austrian Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) and Aussie Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), in second and third places, respectively. However, McEwen was subsequently relegated to 186th place, the last place in the main peloton, after the race jury ruled that he hindered rival Stuart O'Grady's (Cofidis Credit) line to the finish, boosting O'Grady's placement to third from fourth.
Clad in the maillot jaune on Independence Day, American Dave Zabriskie (CSC) will wear yellow for the third successive day during tomorrow's 42-mile team time trial, which begins in Tours and creeps further inland to Blois.
"It's nice to be in yellow on the Fourth of July," Zabriskie told the Associated Press. "We can celebrate with some fireworks when I get home, a barbecue, and drink the drinks everyone loves to drink."
Flanked throughout the 132-mile leg from La Châtaigneraie to Tours by his Discovery Channel teammates, race favorite Lance Armstrong has been keeping a low profile since exploding past T-Mobile rival Jan Ullrich in Saturday's opening Stage 1 time trial. Armstrong is bidding for an unprecedented seventh-consecutive title before retiring.
In today's opening miles, French rider Nicolas Portal (Ag2r Prevoyance) and Erik Dekker (Rabobank), the 2004 Dutch champion who won today's battle for the red polka-dot jersey, created an early lead on mile 17 and held off the peloton until the very last mile of the stage. Saunier Duval's Rubens Bertogliati caught and stayed with the lead duo minutes after their break, but dropped back into the pursuing peloton 20 minutes from the finish line.
Sporting the Tour's white jersey, worn by the best under-25 rider, Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) blazed past the lead duo in the dying moments, but he was only able to hold on temporarily before the peloton caught him and barreled across the finish line on Avenue de Grammont en masse.
Tomorrow's leg between Tours and Blois involves this year's first team time trial, promising a fast and tactically crucial battle along the left bank of France's famous River Loire, and in which the key teams will be looking to forge a lead with a superior team performance.