VALKENBURG, Netherlands Germany's Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) claimed his first Tour de France stage win, while Belgium's Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) assumed the Tour de France lead Tuesday after a hot, crash-marred third stage.
T-Mobile's Matthias Kessler celebrates the first Tour stage win of his career.
Kessler broke from the peloton on the final portion of the steep finishing ascent of the infamous Cauberg, a half-mile effort with a 7.3-percent grade that's part of the Amstel Gold race.
With temperatures approaching 90 degrees, Kessler rode to a five-second win in 4 hours, 57 minutes, and 54 seconds.
"I had very good legs yesterday," said Kessler, who also attacked near the finish of Stage 2 but was caught with about 50 meters left. "I felt even stronger today, so I knew I had to try again."
Boonen, the current world road titlist who began the day in second place five seconds behind overall leader Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), finished fourth in a pack sprint. He is now the race's third overall leader.
Boonen has a one-second margin over Australian Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), who was second in the stage. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) of Greenville, South Carolina, who finished 15th in the stage, is third overall, trailing by five seconds.
Hushovd, who's held the race leader's jersey twice, fell to fourth, seven seconds back.
Floyd Landis (Phonak) of Murrieta, California, now lies in seventh place overall, 16 seconds behind. David Zabriskie (CSC) of Salt Lake City is the next highest U.S. rider in 15th place, 23 seconds behind.
The narrow roads of Holland proved troublesome for the peloton today.
This year's race began with eight Americans, now down to seven. Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) of Emeryville, California, and Dutchman Erik Dekker (Rabobank) collided with a spectator and crashed with about 35 miles left in the stage, both reportedly suffering fractured collarbones.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Espargne-Illes Balears) of Spain, a race favorite, crashed with ten miles left in the stage after bumping another rider's pedal. He also exited the race with a fractured right collarbone.
Stage 4 on Wednesday will take the remaining field of 172 riders 128 miles from Huy, Belgium, to Saint-Quentin, France, with Boonen starting the day in yellow on home soil.
For more of Outside Online Tour de France Correspondent James Raia's coverage of the 2006 Tour de France, including his daily e-newsletter, go to www.byjamesraia.com.