Tour 2012: Young Gun Claims Stage 3

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In my first 2012 Tour de France report yesterday I wrote that the riders know they can’t win the race in the first week, but they sure as hell can lose it. That theory was put to the test today as the teams took on a 197km (122.4 mile) course that started out flat and ended with a series of tough hills and sharp turns. As a result, Stage 3, which ran from Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, was marred with crashes, mishaps and injuries that sent a few riders home, but fortunately didn’t effect any of the big GC contenders.

The challenging climbs at the end of the race, combined with the regular crashes, did result in the peloton being ripped apart once again today. When the pace picked up near the end of the stage, the hills started to take their toll on the riders as well, splitting them into a number of smaller groups. Several of leading riders made attempts at breaking away and claiming the win, including French rider Sylvain Chavanel, who gave it a go on the final climb, but in the end he was reeled back in by a surging peloton. On the final push it was young upstart Peter Sagan of Team Liquigas-Cannondale who beat out his rivals at the line to claim his second stage win of the year in impressive fashion.

As mentioned, the stage had little impact on the overall standings in the General Classification. Fabian Cancellara still leads the race by seven seconds over Bradley Wiggins and Chavanel. Last year’s winner Cadel Evans is holding down the 8th spot overall and is in a perfect position for this point of the race. Other possible contenders like Denis Menchov and Ryder Hesjedal are lurking as well.

With no change at the top, Cancellara of stays in Yellow of course. The Green Jersey of the sprinters belongs to Sagan outright now. He actually had claimed it yesterday, when I posted in error that Cancellara had given it to him on loan. At this point the King of the Mountain competition is in the hands of Michael Morkov of Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. He’ll definitely stay in the Polk Dot Jersey for a few more days, as the next few stages don’t feature many climbing points. American Tejay Van Garderen also stays in the White Jersey today as the Tour’s best young rider under 25.

Tomorrow’s Stage 4 runs between Abbeville and Rouen and covers 214km (133 miles). The profile for the ride is mostly flat with a few minor climbs that will likely have zero impact on the race. Look for one of the fast sprinters to take the day tomorrow as it seems tailor made for a showdown at the end.

Kraig Becker