TDF Stage 3 – Wow!

6 Jul

Fans of the sport of cycling, fans of the Tour de France, will be talking about today’s stage for many years to come. Stage 3 was just thrilling to watch – certainly not for the riders to race, but for the viewers, it was pure thrill!

In America, we don’t often have an opportunity to watch races that go over the cobblestones of Northern France. This year I did catch part of Paris-Roubaix, but still I have never witnessed what I saw today.

First off, what I liked about Tour officials including the cobblestones or pave’ as they did this year, is we got to see the GC contenders struggle like other bike racers in the Tour do every single year. The GC elite are all good climbers, most are good time trialers too, and they have to be for them to compete for the Tour victory each year. Only the best of the best can win the Tour.  It is extremely rare to see the GC contenders like Contador, Evans, Armstrong, Schleck struggle to be in the lead pack – and falter. I have never witnessed, in a stage of the Tour or any bike race for that matter, so many of the GC favorites struggle.

Stage 3 showed us a different side of these men as bike racers, a more complete view of their abilities and limitations. I for one was amazed at Contador’s ability to handle the cobblestones. I promise you many in the GC were amazed too. Few if any expected him to ride the way he did. My respect for Contador grew today as a result.

I understand the bike racers complaining and I think their complaints have merit, but for what the Tour is, the showcase event for professional bike racers, I think it is fair and even beneficial to include stages like today.

As far as the other riders, Cadel Evans also impressed me with his bike handling skills; as did Andy Schleck. The ride Ryder Hesjdal put in was phenomenal, he seemed like a natural for the cobblestones.  I expected Lance Armstrong to do better. Today’s stage was Armstrong’s best chance to gain time on Schleck and Contador and he wasn’t able to. Much of that has to do with Schleck’s and Contador’s performance obviously, plus I haven’t had a chance to read any post-race analysis so my guess is he had a mechanical problem of some kind. When Lance was bridging the gap to the 2nd group he looked strong and appeared to still have enough left in the tank to cut his time deficit further.
 
I was also impressed with Vinokourov, who rode strong for Contador today, and although I initially thought he had acted like Vino of old and had taken off on his own forgetting his leader Contador, after seeing it again it looked like Vinokourov just wasn’t aware that Contador was in trouble.

It was a shame about Frank Schleck, last I heard it was “just” a broken collarbone, I had feared something more serious based on how immobile he was on the side of the road.

Thor Hushovd’s victory was not a surprise; he had enough anger/adrenalin from yesterday to carry him forward today. The fabulous Fabian Cancellara devoured the cobbles, as did the other Saxo Bank soldiers – Jens Voight for one – just incredible effort. I am overjoyed that Cancellara took back the yellow especially considering how he lost it.

Suffice it to say, we saw something very special today. I have watched the Tour consistently for 10+ years and there are few stages where the effort and skill of the riders has equaled what we witnessed today.

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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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