It was another day of crashes and chaos in the Tour de France, with the cobblestones of Stage 3 destroying bike tires, tearing apart groups and taking the yellow jersey off the back of Sylvain Chavanel.
A wild fourth day -- a 132-mile ride from Wanze, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, the first day that featured cycling in France -- was won by Norway's Thor Hushovd ("The God of Thunder"). Chavanel rode with the maillot jaune, but the cobblestones were too much to overcome, twice giving him flat tires and causing him to switch bikes.
The roads of Northern France delivered the promised blow to the Tour de France, shattering the peloton into splinters and taking out one big name for good -- Saxo Bank's #2 Frank Schleck, who left without his collarbone intact. And Fabian Cancellara towed away the lead group, including Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans, as well as stage winner Thor Hushovd, now firmly ensconced in the green jersey. Alberto Contador was looking solid in the second chase group until a late flat cost him a handful of extra seconds, in an odd scene where his teammate Alexandr Vinokourov seemed to drop him in the last kilometer. Contador's time losses won't mean much in a couple weeks.
Lance Armstrong appeared to suffer a flat tire and fell back. He surged to make up some of the distance, but still lost valuable time to the leaders, particularly rival Alberto Contador falling all the way from fifth to 18th in the general classification. Lance is now a full 2:30 back from Fabian Cancellara, who re-took the yellow jersey with a strong ride on Tuesday.
Andy Schleck finished fifth today, and now sits in sixth overall. His brother was not so fortunate -- Frank Schleck crashed (again), suffering a broken collarbone, an injury that will force him out of the race, team Saxo Bank announced.
General Classification After Stage 3:
1. Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank
2. Geraint Thomas, Sky (+ 00:23)
3. Cadel Evans, BMC (+ 00:39)
4. Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Transitions (+ 00:46)
5. Sylvain Chavanel, Quick Step (+01:01)
18. Lance Armstrong, Radioshack (+ 02:30)
The defending champion, Alberto Contador (Astana), is in ninth position, 01:40 back.
The Tour rides completely in France for the first time on Wednesday, with a shorter (roughly 95 miles) Stage 4, from Cambrai to Reims. The mostly flat course should be a welcomed relief for the riders after Tuesday's cobblestones.
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