The Tour de France Stage 3 results fittingly favored an American on the Fourth of July. But Americans don’t have a popular place on the Tour, given France’s campaign against Lance Armstrong over the years. Yet Stage 3 was a triumph for Tyler Farrar instead, although the overall standings still favor Norway’s Thor Hushovd in the early going.
Hushovd took the overall lead in Stage 2, but though he held it for a second straight day Monday, he won’t keep it too much longer. In any case, his goal is to win the green sprinter’s jersey, but those efforts took a hit thanks to an incident with main rival Mark Cavendish.
Cavendish was accused of nudging Hushovd with his head during a sprint for points, but the clash led to both riders losing their sprinters points for the day. Jose Joaquin Rojas leads both of them in the early standings, but now their efforts to come back will get a bit harder, especially for two-time defending sprinter’s champion Cavendish.
At the least, Cavendish is in a better position than the other two-time defending Tour de France champion. Alberto Contador is still buried under his bad start, trying to recover from being part of a large crash in Stage 1. However, he is a few minutes behind Hushovd, and more importantly, he comes into Stage 4 at a minute and 38 seconds behind Andy Schleck.
Since Schleck was the second biggest favorite going into the race, he has become the No. 1 favorite now that Contador has slipped up early. A 98 second deficit isn’t hard to overcome, especially with under 20 stages still to go. Yet there are only a few realistic chances to make up big ground during this race, and most of them won’t arrive until the second and third weeks.
Therefore, Contador cannot afford another crash or slip until then, and must hope that Schleck gets into some potholes as well. In the meantime, racers like Farrar, Hushovd and Cavendish stand to be the headliners, although they should drop down the overall standings once they get to the mountains.
As such, Tuesday’s Stage 4 should have similar results to the first three, since the Tour de France is bound to stay the same for a few more days. However, no one expected Contador to get caught up in a big crash on Stage 1, so anything can still happen on any day. Given that Contador’s margin for error is now at zero, he and the other riders need to work especially hard to stay upright until they can make a bigger move.
Live coverage for Stage 4 is under way on Versus airing from 8 a.m. to 11:30.
Nashua Telegraph- “Farrar storms to Stage 3 win, Hushovd keeps lead”
The Guardian- “Tour de France 2011: stage four — live!”
Herald Sun- “Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd penalized after jostling during Stage 3”