Tom Boonen came through strong to take the third stage of the Tour de France after a hectic sprint finish, his second successive stage victory.
Erik Dekker, Nicolas Portal and Rubens Bertogliati broke away after 27km but were gobbled up before the end.
Australians Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady cancelled each other out after touching wheels close to the finish.
And defending champion Lance Armstrong and race leader David Zabriskie stayed out of trouble in the peloton.
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1605: Tom Boonen comes through to take the stage after Robbie McEwan and Stuart O'Grady touch wheels in a dramatic sprint finish.
1602: Fabian Cancellara steals a march on the peloton and is the first to pass Erik Dekker and Nicolas Portal with 2km remaining. But he is quickly reeled in.
1558: Erik Dekker is still trying to up the pace but Nicolas Portal looks shot as the peloton loom large behind them.
1550: The peloton gobble up Rubens Bertogliati while Erik Dekker and Nicolas Portal are still 20 seconds ahead with 11.9km to go.
1545: With 3km to go the three escapees are still ahead and Erik Dekker is pushing the pace. Either Nicolas Portal and Rubens Bertogliati are too tired or not inclined to give him much help.
1455: As the breakaway lead drops below two minutes, the sprinters can start to plot their strategies for another hair-raising finish - this time in Tours.
1435: Flanked by sunflowers, the peloton continue to reel in Erik Dekker, Nicolas Portal and Rubens Bertogliati. The gap is under three minutes with 75km remaining.
1410: The pace is cranked up at the front of the peloton and, just like that, the gap tumbles by two minutes. The sprinters look favourite again.
1345: So far so good for the breakaway three. With 95km gone, they are five-and-a-half minutes clear.
1320: The lead trio have a cushion of more than four minutes. That may sound like a lot, but the margin can disappear at alarming rate if the peloton get their tails up.
1230: The first significant break has been made. Erik Dekker, Nicolas Portal and Rubens Bertogliati are quickly three minutes ahead of the peloton.
1210: The first climb of the day, the Cote de Pouzauges, is won by Fabian Wegmann, with Thomas Voeckler second and Laurent Brochard third.
1155: Lone escapee Philippe Gilbert is swept up by the peloton after 15km.
1145: Philippe Gilbert, of the La Francaise des Jeux team, makes the first break. His lead over the peloton climbs towards one minute.
1130: Racing begins in earnest on this lengthy but largely-flat stage. There are three fourth-category climbs on the route but these are unlikely to present any problems for the riders.
1124: The pre-start is under way and the 189 riders are pedalling through the neutral zone in La Chataigneraie.
1050: The weather forecast at race finish in Tours is for mixed cloud and sunshine and cool temperatures - pretty ideal conditions for cycling.