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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Stage three - as it happened
LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)

606: DEBATE
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1736: The leaders are spent - and Tour leader Cancellara has attacked from the front of the peloton! He crosses to the leaders, goes around the outside and sprints past. He holds on as the sprinters close for an amazing victory. Cavendish is a creditable ninth.

1734: The leaders are beginning to look at each other and Willems attacks, but they are not letting him go. Ladagnous looks exhausted as they hit the cobbles with one kilometre to go.

1732: The peloton is flying now and the gap is tumbling - just 30 second now, with four kilometres to go. Credit Agricole are doing the damage at the front of the pack as they attempt to get Thor Hushovd in position.

1728: Mark Cavendish's T-Mobile colleagues are massed at the front of the peloton as the teams see the chance to catch the leaders and set the finish up for their sprinters. There are seven kilometres to go and the gap is just over a minute. The flat terrain is helping the chasers.

1725:Willems tries to break away from his co-leaders, but Auge is alert to it and the attack comes to nothing. The peloton is only one minute 15 seconds behind.

1723:Three riders, including Australia's Stuart O'Grady, attempt a break from the front of the peloton but are soon caught. Are the chasers worried they won't catch the breakaway group?

1720: Belgian Willems and his three French co-escapees have 15km to go and the gap has dipped under two minutes. They are still working hard but the game could be up.

1715: "The chase is on! Will Cavendish actually contest a sprint this time?" jmb on 606

1710: There are 21km to go and the chasing pack have brought the gap down to two and a half minutes. They're winding it up now - how much longer can the leaders hang on?

1700: The lack of action from the peloton is apparently due to a riders' protest about the narrowness of Monday's finish, which they feel contributed to the massive pile-up.

1653: Auge leads the breakaway over the Cote de Blerancourt, taking the climbing points needed to wrestle the polka dot jersey from Millar. The lead is still over three minutes.

1644: There are 40km remaining and the bolstered leading group of Auge, Willems, Vogondy and Ladagnous is holding on to a three-minute lead ahead of the peloton. With the day's only fourth category climb ahead, Auge could take the King of the Mountains jersey from David Millar.

1630: Stephane Auge, of Cofidis, and Liquigas's Frederik Willems have managed to cross from the peloton to the leading group.

1616: Two riders attempt to escape from the front of peloton. The gap to the leaders is down to three minutes 15 seconds, but the overall pace of this long stage is still slow.

1600: The leaders have 69km to go. The sprint passes uneventfully as Vogondy and Ladagnous concentrate on maintaining their tempo, though their lead has been eroded to four minutes.

1550: The lead is holding steady so it appears the breakaway duo will pick up most of the points from the next sprint, which is coming soon.

1527: The gap is back up to 5 minutes 18 seconds with 91km remaining and with the peloton averaging just over 30kph, they won't be catching the leaders any time soon.

1449: Vogondy and Ladagnous are now just four and a half minutes ahead with 104km remaining. The peloton is taking a breather from the chase but it can't be long before the pursuit resumes.

1449: The chase is on - Cancellera's CSC team are massed at the front of the peloton, the pace is picked up and the gap is suddenly down to under seven minutes.

1436: Cancellera has a lively discussion with someone in his team car before returning to the peloton with a cheerful wave for the camera. The gap to the leaders is back above 10 minutes.

1425: The gap to the leaders is back up to nearly nine minutes as the peloton slows to take on food. Laurent Lefevre drops off the back to greet his family before sprinting back to the pack.

1415: Agritubel's Romain Feillu steals off the front of the peloton to take the third and final bonus points in the sprint at Fontaine-au-Bois.

1408: 130km remaining for Vogondy and Ladagnous and they are still more than eight minutes ahead, though the gap to the peloton is beginning to drop.

1358: David Millar and Stuart O'Grady are also animatedly passing the time chewing the fat at the front of the peloton.

1352: What are the Australian and the Swiss talking about? Robbie McEwen sits up and is gesticulating wildly with his arms. Hardly the sort of thing you expect to see on a gruelling day of top-level sport. It is all very relaxed in the peloton as they approach the 100km mark.

1350: Tour leader Fabian Cancellara is also up at the front. No sign of that injury he sustained to his left arm in yesterday's mass pile-up. The man in yellow is grinning broadly as he wiles away the time chatting to Robbie McEwen.

1345: Talking of David Millar, he's sitting resplendent in that dotty, spotty red on white top at the front of the peloton. The orange-clad Euskaltel team are up there as well in numbers.

1337: The 188 remaining riders in the race - Vogondy's team-mate Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez pulled out before reaching the mainland of Europe - are beginning to go up the lump in the road on today's profile. It rises like a souffle. Nothing major on a gently undulating day with points up for grabs on a fourth-category climb 34km from the finish. That will keep David Millar honest as he will want to hang on to that polka dot jersey for King of the Mountains.

1322: That gap is now under eight minutes. Vogondy and Ladagnous - or does Ladagnous and Vogondy sound better? - have not helped their cause in the short-term by taking a toilet break.

1259: And if the thought of the distance still to go doesn't dishearten Messrs Vogondy and Ladagnous the fact that the peloton have cut the arrears to less than nine minutes will.

1254: Vogondy and Ladagnous have now put 70 clicks on the clock, but have not even broken the back of this day. In fact, they are not even a third of the way to Compiegne. Just the 166km to go.

1230: Back in the bunch it is Team CSC who have taken up the mantle at the front of the peloton and the time gap is beginning to tick down. The maximum gap was 13 minutes and 45 seconds. Now we are down to 11 minutes or so.

1218: Sailing over the border from Belgium into France come Vogondy and Ladagnous, who have now pedalled through 47km.

1210: The results are in from the first intermediate sprint with Vogondy coming through to collect six points, Ladagnous collecting four and Mikel Astarloza, miles off the pace but, taking the two.

1145: Through the first 25km now and Vogondy and Tour rookie Ladagnous are now eight minutes, five seconds ahead of the peloton, which is showing no signs of chasing them down.

1125: Vogondy moves into the "virtual" lead of the Tour de France after building up a one-minute advantage over the pack in the very early stages of the race.

The Frenchman, who rides for the Agritubel team, began the stage 54 seconds behind overall leader Cancellara, but has overhauled him now.

1115: And there is an early move from Nicolas Vogondy and Matthieu Ladagnous who attacked with 6km gone to lead the pack by 20 seconds.

1110: There have been a few attempts to break free of the peloton already as the main pack of riders come through the 4km mark. The pace looks pretty fast out there.

1103: The riders are off for stage three and here's what the stage has in store. There are three intermediate sprints with the first coming after 33.5km in Tournai, the second at 104.5km and the third at 167.5km.

The only climb is the Cote de Bierancourt, which comes after 202.5kms.

1053: A sedate start for the roll-out in the neutral zone as the riders - all 187 of the ones left in the race - warm up their legs for the stage ahead.

There was bad news for Thomas Vaitkus of the Discovery Channel team, as he fractured a thumb during Monday's spectacular pile-up and has been forced to abandon the race.

1043: The riders are thronged at the start line in sunny conditions, although rain is predicted for later in the race.

1030: The riders take on the longest stage of the Tour on Tuesday - the 236.5km from Waregem in Belgium to the French town of Compiegne.

The riders will leave Belgium after about 45km with the route offering opportunities to break away before another expected sprint finish.

Belgian Tom Boonen will aim to win his first sprint stage in two years after he was pipped to the line by Quick Step team-mate Gert Steegmans in Ghent.

Boonen wears the sprinters' green jersey while Fabian Cancellara, who fell heavily in stage two's pile-up, clings on to the leader's yellow jersey, for now.

German Andreas Kloden is 13 seconds adrift in second, with Britain's David Millar (21 secs) and Bradley Wiggins (23 secs) third and fifth respectively overall.



SEE ALSO
Steegmans too strong for Boonen
09 Jul 07 |  Cycling
McEwen wins Tour sprint thriller
08 Jul 07 |  Cycling
Cancellara claims Tour prologue
07 Jul 07 |  Cycling


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