And that is about all from me too, after another day to remember for Mark Cavendish. Thanks for your banter on 606 and via text - I'll be with you tomorrow for tomorrow's Team Time Trial - a 39km course in Montpellier. Will Astana boss things as expected? I can't wait to find out - see you then.
It's been quite a stage, hasn't it? So how does this leave us overall? Well, Fabian Cancellara
leads Tony Martin
by 33 seconds, with Lance Armstrong
another seven seconds back in third. Alberto Contador
is 19 seconds behind his Astana team-mate in fourth.
Cav? As you know, he is still in green. He leads the way on 70 points, ahead of Thor Hushovd in second place.
1712: STANDINGS:YELLOW JERSEY
Fabian Cancellara GREEN JERSEY
Mark Cavendish KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
Jussi Veikkanen WHITE JERSEY
Ah, bad news for Bradley Wiggins and his hopes of getting into yellow after that Team Time Trial. He lost 41 seconds on Cancellara and is now exactly a minute back in fifth place overall.
Another great performance from Team Columbia today - working hard to create that split, then Mark Renshaw led out Cavendish superbly at the end too. Will they pay for it in the Team Time Trial tomorrow?
Lance and Cav have a bit of a hug after crossing the finish line - it's been a great day for both riders. The 27 riders in the top group made some valuable time there and Armstrong and Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara earned some big time on Alberto Contador, who was back in the bunch.
Wowsers! Cav holds off Tom Hushovd by two bike lengths to claim his second win of this year's Le Tour and his sixth overall. He also keeps the green jersey, becoming the first British rider to wear it for more than a single day.
1701: MARK CAVENDISH WINS STAGE THREE OF TOUR DE FRANCE 1700:
Here they come, down the home straight...winding it up now.
Still 27 riders in the top group. Two sprint kings - Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd - are present and correct...my money is in on Cav. Inside 2km...and Team Columbia and Astana still going strong. The bunch are still 34 seconds back.
Just a reminder that Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara is in this leading group. He will probably keep hold of it, but there could be some major movement behind him - including Lance of course, especially with Alberto Contador back in the bunch. Less than 5km to go now and the gap is 34 seconds.
Now just 7km
to go. The gap is getting bigger, if anything, up to 36 seconds
now. Columbia and Astana are not going to let this slip now. Who is your money on?
Crunch time. 10km to go. Sun shining - and, after almost five hours in the saddle, we are about to see who wants this stage win the most. A big statement from Lance? Another victory for Cav? Who knows...and back in the peloton, Cadel Evans' Silence-Lotto team are trying to close the gap (which is now 30 seconds). The chase is on...
The gap from Cav, Lance, Cancellara and the rest of the breakaway to the peloton is around 27 seconds as they head into the last 15km. Lance is heading the group now too - there is certainly enough quality in this group to hold out until the end.
BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"Foolish of Columbia to drill it like this ahead of the team time trial? Maybe, but, if you want to win a sprint stage, one way is to make sure the opposition aren't there to challenge. Only Hushovd and Van Hummel are going to offer Cavendish any challenge.
"Behind there's not enough organisation to pull them back, although it looks like a few teams trying to sort it out, in particular Rabobank."
Every Team Columbia
rider is in this break, plus four from Lance Armstrong's Astana team.
No Alberto Contador
in the leading group by the way. The gap is 30 seconds. Can the Columbia boys control this to the end? The peloton need to get organised, and quickly. Just 22km to go.
The main peloton are around 30 seconds behind the leading group of 29 riders, who have now caught the front four. Columbia still leading the way and setting the pace.
Lance Armstrong and Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara are in the leading chase group, along with Cavendish and most of the Columbia team. The original front four are just 20 seconds clear and are about to be swallowed up.
Wow! Team Columbia have made their move - they've led a breakaway from the front of the peloton...
1622: From Simon in London, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1603) Coming from a guy that's seen American Flyers more times than he should. I can confirm that the pump in the spokes was not used, the kidney punch was deployed by the bad guy though to try and prevent our hero from winning."
Oh dear. Maxime Bouet (FdJ), Samuel Demoulin (Cofidis), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel) and Koen de Koert (Skil-Shimano) are still pedalling hard at the front but it is not going to make any difference. Their lead was more than 13 minutes at the 48km mark but, with 33km left, it is now down to a mere two minutes.
1618: From James, glad most of the office is off ill so he can read in peace, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) Surely we can't all of forgotten Danny LaRusso (aka the Karate Kid) being run off his bike by the evil Cobra Kai gang? Excitement, danger, a spectacular crash...then throwing the broken bike in the bin in anger...we've all felt like doing that before! Easily best bike related scene." Don't remember this one but then it has been a while since I watched Karate Kid. My loss...
Still Columbia working hard at the front of the bunch - the other teams are reluctant to help close the gap and set Cavendish up for another stage victory. They are just three minutes down now - the four leaders are going to have (a lot of) company pretty soon...
1613: From Dom in Manchester, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) I'm sure there was talk of an IMAX movie filmed at the Tour de France a few years back with Tyler Hamilton involved. Did it ever happen?" Hmmm. Seem to remember the film still came out but Tyler was either cut out completely or had his screen time reduced because of the doping accusations he was facing at the time.
Team Columbia leading the chase, with Mark Cavendish lurking near the front of the bunch, in green of course, too. They are cranking it up now and the gap is under four minutes...and dropping like a stone. Around 40km to go...
1603: From Nick, back from holiday, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) Can some of the best cycling films simply include cycling? As I would like to nominate 'The Goonies, when the young James Brolin rides his sister's bike, and is caught by the gang of bullies?" I'm glad it's not just me who remembers this one...by the way, some disagreement via texters on 81111 whether 'the pump in the front spokes' trick (see 1515) was American Flyers or Breaking Away, or maybe even both?
Right then. Just under 50km of the 196.5km to go now, and another hour (or so) to go for the riders after four hours in the saddle. The bunch are about five minutes behind the front four now, and probably already thinking about the finish - especially Cav!
1515: From Dan Badger in Hampshire, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1527) Can we mention Barry Hoban and a bottle of Jamaica Brown hair dye...he tried to cover that beautiful grey pelt a few years back...! GOOD OLD UNCLE BAZZA!"
Ouch! Lampre's Marzio Brusghin is nursing a nasty cut on his left knee after coming off - he's also got to chase the peloton on his own, helped at the moment by a tow from his team car.
Looks like curtains for the breakaway four - the bunch are just four minutes and 30 seconds back now. I think Maxime Bouet (FdJ), Samuel Demoulin (Cofidis), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel) and Koen de Koert (Skil-Shimano) all deserve some credit, however. They were helped by the peloton's lethargy at first but they have still been out on their own for a very long time and don't look very likely to get any real reward.
Ah, apparently there is no mention of echelons in the guide to Le Tour I mentioned earlier. It is a diagonal formation adopted by groups of cyclists to shield themselves from crosswinds. Because there is only so much room on the roads, they often lead to big splits appearing in the peloton, with many teams working together like they do in team time trials.
1537: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"The break looks like they've hit a windy patch. Could that be where the fun and games begin for the main bunch? Rabobank, Columbia, Astana and Garmin all look like they've moved their big engines to the front of the bunch."
tgsgirl on 606:
Bit of a stat for you: Samuel Demoulin
- one of the four riders in the breakaway - is the shortest rider in this year's Tour at just 5ft 2in. Not much of a surprise to learn he is known as the 'Pocket Rocket'. His quartet are now just over six minutes ahead of the peloton and looking as though they are feeling the heat. That's not much of a surprise either, seeing as they have been out in front all day, since the stage started at 1200 BST (around 130km ago).
"Some monetary trivia: winning an intermediate sprint will get you the same amount of cash as coming first on a hors de categorie climb, 800 that is. Finishing the tour near the very end of the peloton, without winning any kind of prize at all will earn you 400. For three weeks and over 3000 kilometres on a bike that isn't all too impressive."
By the way, if Mark Cavendish
does win today's stage, it will be his sixth in Le Tour. Barry Hoban remains the most successful Brit in this race with eight stage victories - Michael Wright, David Millar and Robert Millar all have three each...
The leading quartet - two Frenchmen, one Dutchman and a Spaniard - have just passed through the final intermediate sprint of the day at Arles. It was the Spaniard - Ruben Perez Moreno
- who won it, and picked up six points, ahead of Maxime Bouet and Samuel Dumoulin (both French).
Saxo Bank are again leading the chase at the front of the peloton as the gap comes inside seven minutes. A lot of talk of echelons on 606
- if you need to brush up on your Tour terminology, then you can do so with this
1515: From Dylan in London, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) 'American Flyers' for me, the pump in the front spokes trick is genius!"
We're now three hours into today's stage, with about 85km to go. The riders are taking more food on now, well most of them are - Quick Step's Sebastien Rosseler is playing catch-up after being dropped by the peloton following a problem with his back wheel - I didn't see if it was a puncture. The front four are slowly being reeled in, though, and their advantage is down to seven minutes and 25 seconds.
The sun is still beating down on the riders as the front four come over the Col de la Vayede, the highest point of the day. There are a few King of the Mountains points available today - Koen de Kort
has now won both climbs - but none of the breakaway group are serious challengers for the polka dot jersey.
1459: From Neil Marsh in Chatham, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) The best cycling film is probably 'A Sunday In Hell', a documentary on the 1976 Paris-Roubaix. The most popular is probably 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure'."
1453: BBC Radio 5 Live's Alex Murray on 606:
"Of all the great films about cycling, some of the greatest are probably the documentaries.
"Louis Malle's 1962 short, 'Vive Le Tour!' is narrated by Jean Bobet, brother of Louison, and paints an incredible portrait of the race in just 18 minutes. Incidentally, Jean's book 'Tomorrow We Ride' is also worth tracking down as it's among the most intelligent books you'll ever read about cycling.
"'The Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)' by Vittorio De Sica is another in my top films involving a bike. An Italian neo-realist classic to boot..."
Samuel Dumoulin took the six points in the latest intermediate sprint, followed by Maxime Bouet (4pts) and Ruben Perez Moreno (2pts). Down the road, Saxo Bank are still leading the chase at the front of the peloton and, with 96km to go, the front four are nine minutes and 45 seconds clear.
I bring good news. We now have live commentary from the Radio 5 Live
team. Click on the link below and you're away. And for all you non UK-based Tour fans, worry not as you can listen in on the action too.
Live - Radio 5 Live commentary
Oh dear, looks like Ben Stiller
did distract Lance and the rest of the Astana team after all (see 1149). There are reports coming in that they were fined for failing to register in time at the start of today's stage.
1440: From Rik in Manchester, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) The best cycling film must be 'Hell on Wheels', following Erik Zabel and his team during the 2003 TdF. It has got some amazing scenenary and really shows the physical challenge the tour really is."
We're coming up to our second sprint of the day, which is at Mouries at the 90.5km mark. The peloton seem to be waking up - that gap is down to under 11 minutes and it is the Saxo Bank team doing all the work again.
Out of our front four, Samuel Dumoulin
of Cofidis is the only rider to have won a previous Tour stage - the Frenchman obviously likes Stage Three too because he won that stage of last year's race, in Nantes.
It was quite exciting too.
1423: From Graham in Clackmannan, via text on 81111:
Little_Panda82 on 606:
"(Re 1238) Best bike film by a mile - 'Belleville Rendezvous'." A few other texters agree with Graham too. Looks like a three-way tie between that, American Flyers and Cutters/Breaking Away...so far.
"Doesn't look like a race at all at the moment! Cofidis and Skil-Shimank out at the front slowing it all down again. More like a rolling road-block, or a club out for a nice afternoons cycle..."
There's not much for the riders to look at today - the Camargue region is mainly marshland, which doesn't offer much protection from the wind either. But that gap is still growing you know. As we approach the 80km mark, the four breakaway riders are 11 minutes and 56 seconds clear - the biggest margin they have managed today was 13 minutes at the 48km mark.
1413: From Matt in Telford, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) The problem with cycling films is that real-life cycling is dramatic and visual enough for those of us that love it and films about cycling are only of any interest to those that love cycling. A catch 22 situation."
There's 121km of today' stage left and the front four -Maxime Bouet (FdJ), Samuel Demoulin (Cofidis), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel) and Koen de Koert (Skil-Shimano) are 10 minutes and 56 seconds clear. Bouet
is in virtual yellow as things stand...
1403: From Rich, at work, London, via text on 81111:
"Re: best bike movies - has to be BMX Bandits. Or have I missed the point?" Nope, they all count!
Cofidis are at the top of the peloton now but, with one of their men, Samuel Dumoulin in the breakaway they won't be overly keen to catch the front four. That gap is on the rise and it is back to over nine minutes again.
The peloton is sticking together to deal with some pretty fierce crosswinds at around the 60km mark. They seem to have eased off again too - the gap to Samuel Dumoulin, Maxime Bouet, Ruben Perez Moreno and Koen de Kort at the front is a steady eight minutes and 30 seconds.
1349: From Graham from Berrylands, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) You've overlooked the great cycling film 'Breaking Away' with Dennis Quaid. There's a great scene where the cyclist gets a tow behind an 18 wheeler."That one did get a mention Graham - it's also known as 'Cutters'. Won a deserved Oscar in 1979 for Best Original Screenplay.
Following Alex Murray's comments at 1338 BST, some signs of life in the peloton. The Saxo Bank team are at the front and the gap has, very quickly, come down to under nine minutes.
1335: From Joe B, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) 'Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid to the backdrop of 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head'. However, I got the impression Paul Newman wasn't taking the race very seriously." Lots of other non-cycling films feature bikes quite prominently too - think Wizard of Oz and ET. Oh, and The Goonies. One of my favourites, that...
Bouet took that first sprint and picked up six points. Dumoulin was second (4pts) and De Kort third (2pts). None of that trio are challenging Mark Cavendish
in green today, however, he remains the leader with 35 points.
1323: From Matt in Telford, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) Favourite cycling film has to be ' American Flyers.' Early Kevin Costner with a pretty good storyline and nice cycling footage." I've got fond memories of that film - always fancied having a go at the 'Hell of the West'. However, I also remember a certain fast food firm features heavily too - can't believe even Kevin Costner could win races by eating burgers!
The first sprint for points today will be at La Fare-les-Oliviers (the 48km mark), which the leading quartet are rapidly approaching. They are now 13 minutes clear. I'm told it is very hot out there, though, so not sure how long they will be able to hold out once the peloton decide to start the chase.
This breakaway means French rider Maxime Bouet
of FDJ is the virtual leader of Le Tour. The 22-year-old, who will ride for AG2R next season, began the day in 74th place, one minute and 39 seconds behind Maillot Jaune Fabian Cancellara
1308: From anon, via text on 81111:
"(Re 1238) How about the flying Scotsman? A great cycling movie about a true cycling hero: Graeme Obree!"Very good film that. Obree plays himself in the cycling scenes too.
Feeding time for the riders, after an hour on the road. The peloton are now more than 11 minutes down on Samuel Dumoulin, Maxime Bouet, Ruben Perez Moreno and Koen de Kort, who have just gone past the 35km mark.
Cav, Lance, Cancellara, Contador and all the other big hitters are all safely in the peloton at the moment, getting ready for their food I would imagine...if you missed yesterday's finish, here's a different take on it - filmed by BBC Sport's Phil Sheehan and posted on
1250: From Jack in London, via text on 81111:
"This Tour has potential to remain open right up to the penultimate Mont Ventoux stage - an interesting move by the organisers. I cannot wait! I'm wary of totally writing-off Lance, but my money remains on Cadel Evans for the Yellow and Cavendish for the Green Jerseys, respectivly."
The gap is still growing - up to more than 9min 30 seconds now. And it's going to be a while before the peloton start cranking it up to try to haul this quartet in. They won't do it before lunch for a start - the musettes
will be out at around the 30km mark today.
Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Maxime Bouet (FDJ), Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskatel) and Koen de Kort (SKS) are now more than seven minutes clear with almost 20km done - about 170km to go. My favourite cycling film? Cutters
(also known as Breaking Away). Yours?
Ben Stiller just can't get enough of the Tour - he's following the peloton in one of the VIP cars. It's about time a decent cycling film (American Flyers didn't quite cut the mustard for me) was made I reckon. Stiller wouldn't be my choice for the lead though...
BBC Sport's Phil Sheehan on Twitter:
"Been out for a little 60km ride to spin my legs this morning...well, it was a grind. It's windy down this way. Cross-headwind at the finish."
Those four riders are now together and have opened up a lead of around six minutes on the peloton at the 10km mark.
We've already had our first casualty of this year's Tour by the way - Belgium's Jurgen van de Walle did not start today's stage after suffering a broken collarbone in a fall on the second stage. The Quick Step rider finished yesterday but went straight to hospital afterwards.
Blimey. There's been an early breakaway right at the start of the stage - Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis) and Maxime Bouet (FDJ) are already around two minutes 30 seconds seconds clear of the peloton, with Ruben Perez Moreno and Koen de Kort attempting to catch them.
And here's a response to that accusation, from Rooijakkers' team-mate Kenny van Hummel, who replied: "Cavendish should not be talking about respect. He needs to keep his hands to himself."
As a few of you have said on 606
, there are always a few elbows flying around as people fight for spaces and places at the end...
Interesting to see Mark Cavendish thoughts on yesterday's frenetic finish. Posting on
his Columbia team-mate Mark Renshaw's Twitter feed,
Cav said: "Yesterday with 3km to go, Piet Rooijakkers (skil shimano) kidney punched me. Is he a:stupid b:crazy c:disrespectful d:all of the above?"
1202: From Alan in Woking, via text on 81111:
"I can't help but feel sorry for Tyle Farrar (after yesterday's finish). Make no mistake, he's one of the fastest guys in the world but to see Cav pull away and win by five bike lengths must have been devastating. Come on Cav, win in green today."
We're just minutes away from the start of Stage Three and it looks like its going to be another hot and humid day for the peloton - maybe that breeze won't be such a bad thing after all...
Little_Panda82 on 606:
"I'm fully expecting a sprint finish today - no reason a breakaway should survive. That being the case you wouldn't bet against Cav getting his second win."
I've never been to La Grande Motte, but by all accounts it is a beautiful seaside resort - the greenest in Europe, according to
its tourism office.
Not that any of the riders will be taking in the sights today - they're likely to be battling a stiff breeze for most of their time in the saddle, especially in the last 60km when they hug the coast on their way to the finish line.
Yep, Isle of Man missile Mark Cavendish has already made his mark on this year's Tour,
sprinting to victory and the green jersey yesterday.
Today's stage, 196.5km from Marseille to La Grande-Motte, is perfect for pure sprinters too - fingers crossed he can become the first Briton to stay in green for more than a single day...
Tour de France or Tour de Lance? Neither. It's official folks - 2009 is Le Tour de Manx.