Stage three - Wanze - Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, 213km
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That's it for today, folks. Many thanks for your company, and apologies for the publishing delays. Rob Hodgetts will be your host again tomorrow; in the meantime please help yourself to
the report of this tremendous day of racing
The new top five is as follows: 1. Cancellara 2. Geraint Thomas @23" 3. Cadel Evans @39" 4. Ryder Hesjedal@46" 5. Sylvain Chavanel @1'-1"
1640 Fabian Cancellara
moves back into the yellow jersey but get this - Geraint Thomas
is second on the general classification!
Contador was dropped in the last few hundred metres by the, er, Contador group (that included Wiggins) but he finishes well ahead of Armstrong.
The Schleck group of six fight it out and it's Thor Hushovd
first across the line followed by Geraint Thomas - what a magnificent ride.
Situation in the last 4km: the Schleck group leads. The Contador group, including Wiggins, is 53 seconds back. Then there's the Armstrong group at 2'04". Yellow jersey-wearer Sylvain Chavanel is 3'25" off the fronthas punctured. Again.
As I understand it, Ryder Hesjedal is about to be caught by the Schleck group. Then comes the Contador group about 35 seconds back. After which, Lance Armstrong is now on his own another minute behind. And yellow jersey-wearer Sylvain Chavanel has punctured. Again.
mape_ventura on 606
: The cobbles have done their job... in a big big way. The original tour was devised, so there would only be one finisher, i thought that was the past?!
Chavanel punctures... Cancellara is putting his foot down in the second group... Armstrong has been dropped after a puncture and is now behind Contador's group. If you follow me.
Mark Cavendish is in the Armstrong group, which is about 25 seconds behind the Schleck/Evans group. Alberto Contador is in the fourth group, another 50 seconds back.
Ryder Hesjedal has broken away on his own, and is 27 seconds ahead of a six-man group that includes Andy Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Steve Cummings, Geraint Thomas, Thor Hushovd and Cadel Evans. There's then a bunch with Lance Armstrong a little way back, ahead of the second peloton.
The break and the peloton - just 20 seconds behind - are on the very bumpy Sars-et-Rosières stretch and there's the first pave crash. Frank Schleck is on his back on the verge - he simply went over on own. Ouch.
Cervelo Test Team took a turn at the front, but Saxo Bank are back in control with both Schlecks in the first four or so riders. George Hincapie, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Geraint Thomas and Sylvain Chavanel are in close attendance. Gap at 30 seconds.
In case you hadn't noticed, we're experiencing major publishing problems here, meaning that the updates might be of the order of 15 minutes behind - apologies; we're working on it.
But the good news is that if you refresh this page, you should be able to fire up BBC Radio 5 live's commentary...
Minor crash at the back just after they exit the pave, involving Charlie Wegelius and Damiano Cunego, amongst others, on the deck.
The bunch pile onto the cobbles as the break leave it. A long, strung-out dust cloud of riders snakes its way across the Belgian countryside.
Jens Voight grimacing in pain at the head of the bunch as he and his Saxo Bank colleagues eat into the gap, which is below 90 seconds. Breakaway onto the hot, dry, dusty cobbles.
Mark Cavendish is at the back of the peloton after a puncture. With the speed gradually ramping up, it's not the best place to be for the Manxman. Saxo Bank are on the front, gap is at 1'50" with 47km to go.
The magnificent seven are within 10km of the 1,200m secteur pave d'Hollain. Their lead had slipped below two minutes but is back up to 2'10". Fabian Cancellara is at the front of the peloton giving it plenty of chat as the head of the bunch is spread across the wide road. There are plenty of sideways glances - they all look very wary.
The next two sections of pave - d'Hollain (1,200m) and Rongy (700m) are reported to be fairly good, but the fourth - Sars-et-Rosieres (2,400m) - is said to be in a poor state. Excellent.
Sky's Simon Gerrans hits the tarmac but is back on his bike. The gap to the break is holding in the 2'40" region.
matzov on 606
: BORING!! They're all through the first section no bother.
Radio Shack lead the peloton into and out of the first section with no sign of any incidents or need for the 'c' word. A collective sigh of relief from over 180 riders, methinks. Forty clicks or so to the next load of cobbles, which, at 1,200m is four times the length of the first - maybe that will produce some sparks.
The break are on the cobbles... the crowd's are enormous... the gap is down to two minutes... Sky are leading the bunch...
The magnificent seven are just 5km from the first section of pave, with the peloton - now with Sky moving to the front - closing in on them. Gap at 2'40". I can't wait!
Crash in the peloton as a rider clips the kerb and brings down about 10 others. No big names involved, as far as I can tell. Quick Step continue to lead the bunch through huge crowds in Lens.
The peloton is beginning to look interesting already. Aside from Quick Step setting the pace, Radio Shack, Rabobank and Astana all have riders close to the front. If they're already jockeying for position, it can only mean that they are nervous about the approach to the first section of pave
. The gap to the break, however, has crept back up to the four-minute mark.
The gap is edging down - it's now at 3'25" and the breakaway is just 25km from the first section of cobbles, which is 350m long.
BBC Radio 5 live on Twitter
: Philippe Gilbert was one of a number of voices speaking out against the peloton's soft-pedalling yesterday.
He basically said, what next? Climbers waiting for sprinters in the mountains out of solidarity?
Weather update: sunny with a smattering of plasters and bandages. With 124km to go, the gap is at 3'40", with Quick Step leading a stretched-out peloton - a sign that the pace has increased.
Looking ahead to the cobbles, 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner, Magnus Backstedt told
the official Tour website
: "The only real way you can ride this stage is by making absolutely sure that you're in the front row going into the first two sections of pave.
"I'm expecting massive carnage going into the first two sections and a couple of big pile-ups as well". There's the 'c' word again.
The gap seems to be holding around 4'40". The results of the day's second sprint were: 1. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) 3pts 2. Steve Cummings (Sky) 2pts 3. Stephane Auge (Cofidis) 1pt.
I've been trying to track down weather information for the stage... the best I've found so far is a forecast for Charleroi - sunny intervals, 22 degrees, light wind. So, it's looking like a dry day for the cobbles, which at least takes one factor out of today's carnage-watch.
So much for upping the pace. More Slow Step than Quick Step - after 39km the gap has increased to 4'40", meaning, amongst other things, that Canadian Ryder Hesjedal is the virtual leader of the Tour. Which is nice.
It looks like race leader Sylvain Chavanel's Quick Step team have decided that it's time for action - they're setting the pace at the head of the peloton, which, judging by the Columbia stats on
, is moving at around 50kph. Or 31mph, in old money.
The gap has gone out to just over four minutes, and at the first sprint, the points were won thus: 1. Roger Kluge 6pts 2. Ryder Hesjedal 4pts 3. Steve Cummings 2pts.
Don't forget to tune in to the BBC Radio 5 live commentary from 1530 BST here on this website. If you want to ask a question of presenter Peter Slater, get involved on
5 live on Twitter
There's a fascinating way to follow HTC-Columbia live on
, where you can follow Mark Cavendish and his colleagues in real-time, and get their individual stats - they're currently doing around 40kph.
Meanwhile, out on the road, after 11km, there's an early break of seven riders, who have a gap of 55 seconds: Steve Cummings (Team Sky), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Pierre Rolland (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Roger Kluge (Milram), Stéphane Auge (Cofidis) and Imanol Erviti (Caisse d'Epargne).
Bradley Wiggins was his usual forthright self this morning, dismissing complaints about yesterday's "day of destruction": "We knew it was going to be like this and we're still standing," he said. "No-one said it was going to be easy. Everyone's known it was going to be like this all year, so no-one can complain.
Wiggins, who fell on the descent of the Col de Stockeu, where half of the peloton went down, was not happy with the soft-pedalling tactic. "No-one waited for me when I crashed at the Giro [d'Italia]," he said. "If it's a dangerous time-trial or prologue Fabian [Cancellara] isn't going to slow down and wait for everyone else."
matzov on 606
reckons Thor Hushovd is the man to watch today - what do you think?
I'm interested to see whether Fabian Cancellara is given free reign by Saxo Bank, or whether he'll have to ride in support of the Schlecks. It wouldn't surprise me if Lance Armstrong's Radio Shack team try to control the stage, but don't rule out Team Sky, who have good Classics experience in Juan Antonio Flecha and, of course Geraint Thomas, who won the junior Paris-Roubaix.
In early news, Team Garmin leader Christian Vande Velde has pulled out after suffering a left eyelid laceration requiring multiple stitches, along with two broken ribs.
'Carnage' was certainly the word of the day after stage two. David Millar described it as "... definitely in my top five worst days on a bike
the Garmin website.
Bonjour et bienvenue to stage three of the Tour, which today takes the riders 213km from Wanze in Belgium to Arenberg in northern France, via some of the famous cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix race.
There are seven sections of pave
in the stage, meaning our heroes have 13.2km of bone-shaking hell to endure.