Tuesday, July 04, 2006



BELGIAN TOM BOONEN IN YELLOW...FOR NOW. Tom Boonen didn't win the stage, but finished far enough ahead of Thor Hushovd (a few seconds) to take the overall race lead at day's end. This is the fourth lead change in four days of the Tour de France! With the top ten riders within 30 seconds of each other at this point, the lead could potentially change every day for a week.


Stage Notes just puts a little perspective and brief post-stage reflection on each day:

BELGIAN YELLOW. Tom Boonen is Belgian...and he will start Wednesday's Stage 4 in yellow in his home country. That's cool. It's the world sprint champ's first Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France.

GERMAN STAGE WINNER. The stage was won by Matthais Kessler (in the AFP/Getty photo by Sebastien Berda) of Germany. After the peloton chased down five day-long escapees in the last few kilometers, Kessler charged ahead on the last climb and flew down the steep 50 meters ahead of the pack. Instead of the expected bunch-sprint finish, Kessler crossed the line alone for his first stage win of the Tour de France.

DISCOVERY AND AMERICANS. American George Hincapie is now in third place, just 5 seconds behind Boonen. His Discovery Channel teammate Paolo Salvodelli is just 15 seconds down. American Floyd Landis is currently in 7th place, just 16 seconds down. American David Zabriske is 23 seconds down in 15th position.

RODRIGUEZ OUT. American Fred Rodriguez had a bad fall in this stage and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He's out of the race. Best wishes for a full recovery.

RACE FAVORITE OUT. The race also lost a top contender in a crash. Alejandro Valverde broke a collarbone on a downhill crash in the last quarter of the stage. Experts had givenValverde a nod as a favorite to win this year's Tour after Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, and Francisco Mancebo were withdrawn by association and implication (not by confession or conviction) in the Operacion Puerta affair. Now Valverde is gone, too.

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