The stage 3 time trial was a thrill. Fabian Cancellara, Vladimir Gusev, and Nathan O'Neill set the big times on the day before the final flight of main contenders. O'Neill was the one who showed that the 37-minute barrier could be broken with his time of 36:55. These times were a lot slower than expected, which can be attributed to a big headwind and yesterday's grueling Sierra Road climb.
The first of the main contenders to get things roarding was Dave Zabriskie, who got the crowd charged as the announcer shouted out that DZ had the fastest time by 31 seconds. With that margin I thought for sure that my pick for the stage winner (DZ, of course) was solid, but then Floyd Landis came screaming in 26 seconds faster -- the first (and only) run to break the 36-minute barrier. Landis' margin was so big that the remaining contenders were losing with 1km to go: Julich, Leipheimer, Hincapie. Julich was following the curb so close that I didn't even see him until the last second, but those extra road savings weren't enough. Hincapie had a huge press fleet of cars following him, but nothing ahead to stop the wind.
Floyd Landis' 29-second lead in the overall is large enough that his fellow riders don't seem to think there is much chance left as there remaining stages aren't challenging enough to produce big gaps. Landis has looked strong in every stage so far, so even on a tough stage it seems doubtful that he'd be caught out. The only chance I see is taking advantage of the weaker Phonak team. A lack of teammates cost Leipheimer on stage 2. CSC or Discovery could use their deep rosters to really challenge Landis much like Discovery did in the Tour de Georgia when they launched Danielson to victory. At the very least, CSC needs some sort of victory to take away from this inaugural event: Gerolsteiner, Discovery, and Phonak already have had their stage wins and leader's jerseys.
Ekimov isn't competing for the overall, but I like this photo enough that I'm just going to paste it here:
Read on for a photo summary of my day at Stage 3.
Hanging out by the CSC RV:
I also checked out the Discovery Bus and watched a mechanic take a hacksaw to Jason McCartney's stem as he fixed the handlebars:
Also checked out some other team camps:
Headed over to the area around the starting gate to watch the first riders off:
Walked over to the base of the first climb:
Walked back down to the starting area and past Zabriskie and Landis warming up:
Drove over to the finish line to watch the big names come in:
Finally, the podium: