Stage 3: Esch-sur-Alzette - Valkenburg

Kessler went for a repeat attack and this time was able to hold everyone off to the line. He put in a huge atack on the final steep Cauberg climb and the surviving members of the peloton had too much trouble working together to bring him back. Boonen managed to stay with the chase group just behind, which was enough to put him in yellow by a single second. He also takes over the lead of the green jersey competition from Robbie McEwen.

The biggest news on the day were the collarbone casualties: Valverde, Freddie Rodriguez, and Erik Dekker. Valverde is the biggest loss as the odds-on favorite for the overall win. He went down in a touch of wheels on this hot, difficult day. Fast Freddie and Dekker went down in a separate crash. Robbie McEwen will certainly miss his lead-out man.

The overall standings had a bit of a shakeup with Hushovd dropping to fourth, Michael Rogers jumping to second, and Discovery now with two riders in the top five: Hincapie at five seconds back and Savoldelli at 15 seconds back. Discovery has plenty of strength at the top of the standings and Popo and Azevedo are both right near Levi in the standings.

The day was dominated by a breakaway containing Jens Voigt, Christophe Laurent, Jos� Luis Arrieta, J�r�me Pineau, and Unai Extebarria. Pineau won most of the KOM climbs on the day and took over the KOM jersey lead. Jens Voigt picked up a bunch of sprint points and time bonuses, but the time bonuses were completely wiped out by finishing 1:29 behind. Arrieta was the last surviving member of the breakaway and made it all the way to the Cauberg climb before he was swallowed up by the swarm of riders from the peloton.

Prediction check: * My prediction: Frank Schleck * Actual: Kessler. Schleck finished 5 seconds off in the big chase group

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Prediction: Frank Schleck. With a finish like today's everyone looks to the classics riders to change things up. I'm guessing that Schleck will try it for the home crowd. We'll see if he can hold off Boonen/McEwen/etc... We might also see a Dutch rider go for it (Boogerd, Dekker).

Germany, Luxembourg, and now the Netherlands on this course that passes through the classic town of Liege and ends with the Amstel Gold climb of the Cauberg.

It's another hot day today. 99 degrees with a road temp of 122 degrees.

Breakaway master Jens Voigt went on the break and took the first sprint points and bonus. He break of 5 has a lead of 5:50.

The break is now on the Cote de la Haute-Levee cat 3 climb. The lead is down to 5:20. Jerome Pineau beat out Uai Etxebarria for the KOM points at the top. Voigt didn't bother contesting.

4:35. Phonak is riding at the front of the peloton helping to bring that time down.

Spa sprint point: Voigt took the sprint points and time bonus again. He's now 24 seconds out of yellow. Is he thinking about another yellow jersey for his collection? He could get within 18 seconds with the next sprint point. A win would give him yellow.

The peloton is rolling slowly through the town of Spa.

Cote de Oneux, cat 3: About 63k to go. The break is back up to 5:10. Credit Agricole is leading the peloton now as the break is within 1km of the top. Pineau and Extebarria jump and Pineau will take the KOM points quite easily. If Pineau is getting close to taking the KOM lead. Credit Agricole is still at the front but it's easy to spot Landis among the Phonak squad doing work at the front as well. Valverde and Mayo are also near the front. And now Gerolsteiner also pulling to the front.

Freddie Rodriguez has crashed and looks to be in a lot of pain. Eric Dekker is also down. They may have hit the curb. Dekker was a contender for today's stage and Fast Freddie was McEwen's lead out man. It looks like their Tour is over. Dekker's collarbone is broken and Fast Freddie was taken away in an ambulance.

Cote de Petite-Rechain: Pineau took the KOM climb again. He may be in the KOM lead now or at least will be if he can take the Loorberg. Backstedt is dropping off the back of the peloton. The lead is at 4:50 -- now down to 4:20 after the peloton crests the climb.

Aubel sprint point: Arrieta took the sprint point with Voigt in second as it almost seemed they were going to let Voigt take it uncontested. Voigt is now 20 seconds out of first.

Christophe Laurent has attacked the break after an unsuccessful attack by Voigt. Laurent looks to be hoping to get over the Cote de Loorberg first.

Pozzato is in trouble off the back and won't be going for a classics-style win today.

The breakaway is back together with their lead down to 3:03. Now down to 2:14

Cote de Loorberg, cat 4: Pineau needs this for the KOM lead. There's a counterattack in the peloton from Boogerd and others. Arrieta is attacking. Pineau and the others have caught him. Pineau has taken the climb and the KOM lead. The peloton is only 1:48 behind. It looks like Boogerd's counterattack in the peloton has failed.

A teammate has given up a wheel to Iban Mayo, who is now being pulled back to the peloton by the rest of his team.

The lead is down to 1:24 with 20k to go and 2 climbs. Christophe Laurent has attacked again and there is no reaction from the rest of the break. Arrieta has bridged up to Laurent. Now Voigt is bridging up. Pineau and Extebarria are probably done for the day.

Another crash in the peloton. The FD Jeux riders are tangled up. Valverde is hurt and looks to be done for. They are examining his collarbone. There appeared to be a touch of wheels with about six riders going down all at once. Valverde is now being loaded into the ambulance.

Cote de Trintelen: The breakaway is falling apart. Arrieta is the lone rider from the break that's in the lead. Voigt and Laurent are chasing but far back.

Voigt and Laurent have been swallowed up. Voigt picked up a lot of time bonuses today.

Lampre, Milram, Gerolsteiner, and Discovery are helping give chase. O'Grady appears to have been dropped off the back (ed: it turns out that he broke a vertebrae). They're really blazing to Le Cauberg.

Le Cauberg, cat 3: Arrieta hits the climb first but the peloton with within 0:21. The cars are leaving the gap. A Credit Agricole rider is coming across. Boonen is charging hard. Boogerd, Freire and Gilbert are also near the front. Mattias Kessler is going to make it to the top first. The peloton has slowed down too much -- Kessler is going to take this. Kessler has to feel great after being swept up so close to the finish yesterday.

McEwen and Hushovd both will have lost a bit of time in the overall.

Boonen finished high enough to move into first by a single second.

Today was fairly costly to the peloton: three broken collarbones (Valverde, Dekker, Rodriguez), broken vertebrae (O'Grady), and injured hand (Horner).

related articles: Tour de France 2006
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