American Tyler Farrar took a Fourth of July win at the Tour de France Tuesday, coming off a leadout by teammate and race leader Thor Hushovd to win a mostly flat 198-kilometer ride northward from Olonne Sur Mer to Redon.
Norwegian world champion Hushovd retained the yellow jersey he captured when his Garmin-Cervelo squad won Sunday’s team time trial.
Pre-race favorite Mark Cavendish was fifth after his team lost control of the front of the peloton in the final kilometer.
It was Farrar’s first Tour sprint stage win — coming a day after he won the team time trial — and completes his collection of grand tour stage wins. It was also the first Tour stage win by an American on the Fourth of July.
“You have the yellow jersey, slash world champion leading you out … you can’t ask for more than that,” Farrar said at the finish.
“After being so close — second, third, second — to finally win a stage is incredible. I am so happy. The team today was perfect, with Millar, Dean and having the world champion and yellow jersey leading me out was just perfect.
Farrar dedicated the win to his training partner and friend Wouter Weylandt, who died in a crash at the Giro d’Italia in May.
“It’s like a dream come true to win. This is for Wouter, I want to dedicate this to him. To win on the Fourth of July just makes it that much better.”
“It’s been a horrible two months with everything at the Giro. I’ve had lots of ups and downs. I wanted to come back and do something special in tribute to Wouter at the world’s biggest race. I trained hard and I saw I was getting stronger. It’s a little bit unbelievable that it’s actually happened.”
Hushovd said everything went to plan.
“The objective today was to win the stage with Tyler and keep the yellow jersey, so we were able to do just that. We are very content. We won yesterday and to win again today is fabulous.”
The early break
A group of five established a break early on the day and the peloton decided to give them a long leash. The break’s best-placed rider was Movistar’s Jose Ivan Gutierrez, last year’s Spanish road race champion and 59th at 1:09. His colleagues for the day were Ruben Perez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r), Niki Terpstra, and Mickaël Delage (FdJ).
The group was allowed to coast out to an eight-minute-plus lead ahead of the Garmin-Cervelo-led peloton.
The points competition.
The day’s only intermediate sprint came at Saint-Hilaire-de-Chaléons, with 94km remaining in the stage. Delage took the first place points from his breakmates, but the real battle was for the remaining sixth-through-15th place points on offer for the field.
HTC, Quick Step and Omega Pharma-Lotto set up trains for the sprint, and even yellow jersey Hushovd got into the mix. Ulimately, 15-time Tour stage winner Mark Cavendish took the field sprint for sixth, ahead of Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar). Hushovd picked up four points for 12th (seventh in the field sprint).
Soon after the sprint, Garmin and HTC got down to business chasing down the breakaway, quickly chopping the gap down to a little more than three minutes with 75km to go.
The KOM competition
In the climber’s competition, there was just one point awarded atop the category 4 Côte du Pont de Saint-Nazaire. The 1.1-kilometer ascent up a bridge topped out 55km from the finish.
Delage took the point, putting him tied with Gilbert on points in the KOM competition. Gilbert, better placed on GC, will wear the polka dot jersey on stage 4.
The leaders had less than a two-minute gap when they hit the bridge, and they lost roughly another half minute, as the peloton hit the go-button up the day’s only categorized climb. The pace caught a few riders in the pack by surprise and Ivan Basso, Ben Swift and Sylvain Chavanel were among those who briefly lost contact with the peloton. A group of near 40 riders dangled off the back for a few kilometers.
Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara and two teammates were among those at the pointy end of the peloton, making life difficult for the group that was caught out behind, and also quickly closing the gap to the breakaway. At 50km to go, the gap was just 1:20.
Katusha’s Vladimir Karpets was among those who lost contact near the bridge and then had a crash, forcing him to take a spare bike from the team car. He struggled to regain contact with the leaders, chasing alone for several kilometers before joining another small group of stragglers.
The chase and catch
With 30km to go, the break was within sight of the front of the peloton, which eased up a bit to avoid a premature catch. That was a relief to Karpets and the other stragglers who rejoined the main pack.