Irrepressible Boonen claims win number two

Tom Boonen proves a fitting and highly impressive winner in the traditional sprinters' city of Tours

Tom Boonen proves a fitting and highly impressive winner in the traditional sprinters' city of Tours

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

It was entirely fitting that the city that hosts the finish of the so-called sprinters' Classic, Paris-Tours, should see the fastest finisher in the Tour de France field take a second consecutive victory. Wearing all green after his stage win in Les Essarts put him into an early lead in the points competition yesterday, Quick Step's Tom Boonen put on another highly impressive display of finishing as he sped past Thor Hushovd a hundred metres from the line and held off a concerted Austro-Australian challenge.

Second place went to Gerolsteiner's Peter Wrolich, while Aussie compatriots Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady fought for third place, with the former getting the verdict, only to be relegated to the 186th place for dangerous riding. It is hard to argue with the verdict as McEwen spent most of the last hundred metres leaning heavily onto O'Grady, seemingly trying to get onto the Cofidis rider's bike in order to find a better angle from which to launch a late attack on Boonen.

At almost three kilometres long, the finishing straight of Tours' avenue de Grammont is the ideal setting for a sprint in the first week of the Tour de France. There is little street furniture and the riders can see exactly where they are going. There is also no chance of late breakaways finding a place to hide.

As it turned out, the first riders onto the final straight were long-time breakaways Erik Dekker (Rabobank) and Nicolas Portal (Ag2r). The pair had broken clear after 27km following the first categorised climb of the day, and were soon joined by Saunier Duval's Rubens Bertogliati. All three teams had made clear they were set on racing aggressively during the first week, and the trio pushed on hard to build a lead of five and a half minutes by the first feed (93km).

As the main peloton came out of the feed 5-30 down, Quick Step's Servais Knaven went to the front and the long chase began. Initially, the gap to the three leaders dropped quickly. But the sprinters' teams didn't want to catch the leaders too soon and then see another break go clear which would leave them with more chasing to do. Instead, they eased off a touch and chipped away at the leaders' advantage. Death by a thousand cuts almost.

Bertogliati was the first to yield, with 10km remaining. But Dekker, who took a stunning victory in Paris-Tours last autumn by refusing to yield during a long breakaway, pressed on, with Portal sticking with him admirably. Even with the bunch bearing right down on them, the pair persisted, and hats off to them for that.

But, finally, they were overhauled, and with a couple of kilometres left Fassa Bortolo's Fabian Cancellara jumped clear and set himself into time trial mode. It looked impressive for a while, but after a few hundred metres he had the whole bunch on his wheel.

Francaise des Jeux took over the pace-making, but it was Crdit Agricole who wound up the sprint. Sbastien Hinault drove hard, Jaan Kirsipuu drove harder and Thor Hushovd went along the right-hand barriers with a couple of hundred metres left. As he did, Boonen made his move from seven or eight back, with McEwen stuck right on his wheel.

No one looked likely to catch him, and McEwen's chances of doing so went when O'Grady moved to the left to pass the fading Hushovd and unwittingly took the space in which McEwen had been intending to make his final effort. McEwen vainly tried to barge his way through, but it probably made no difference, as Boonen was clear and going away to already equal his tally of wins in last year's Tour.

The question of whether anyone can stop the Belgian adding to it will have to wait a couple of days. Tomorrow stage is the 67.5km team time trial between Tours and Blois, when David Zabriskie's hold on the yellow jersey will be seriously under threat from Discovery Channel and Lance Armstrong.

Stage 3, La Chataigneraie-Tours

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 212.5km in 4.36.09 (46.17kph)
2 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
3 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
4 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Franaise des Jeux
5 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros
6 Robert Frster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi
8 Anthony Geslin (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole
10 Angelo Furlan (Ita) Domina Vacanze

19 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto
23 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis
24 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
28 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak
33 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile
34 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile
45 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
56 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC
59 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
60 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux
62 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile
78 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC
85 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears
87 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel
89 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
90 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step
100 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
117 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
131 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak
142 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r
148 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel
174 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
186 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto

Overall standings

1 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 8.48.31
2 Armstrong 0.02
3 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crdit Agricole 0.47
4 Vinokourov 0.53
5 Hincapie 0.57
6 Landis 1.02
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
8 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 1.04
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 1.05
10 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.06
11 Julich 1.07
12 Ullrich 1.08

15 Leipheimer 1.13
19 Hunter 1.24
20 McGee
22 Basso 1.26
27 Roberts 1.30
36 Evans 1.41
37 O'Grady 1.42
45 Rogers 1.53
52 Klden 2.01
54 Horner
65 Rodriguez 2.09
71 McEwen 2.13
125 Davis 2.44
162 Gerrans 3.08
170 Mayo 3.15
181 Cooke 3.36

Points

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Innergetic 70
2 O'Grady 50
3 Wrolich 49
4 Hushovd 47
5 Davis 38

9 McEwen 26

King of the Mountains

1 Erik Dekker (Hol) Rabobank 6
2 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 5
3 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) Saunier Duval 3
4 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Gerolsteiner 3
5 David Ca¤ada (Spa) Saunier Duval 2
6 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Ag2r 2

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