Nicolas Portal clinches the first win of his career with a cleverly plotted escape into Aubenas.
Nicolas Portal is regarded as one of the best young French riders in the bunch, admired not only for his abundant ability but also for his determination to attack when the opportunity presents itself. Until today, however, that attacking instinct had not yielded a single pro victory, an aberration that the 25 year old corrected when he came into Aubenas alone to win the third stage of the Dauphin Libr. Portal’s chance came when he got across to an early break started by Euskaltel’s Iker Flores and Cofidis rider Janek Tombak. The trio never had a huge lead, but as they were no threat to the overall contenders they were never pursued with any great desire. Flores attempted to steal clear of his two companions on the 2nd-cat Mezillhac climb, 30km from the finish. He got a decent gap on the way up, but couldn’t stay clear of the two riders chasing back behind him on the descent. Inside the last 5km, Portal made his own effort and the chasing pair did not cooperate enough to bring him back. The main contenders were led in by Stuart O’Grady 1-49 later, their lack of a chase no doubt explained by tomorrow’s 21.6-kilometre time trial up Mont Ventoux from Bedoin. Brioches La Boulangre rider Mickael Pichon was taken to hospital in Aubenas during today’s stage when he crashed over the parapet into a ravine on the descent from the Mezhillac climb. Initial reports say that Pichon suffered serious head and facial injuries, and was unconscious when the medical team reached him. One of the Brioches team mechanics told AFP subsequently: “He is moving, he is conscious.” Fdjeux.com team manager Marc Madiot told L’Equipe he had seen Pichon “curled up on the rocks, but breathing.” Stage 3, St Etienne-Aubenas 1 Nicolas Portal (Fra) Ag2r Prvoyance 180km in 4.41.42 (38.34kph) 2 Janek Tombak (Est) Cofidis 0.51 3 Iker Flores (Spa) Euskaltel 4 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 1.49 5 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Brioches La Boulangre 6 Baden Cooke (Aus) fdjeux.com 7 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak 8 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 9 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 10 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel 12 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 13 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 19 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 44 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 1.55 49 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal 2.06 73 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 2.55 82 David Millar (GB) Cofidis 3.57 Overall standings 1 Jos Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 15.31.52 2 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 0.08 3 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak 0.09 4 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 0.10 5 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak 6 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Phonak 7 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Cofidis 0.14 8 Laurent Lefvre (Fra) Brioches La Boulangre 0.18 9 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Phonak 0.19 10 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 0.20 32 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 0.58 44 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 5.28 51 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal 8.41 52 Baden Cooke (Aus) fdjeux.com 8.46 69 David Millar (GB) Cofidis 11.29 79 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 20.07