French sprinter in yellow as Dumoulin wins stage three
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Monday, July 07, 2008

French sprinter in yellow as Dumoulin wins stage three

by Agence France-Presse at 3:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Frenchman Romain Feillu took the biggest accolade of his career Monday when a successful breakaway that foxed the sprinters' teams handed him the Tour de France yellow jersey Monday.

Compatriot Samuel Dumoulin, of Cofidis, won the third stage - a treacherous 208km ride from Saint Malo to here - in style after jumping out from behind Feillu in the closing metres of a thrilling sprint to the finish line.

It is the first success on the Tour for the 23-year-old who crossed the line ahead of US rider Will Frischkorn, who had instigated their successful break from the main bunch in the first kilometre.

Over two minutes later, and following a crucial split in the chasing bunch which left two yellow jersey hopefuls behind, Australian Robbie McEwen beat Germany's Erik Zabel to the line.

It was Zabel's 38th birthday, and his Aussie rival wasn't in the mood for charity but gave him a friendly pat on the back.

Feillu, 24, now holds a 35sec lead over Italy's Paolo Longo, who finished fourth, but he may struggle to hold on to the race lead after Tuesday's time-trial over 29.5km at Cholet.

The time trial favourite, Fabian Cancellara, is only 1:52 in his wake and Feillu was as mystified as everybody else as to his chances of keeping the race lead.

"I will have to see how I recuperate tonight, and I've never started such an important race with the yellow jersey on my shoulders," he said.

"1:52 isn't a massive advantage over a time trialler like Fabian Cancellara."

Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who had been wearing the leader's jersey, drops to fourth position 1min 45sec behind the new leader.

The Caisse d'Epargne ace remains the highest placed of the Tour's yellow jersey favourites, with Australian Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto still just 01sec behind after he managed to avoid the fate of Denis Menchov and Riccardo Ricco.

Both were among the big losers on the day. Menchov, the Rabobank team's big hope, was caught napping when the main chasing bunch split in the closing kilometres.

The Russian finished 37secs behind Valverde and is now at 2:30 behind Feillu but, more significantly, 45secs behind Valverde. Italian climber Ricco, of Saunier-Duval, also lost over 30secs dropping to 39secs behind the Spaniard.

Evans' team have been working hard to keep him out of trouble in recent days, although the wind and rain of Brittany has added to that workload.

The Australian has come through relatively unscathed, but after missing out on winning the Tour by just 23secs last year, the 31-year-old knows that losing any time on key rivals simply can't be considered.

"Thirty seconds (advantage) to Menchov was the last time check I got," said Evans, who nonetheless started this stage with a fall that left him with a cut finger on his left hand.

"But when you've lost the Tour by 23secs, that's important." Dumoulin meanwhile couldn't hide his joy at claiming a first, and well-deserved victory on the world's biggest race.

"It's phenomenal," said the diminutive Frenchman, who moved to the Cofidis team last year from AG2R.

"I've been waiting for this victory for a long time. In the end, it was my audacity that proved decisive, and that makes it even more pleasurable.

"I knew with the crosswinds today and the wind that we would have a chance of going all the way in the breakaway.

"We all collaborated in the group, and that's what allowed us to go all the way."

Feillu's joy is heightened by the fact that he came to the Tour having only recently recovered from toxoplasmosis.

It is the first time he has taken possession of the yellow jersey, and came as a major consolation to losing out on the stage following a brave dash for the line in the final kilometre.

"After I got toxoplasmosis at the start of the season I only began training again at the start of April, and even yesterday I didn't feel 100 percent."
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