Stage Three offered up some classic Tour de France excitement, with 7 hours of racing into a headwind over the longest-distance stage of the Tour, 236.5km. Early on, 2 relatively non-threatening riders left the peloton and eventually gained a 1 minute lead on the pack. They were later joined by 2 other relatively non-threatening riders. The peloton were perhaps a bit slow to try to chase down this breakaway group because it was such a long stage and there were perhaps a few sore heads, knees, and elbows from yesterday's big pile-up. With one kilometre to go, it looked like the breakaway group had possibly out-witted the peloton, with nobody showing the initiative to cross the gap from the peloton to the leaders' group...that is until Fabian Cancellara, the current Yellow Jersey, (probably thinking 'If you want something done right you must do it yourself') charged out of the peloton and quickly caught up and passed the leaders!
That seemed to wake the peloton up, and the usual suspects finally presented themselves in the chase, including sprinters Tom Boonen, Robbie McEwan, Erik Zabel, and Robbie Hunter, but nobody could catch the tree-trunk-legs of Fabian Cancellara, who won the stage. In so doing, he retained the Yellow Jersey and increased his lead over second place from 13 seconds to 33 seconds overall. It is very rare to see the Yellow Jersey on the attack - and this performance from Cancellara was definitely one of the most exciting by a Yellow Jersey in a long time!
We've had a request for an explanation of the points system. I will do my best, but even better sources are the official Tour de France website as well as Wikipedia.
Essentially, I tend to look at it like this. There are two types of racers - the tortoise and the hare. As we all know, the tortoise lives by the adage 'Slow and steady wins the race.' The hare tends to sprint ahead for part of the race, but then often gets left behind by the tortoise-types. The Tour de France (as well as other big cycling events) recognises this and has come up with a way to reward the best of the tortoises (the Yellow Jersey) and the best of the hares (the Green Jersey and the Polkadot Jersey).
As we've seen before, the Yellow Jersey is worn by the person who has the lowest overall cumulative time out of everybody in the race travelling from Point A (start - London) to Point Z (finish - Paris). It is in fact possible to win the Yellow Jersey without ever winning a stage - say, if you consistently finished in the top 10 and the people finishing ahead of you did worse than you on all the other stages. So I think of the Yellow Jersey as the Tortoise, plodding along at a consistent but sustainable rate.
The sprinters and mountain climbers are more like Hares. These are the riders who 'specialise' in either riding really really fast for a particular distance, or in going uphill really really fast. In order to wear the Green or Polkadot Jerseys, a rider must accumulate the largest number of points in either category.
Points for the Green Jersey are awarded at the end of the day's stage to the people who finish in the top of the field. The number of points depends on the type of stage it is. For a flat stage, the first 35 people to cross the finish line are awarded points - 1st place gets 35 points, 2nd place gets 34 points, and so on, until 35th place gets 1 point. For mountain stages, where a sprint finish is unlikely, only the top 10 finishers get awarded points (in the same manner). Also, there are intermediate sprints during straight sections of each day's stage, which are intended to make the race a bit more interesting along the way. During the flat stages, there are three intermediate sprints per stage, while during the mountain stages there are two intermediate sprints per stage. Points are awarded to the winners of the intermediate sprints, though I am not sure how many points / how many places - can anyone fill me in?
Although the Polkadot Jersey is also awarded on the basis of points, it is the Green Jersey which is known as the 'Points Classification' award in the Tour de France, while the Pois Rouges is given to the best mountain climber. The Polkadot Jersey point system operates similarly to the Green Jersey system, with points being awarded to the first riders to reach the summit of particular ascents. The more difficult the ascent, the more points awarded. Each stage will have at least one designated ascent, which is why we have a polkadot jersey wearer even after stages so flat even I could ride them. The real jostling for the Polkadot Jersey will begin in the mountain stages.
It is possible to hold more than one jersey at any given time, in which case the rider will wear the Yellow, as it is the most prestigious of the jerseys. (Even though the Tour directeurs reward the Hares, the final judgement is still in agreement with Aesop - slow and steady wins the race. Of course, in this case, 'slow' is a relative term!)
Hopefully that clears up the points system a bit. Shortly we will discuss the 'team' aspect of the Tour, and what that means for strategy.
The standings at the end of Stage 3 are:
Yellow: Fabian Cancellara (33 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden)
Green: Tom Boonen (6 points ahead of Robbie McEwan)
Polkadot: Stephane Auge (3 points ahead of David Millar)
White: Vladimir Gusev (6 seconds ahead of Thomas Dekker)
That's all well and good, I hear you say, but What About The Knitting! Well, here goes...
The Green Jerseys are still zipping all over the place. (Just wait till we get into the mountains whisper the polkadots...) Cindy is thrilled to find that, not only does her Cozy V-neck fit perfectly, her old French textbooks are giving her knitting clues! Tam reports (via Jacqueline's blog) that she has stocked up on all the provisions necessaires and has knitted to the armhole shaping of her Juno. The Ozknitter is still making amazing progress on those socks we saw yesterday, while Kate's just racing through the vest for her son.
Poor Beverly has to go for her first ever cavity filling but is taking her TDF project with her for comfort - let's wish her well! Our thoughts are also with Zarah as she's nursing the pain of being a Tour Knitter - don't worry, she's pacing herself so she has plenty of get-up-and-go left for the Mountains. Jen's Anniversaire sock is exhausted and is taking a rest. Probably a trip to the Team Masseur wouldn't hurt either! Aknita has started on her 'Forest Canape' shawl, while Nikki has made great progress with her Skin of the Sea:
They don't call them the Mountains for nothing, and our Polkdot knitters are certainly beginning to feel the bumps on the road... Whilst wondering what it would take to move to Belgium, Vivian cast on a Mobius Jaywalker. Auntly H raced through Clue 1 of the Mystery Stole, but had a setback when she fell ill... but it sounds like she's back on the bike now. Ambermoggie is having a devil of a time with her lace knitting - go and give her a pat on the back, will you please?
Knitabulous introduces the team and mysteriously promises a 'late entry' - possibly a come-from-behind winner? K. has made great progress on her red and white stripey jumper, which is just perfect for the Polkadot category! (K., if you ever come to Sydney you must wear that jumper to a Sydney Swans match!):
The Tour de Gansey has commenced at Whitney's, and Stage One: Cast On has been completed in style. Blogless Heidi is pleased to announce that Panel A of her tank top has been complete and that she has managed to get invited to a friend's house who actually has CABLE so she can watch a bit of the tour tonight! Charisse has made lovely progress on her French trellis scarf:
Cecile's gorgeous border has not yet been cleared for continuing (pending final decision of the fit-judge). Let's wish her luck:
The yellow jersey knitters are finding themselves in all sorts of situations as a result of their dedication... Jennifer in Tucson has managed to make progress every day on her Camisa so far, despite having to cook dinner at her sister's house (the 1957 oven finally kakked it), while Sarah was confounded to find a cable needle behind her ear whilst showering. At least she's not giving up bathing in her quest for Brigitte! Donna Lee has had to explain to her co-workers what a KAL is since she's toting around her husband's sock everywhere (but those hardy train commuters have hardly raised an eyebrow!) Kate gives us the first glimpse of her denim beret in progress and wonders if she'll have to throw out her needles after this project as they're turning blue?
Martha has cast on her yellow socks, Bea has gotten off to a good start on her Tour de France socks. Jussi reports speedy progress on her scarf-to-be-worn-in-Paris-later-this-year, but wonders how things will go when she hits the Mountain stages? Poor T. has had to frog her Mystery Stole after completing most of Clue 2, but is happy that her 'boyfriend' is now wearing the green jersey. Barbara has completed a dish cloth, while Sarah shows us not only the gorgeous progress on her TDF project-posing-with-red-wine, but treats us to the sights of Newport RI during an early morning bike ride. Worth checking out, and don't miss the link to her favourite Boeuf Bourgignone recipe! Why not make it tonight?
Speaking of culinary delights, isn't it about time we got onto the food like I promised!? The Tour de France is responsible for many delightful things in my family's life, not least of which is the gastronomie. My local television coverage includes a nightly segment called 'Taste le Tour' with French-Australian celebrity chef Gabriel Gate demonstrating a dish which is typical of the region for that day's stage, as well as a discussion on local delicacies and wine. The recipes are very easy to follow, and you can even replay the video on-line - it's worth it just to hear Gabriel say 'Bonjour!' in his chirpy way every single episode. The current Tour's recipes are being compiled here, while 2005 recipes are also still available on line. Above we see a recent French feast chez Meg, featuring Gabriel's Steak Bearnaise (poulet bearnaise for the non-red-meat-eater), pommes frites, vin du table, and a lovely fresh green salad. Bon appetite!