Frenchman Jean-Patrick Nazon produced a superb sprint finish to claim the third stage of the Tour de France today.
Nazon, who won the final stage of the Tour last year on the Champs Elysées, beat Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen to the line in Wasquehal after a frantic finish.
Second stage winner McEwen, wearing the green jersey, looked set to record his second successive stage victory after making an early break for the finishing line, but he was unable to hold on as both Nazon and Zabel edged him out in the last few metres.
However, McEwen’s effort was enough to earn him the overall Tour lead, meaning the Australian will wear the leader’s yellow jersey for the first time on stage four.
Ag2r rider Nazon completed the 210-kilometre race from Waterloo to Wasquehal in a time of four hours, 36 minutes and 45 seconds.
It was fitting that a Frenchman should win today as the third stage was the first of this year’s race that actually finished in France.
Although the race has dipped in and out of France, the previous stages had all finished in Belgium.
Today’s stage included two sections of cobbled roads and a number of riders took a spill just before the start of the first one.
The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix were last used for a stage of Le Tour in 1985 and Nazon concedes it could have been a lot worse for him.
“There were a lot of problems on the cobbles but fortunately I was well-placed, I was near the front of the cobbles and I decided to just go for it,” he told Eurosport.
“I dedicate this win to my team. I am very happy, I don’t think I could have done it without them.”
McEwen, who rides for Belgian team Lotto-Domo, came within inches of following up his superb win yesterday with another triumph.
But even though he was unable to hold on after taking the lead, the Australian admits he is delighted to have earned the yellow jersey.
“I made sure I got in the clear early but slowed up in the head wind and got run down just before the end. It’s a good consolation to get the yellow jersey,” said McEwen, who holds a one-second lead over prologue winner Fabian Cancellara in the overall classification.
Tour De France
Stage 3: Waterloo – Wasquehal, 210 km
Final Leading Positions: 1 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance 4hours 36mins 45secs, 2 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team, 3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo, 4 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Davitamon, 5 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Fassa Bortolo, 6 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner, 7 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) AG2R Prévoyance, 8 Alessandro Bertolini (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi, 9 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio-Bianchi, 10 José Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems, 11 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Domina Vacanze, 12 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank, 13 Laurent Brochard (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance, 14 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo all at same time, 15 Paolo Valoti (Ita) Domina Vacanze at 0.05, 16 Mikel Pradera Rodriguez (Spa) Illes Balears – Banesto, 17 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) AG2R Prévoyance, 18 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team, 19 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Brioches La Boulangère, 20 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner all at same time
General overall classification after stage 3:
1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Domo 13hours 42mins 34secs,
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo at 0.01,
3 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC at 0.09,
4 Jean-Patrick Nazon (Fra) AG2R Prévoyance at 0.12,
5 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor at 0.16,
6 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 0.22,
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) T-Mobile Team at 0.23,
8 José Enrique Gutierrez (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems at same time,
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank at 0.24,
10 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems at 0.25,
11 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC at 0.26,
12 George Hincapie (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor,
13 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step-Davitamon at 0.28,
14 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Liberty Seguros at 0.29,
15 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC at same time,
16 Bram de Groot (Ned) Rabobank at 0.30,
17 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC at same time,
18 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team at 0.31,
19 Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor at 0.32,
20 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems at same time