Frenchman wins third stage of Tour |

Frenchman wins third stage of Tour

Jerome Pugmire
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Samuel Dumoulin of France, left, reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Saint-Malo and Nantes, western France, Monday July 7, 2008. William Frischkorn of the U.S.A., right, finished second, Romain Feillu of France, center, finished third.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

NANTES, France ” Samuel Dumoulin of France won the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday, and Romain Feillu finished third to claim the yellow jersey.

“It’s phenomenal, I have waited for a win like that for so long,” said Dumoulin, who rides for the French-owned Cofidis team.

He was the quickest of a group of four riders who broke away almost from the start of the 208-kilometer (129.2-mile) trek from Saint-Malo to Nantes and were left alone to contest a tight sprint finish as others rolled behind.

“It is a dream come true,” said the 27-year-old Dumoulin, who took up cycling at the age of 5. “It is hours and hours of training, braving the rain, the cold, the heat. It took a lot of sacrifice.”

Feillu was just beaten to the line and took the overall lead from Alejandro Valverde, the Spaniard who led since winning Saturday’s first stage and finished in the main pack of riders nearly two minutes back in 68th place.

William Frischkorn of the United States finished second, a fraction ahead of Feillu.

“I just lacked a bit of strength to get the stage win,” Feillu said. “But I got the leader’s jersey.”

French stage wins and yellow jerseys have been a rarity in Tours contested by Spaniards, Americans, Germans, Danes and Italians ever since Bernard Hinault won the last of his five Tours in 1985.

“We proved that we know how to train, we are not worse than the others,” Dumoulin said. “French riders deserve a win on the Tour. I hope it will help improve the image of cycling in France.”

No French rider wore the yellow jersey last year, and Cyril Dessel held it for just a day after stage 10 in 2006.

Thomas Voeckler had it for 10 days in 2004, but Lance Armstrong inevitably got it back on the way to his sixth straight Tour triumph. The Texan won it again in 2005, and then retired.

“I hope it will give youngsters the desire to take up cycling,” Feillu said. “It also shows that we have a good spirit. Samuel knew I wanted the yellow jersey, and I wanted him to win the stage. We were good allies.”

Dumoulin, who had to pull out of the 2004 Tour after crashing into a dog, led a small group of sprinters to the line.

“I have always dreamed of winning a stage,” Dumoulin said. “I have felt good since the start of the year.”

The breakaway group of four riders, led by Frischkorn, pulled ahead inside the first kilometer (mile) of the stage, and the quartet led by nearly seven minutes heading into the last 40 kilometers (25 miles).

With 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) to go, the lead was more than five minutes as windy conditions slowed down the group ” but none of the main pack containing Tour contenders bothered chasing them down.

As the race entered the last kilometer (mile), Dumoulin briefly pulled ahead but Feillu passed him. Dumoulin then accelerated and moved in front again about 300 meters (yards) from the line.

Feillu, who rides for Agritubel, is followed in the overall standings by Paolo Longo Borghini of Italy, who finished the stage in fourth place and is 35 seconds behind.

Frischkorn, of the Garmin Chipotle team, is 1:42 back in third and Valverde is 1:45 behind in fourth. Valverde, however, is expected to win that time back in Tuesday’s time trial, the first real test for the Tour contenders.

Riders were briefly delayed by a protest 58 kilometers (36 miles) from the finish. It was not immediately clear what it was about, although one banner featured a slogan about French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The banner-waving protesters stopped the front four riders but moved aside after talking with Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

Spanish rider Angel Gomez needed roadside treatment after crashing with less than 32 kilometers (20 miles) left. He was taken away on a stretcher, and the extent of his injuries were not immediately known.

Matthieu Sprick of France and Nicki Sorensen of Denmark were part of the spill, but both riders got up and did not appear hurt.

Dumoulin hasn’t forgotten his crash in the 2004 Tour.

“It still bothers me,” Dumoulin said. “I am still nervous at the start of stages.”

Tuesday’s fourth stage is a 29.5-kilometer (18.3-mile) time trial, and should see Valverde and other Tour challengers like Cadel Evans of Australia open up time gaps on the rest of the field.

World champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland remains the man to beat.

“I have to go as fast as I can,” Cancellara said. “I feel good, I won two stages on the Tour of Switzerland, and I had a good attack yesterday (Sunday) which gives me a bit of confidence. I am ready for tomorrow.”

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