Lance Armstrong was one of the main beneficiaries from a surprising third stage of the Tour de France, with strong crosswinds allowing a huge breakaway to split the field wide open.
Team Columbia was the architect of an enormous 28-man breakaway which shook up the general classifications in the 2009 Tour de France, keeping Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank in the yellow jersey, Tony Martin of Columbia second at 33 seconds behind but lifting Armstrong from tenth to third only 40 seconds behind Cancellara.
Mark Cavendish of Columbia won the 374km stage from Marseille to La Grande-Motte in a sprint from Thor Hushovd of Cervelo Test Team, capping off a wonderful day for Columbia which had eight of the 28 riders in the breakaway which finished 39 seconds in front of the main group. Other major contenders in the breakaway group included Michael Rogers and Kim Kirchen of Columbia, Fabian Wegmann of Team Milram. Armstrong was joined by Team Astana team mates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia.
The riders who lost the most on the day include last year’s first and second placegetters, Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans, plus Levi Leipheimer and former winner Alberto Contador. Post-race media speculation centred around Contador’s unsuitability to flat stages such as this one.