Fabian Cancellara (CSC) used his immense power and impressive time trialling speed to outwit the sprinters and snatch stage victory in Compiegne while wearing the yellow jersey.
The current time trial world champion and London prologue winner surged clear of the bunch with a kilometre to go. He powered passed the four breakaway riders that fatally hesitated in the finishing straight and kept going all the way to the line. The sprinters tried to react and catch Cancellara but he just held them off to take his second stage of this year?s Tour de France.
Erik Zabel (Milram) finished a close second, with Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) third and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) fourth.
Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) started the stage with a bruised and swollen hip but finally showed he can compete with the best in the sprints, finishing ninth in the same time as Cancellara. His team mate Bernhard Eisel finished eighth after seemingly losing Cavendish in the final metres.
The 236.5km stage was the longest of the 2007 Tour de France and perhaps scared of the distance, the peloton took things easy, with the stage finishing more than an hour after the slowest scheduled speed.
Thanks to the 20 second time bonus for his stage victory, Cancellara extended his overall lead to 33 seconds ahead of Andreas Kloden (Astana). David Millar (Saunier Duval) is third at 41 seconds, with Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) still fifth at 43 seconds.
Millar lost the climber?s polka-dot jersey to Stephane Auge (Cofidis) after the Frenchman crossed to the early two-rider break and took three points on the only category climb of the stage. Auge now leads the competition with eight points, three more than Millar.
Wednesday?s 193km fourth stage is from Villers to Cotterets east of Paris. The stage includes two short climbs with fifty kilometres to go but is expected to finish in a bunch sprint.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2007: STAGE THREE RESULTS
1 CANCELLARA Fabian (CSC) 236.5km in 6-36-15
2 ZABEL Erik (Milram)
3 NAPOLITANO Danilo (Lampre-Fondital)
4 BOONEN Tom (Quick Step)
5 HUNTER Robert (Barloworld)
6 FORSTER Robert (Gerolsteiner)
7 MCEWEN Robbie (Predictor-Lotto)
8 EISEL Bernhard (T-Mobile)
9 CAVENDISH Mark (T-Mobile)
10 HAUSSLER Heinrich (Gerolsteiner)
43 THOMAS Geraint (Barloworld)
105 MILLAR David (Saunier Duval)
125 WIGGINS Bradley (Cofidis)
145 WEGELIUS Charles (Liquigas) all at same time
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1 CANCELLARA Fabian (CSC)
2 KLODEN Andreas (Astana) at 33secs
3 MILLAR David (Saunier Duval) at 41secs
4 HINCAPIE George (Discovery Channel) at 43secs
5 WIGGINS Bradley (Cofidis) at s.t
6 GUSEV Vladimir (Discovery Channel) at 45secs
7 BOONEN Tom (Quick Step) at 46secs
8 KARPETS Vladimir (Caisse d’Epargne) at s.t
9 HUSHOVD Thor (Credit Agricole) at 49
10 ASTARLOZA Mikel (Ag2r) at s.t
45 THOMAS Geraint (Barloworld) at 1-07
88 WEGELIUS Charles (Liquigas) at 1-16
182 CAVENDISH Mark (T-Mobile) at 3-57
Tom Boonen (in green jersey) chats to Fabian Cancellara
Cancellara powers past the sprinters to take the stage win