Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck conquered the ‘Hell of the North’ today at the Tour de France in Northern France, gaining precious seconds on their rivals.
“It was good just to get through it as a GC rider,” said Evans. “But it was easier said than done because I think only two GC guys really got through it without losing time.”
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The two were Schleck and Evans, who gained 53 seconds on Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and 1’46” on Alberto Contador (Astana). Their gains were made possible by the pace-making of Schleck’s Saxo Bank team over the final four cobble sectors, the same roads used every spring by the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic.
“I think the selection was made on the entrance to the first pavé [Sars-et-Rosières], which was probably the worst in terms of having to ride on the shoulders,” Evans continued.
His BMC Racing team-mates George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan helped him make the winning move with Geraint Thomas (Sky), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam).
Thomas took the white jersey of best young rider, Cancellara gained back the yellow jersey and Hushovd won the stage.
Schleck’s time gains came thanks to the constant work of team-mate Cancellara, but came at a cost. The team lost Andy’s brother, Fränk, who crashed on the cobbles and fractured his left collarbone.
“I just hope it is only the collarbone,” said Andy Schleck. “I don’t really care if he is in the race or not, what is important is that he is safe.”
Both Schleck and Evans were pleased with their gains, to finish safely and are now looking ahead to next week’s high mountains.
“Now this stage is done,” said Schleck, “I will make a big cross, have a beer tonight and take it easy tomorrow.”
“There were no chances for me to be heroic, not for a guy who is good going uphill,” added Evans. The time gains “won’t mean much after the Pyrenees, but a little bit is better than nothing.”
Overall classification – winners and losers of stage three
1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
2. Geraint Thomas (Sky) at 23 secs
3. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) 39 secs
6. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) 1-09
9. Alberto Contador (Astana) 1-40
14. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 1-49
16. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) 2-24
18. Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) 2-30
48. Carlos Sastre (Cervélo Test Team) 3-19
49. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) 3-20
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