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."
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
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Vande Velde abandons Tour following crash
Andy Schleck has a laugh after stage two crash
The Feed Zone: News and views (July 5)
Sky banks on Thomas ahead of cobbled stage
Cavendish's sprint train weakened with Hansen out
Armstrong under fire as Landis allegations reach mainstream
Team Sky's decision to put Wiggins off early back fires
Millar and Thomas hold their nerve in Rotterdam rain
Armstrong defiant in wake of latest revelations
Thomas looks to prologue and sporting new stripes|
Florencio kicked out of Cervelo team on eve of Tour
Tour teams presented in Rotterdam: What the riders said
Andy Schleck faces rough ride over Tour cobbles
Riis: Tour is the goal for Schlecks despite sponsor problems
Armstrong on Arenberg: There will be carnage
Cavendish set for green jersey battle at the Tour
Hunt and Lloyd look forward to making their Tour debuts
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Pictures
Tour team presentation, Rotterdam
Tour teams take to the cobbles: Photo special
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