Isn't that Belgian countryside beautiful?!? The gorgeous weather belied what was to come. With so many riders in the peloton, racing conditions became dangerous on narrow roads. Two huge crashes occurred with cyclists moving slightly downhill at about 45 kph (28 mph). I grabbed the screen capture below just as the crash happened that clobbered Fabian Cancellara, who donned the yellow jersey at the time (click on the image for a larger view).
Sadly for Cancellara, the crash greatly affected his day and dropped him all the way to 109th overall. Four riders were knocked out of the race, including Tom Dumoulin, an exciting young German cyclist who entered today's stage third overall.
The race had to be stopped at one point and suffered more than 20 minutes of neutralized racing. The image below shows the riders stopped at the foot of Côte de Bohissau (click on the image for a larger view).
The race was then neutralized until the riders made it to the top of Côte de Bohissau. To give you an idea of how brutal the crashes were, I grabbed the screen capture below, which shows Greg Henderson with a torn jersey (click on the image for a larger view).
The cyclists who endured the crash and managed to finish the stage certainly earned my respect. Not only are they great athletes, they are tough as nails. Once racing began again, riders were timid as they needed to warm back up. Some were injured and some had damaged bikes. When all the cobwebs were shaken, cyclists were flying, reaching speeds around 55 kph (34 mph). The final climb was great to watch as riders jockeyed for position. The screen capture below shows Joaquim Rodríguez of Spain crossing the finish line just ahead of Chris Froome, who now has the yellow jersey (click on the image for a larger view).
We had a great prediction today, though I feel a bit depressed because crashes had to stop time and talented cyclists had their day ruined. Below shows how we did.
- Stage 3: 3h 26' 54" (actual), 3h 28' 35" (prediction), 01' 41" slow (0.81% error)
We love it when our predictions come in under 1%! Below is the winner's average speed.
- Stage 3: 12.85 m/s (46.25 kph or 28.74 mph)
Tomorrow's flat stage is the longest of the race at 223.5 km (138.9 mi). What makes it even more challenging are seven sections of cobblestones totaling 13.3 km (8.26 mi), the longest at 3.7 km (2.3 mi). Beginning in the Belgian town of Seraing, the stage takes riders into France for the first time, ending in Cambrai. Below is our prediction.
- Stage 4: 5h 04' 45" (prediction)
Let's hope that rain and winds don't mar tomorrow's stage like they did in last year's Stage 5, which also had cobblestones (click here for my post on that).