The cobbles of Southern Belgium and Northern France did not disappoint yesterday. It was, perhaps, the last truly exciting day of racing until the Tour gets to the Alps in a few days' time. (I won't even be paying attention to today's stage - one for the sprinters - until the last kilometer or so.)
The big winners on the day included: (1) Fabian Cancellara, who recovered his yellow jersey after letting Chavenel have it the day before, despite the fact that he was working as a draft horse for Andy Schleck and not riding for his own glory; (2) Thor Hushovd, who, a day after complaining about the neutralization of the stage, got his stage victory and the green jersey.
The big losers on the stage were, in this order: (1) Frank Schleck, who crashed out of the tour with a collarbone broken in three places; (2) Lance Armstrong, who flatted at the worst possible time and now faces a literal uphill battle to overtake the yellow jersey; and (3) Sylvain Chavenel who lost the yellow jersey because of multiple mechanical problems that required several bike changes. Young Geraint Thomas of Team Sky, who has been a revelation throughout the first week of the tour, finished second on the stage. And Canadian Ryder Hesjedal was very impressive in the breakaway, and even more impressive for contesting the sprint finish after being caught by the group containing Hushovd, Cancellara, Schleck, and Evans. He finished fourth on the stage.
It is perhaps too early to say that the podium is already set - Evans, Schleck and Contador (though not necessarily in that order). Wiggins, Kreutzinger and Armstrong are all within 2 minutes of Evans. However, a 1-2 minute advantage after the third stage and before any mountains have been climbed is quite substantial.