ARENBERG, France - Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victory hopes suffered a blow Tuesday after he burst a tire and lost time in Tuesday's third stage, won by Thor Hushovd of Norway.
“Our chances took a knock today,” Armstrong said. “I’m not going home, we’ll stay in the race and keep trying.”
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, who finished in a five-man group behind Hushovd, regained the yellow jersey that he had ceded just a day earlier to France's Sylvain Chavanel. Hushovd finished ahead of Britain's Geraint Thomas and world champion Cadel Evans of Australia in a sprint finish among the leading group of riders.
The 213-kilometer ride from Wanze, Belgium, to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in France was the most dreaded stage of week one — with seven sections of bone-jarring cobblestones that threatened injury, bike damage or lost time for contenders in the title hunt.
"Bad luck," Armstrong said of his mishap in the fifth patch.
Some had worse luck: Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who won the Tour of Switzerland last month, crashed on the fourth section, and was out of the race and taken to hospital.
Armstrong had predicted "carnage" during the stage, and many riders anticipated that some ambitions of victory could be all but lost. The seven-time champion and Schleck were the biggest-name losers on the day.
Defending Tour champion Alberto Contador, whose abilities on cobbles had been in doubt, and last year's runner-up Andy Schleck — Frank's younger brother — were among contenders who gained time on Armstrong.
Andy Schleck was fifth, in the same time as Hushovd: 4 hours, 49 minutes, 38 seconds. Spain's Contador came in 13th, 1 minute, 13 seconds back. Armstrong was 32nd, 2:08 back.
In the overall standings, Cancellara leads second-place Thomas by 23 seconds and two-time Tour runner-up Evans by 39. Contador is ninth, 1:40 back, and Armstrong tumbled to 18th, 2:30 back. He had been fifth overall.
Cancellara, a teammate of the Schlecks who won the opening-day prologue, expressed "mixed feeling" about the day but was delighted to retrieve the leader's jersey.
"Yesterday I gave it up, today I took it," he said. "We can call it a good day for Saxo Bank despite the loss of Frank, a great friend."
Seven riders broke away early. Getting out front in such a stage doesn't just improve chances for a stage victory, it also can help avoid crashes — which are more likely in the frenzied pack.
Even before the cobblestone sections, several riders collided near the 112-kilometer mark after one rider bumped into the curb and fell. France's David Le Lay was forced out the race.
Armstrong's RadioShack team led the pack over the first bumps, with crowds getting up close but respecting a safe enough distance for the riders to get through.
After the first, Simon Gerrans of Team Sky bloodied his right cheek what appeared to be a solo spill, but he got back on his bike and returned to the race.
At the second patch, dust flew as some riders sought to evade the cobblestones by riding on the dry dirt on the side - but again, no riders went down. This time, the crowds kept back.
Frank Schleck, in the middle of the Sars-et-Rosieres patch - the fourth run of cobbles - hurtled off his bike and onto the side of the road, and did not get up, crouching in pain on the ground.
Le Tour 2010
Top images from the three-week cycling showcase in France.
2010 Tour de France