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Christophe Ena, Associated Press
The pack is seen during the third stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Saint-Malo and Nantes, western France, today.

NANTES, France — In a big day for French cycling, Samuel Dumoulin won the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday while countryman Romain Feillu finished third to claim the yellow jersey.

"It's phenomenal," said Dumoulin, who rides for the French-owned Cofidis team. "I have waited for a win like that for so long."

Feillu was just beaten to the line and took the overall lead from Alejandro Valverde, the Spaniard who led since winning Saturday's first stage and finished in the main pack of riders nearly two minutes back in 68th place.

William Frischkorn of the United States finished second, a fraction ahead of Feillu.

"I just lacked a bit of strength to get the stage win," Feillu said. "But I got the leader's jersey."

Dumoulin, who had to pull out of the 2004 Tour after crashing into a dog, led a small group of sprinters to the line.

"I have always dreamed of winning a stage," Dumoulin said. "I have felt good since the start of the year."

Dumoulin hasn't forgotten his canine encounter.

"It still bothers me," he said. "I am still nervous at the start of stages."

As the race entered the last mile, Dumoulin briefly pulled ahead but Feillu passed him. Dumoulin then accelerated and moved in front again about 300 yards from the line.

Feillu, who rides for Agritubel, is followed in the overall standings by Italy's Paolo Longo Borghini, who finished the stage in fourth place and is 35 seconds behind.

Frischkorn, of the Garmin Chipotle team, is 1 minute, 42 seconds back in third and Valverde is 1:45 behind in fourth. Valverde, however, is expected to win that time back in Tuesday's time trial, the first real test for the Tour contenders.

Riders were briefly delayed by a protest 36 miles from the finish. It was not immediately clear what it was about, although one banner featured a slogan about French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The banner-waving protesters stopped the front four riders but moved aside after talking with Tour director Christian Prudhomme.

Spanish rider Angel Gomez needed roadside treatment after crashing with less than 20 miles left. He was taken away on a stretcher, and the extent of his injuries were not immediately known.

Matthieu Sprick of France and Nicki Sorensen of Denmark were part of the spill, but both riders got up and did not appear hurt.