NANTES, France On a day that belonged to French cycling, Romain Feillu finished third to claim the yellow jersey Monday while Samuel Dumoulin won the third stage of the Tour de France with a victory he hopes will heighten the sport's image.
Dumoulin was the quickest in a group of four riders that broke away almost from the start of the 129-mile route from Saint-Malo to Nantes. They were left to wage a tight sprint finish as others rolled behind.
"It is a dream come true," said Dumoulin, who rides for the French-owned Cofidis team. "It is hours and hours of training, braving the rain, the cold, the heat. It took a lot of sacrifice."
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. Valverde 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."
French stage wins and yellow jerseys have been a rarity at the Tour de France since Bernard Hinault won the last of his five Tours in 1985.
"We proved that we know how to train; we are not worse than the others," Dumoulin said. "French riders deserve a win on the Tour. I hope it will help improve the image of cycling in France."
No French rider wore the yellow jersey last year, and Cyril Dessel held it for just a day in 2006. Thomas Voeckler had it for 10 days in 2004, but Lance Armstrong got it back on the way to his sixth straight Tour triumph.
"I hope it will give youngsters the desire to take up cycling," Feillu said. "It also shows that we have a good spirit. Samuel knew I wanted the yellow jersey, and I wanted him to win the stage. We were good allies."
Dumoulin had to pull out of the 2004 Tour after crashing into a dog. He has not forgotten the canine encounter.
"It still bothers me," he said. "I am still nervous at the start of stages."
The breakaway group of four led by nearly seven minutes heading into the last 25 miles. With less than 16 miles to go, the lead was more than five minutes as wind slowed the group. None of the top riders in the main bothered to chase.
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 18-mile time trial, the first real test for the Tour contenders. Cadel Evans of Australia and world champion Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland also figure to excel.
"I have to go as fast as I can. ... I am ready," Cancellara said.
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 protesters stopped the front four riders but moved aside after talking with Tour director Christian Prudhomme.
Spanish rider Angel Gomez crashed with less than 20 miles left and was taken away on a stretcher. The extent of his injuries were not immediately known. France's Matthieu Sprick and Denmark's Nicki Sorensen were part of the spill, but both got up and did not appear hurt.