"I'd have to say 'Thank you.' ... He is the team," Cancellara said.
"I was sure wishing he was here."
Riis' absence has been hard, he said, "but we are professionals."
Cancellara had feared losing the yellow jersey to one of four breakaway
riders along the 236.5-kilometre route from Waregem, Belgium, to
Compiegne, northeast of Paris.
The peloton caught up near the finish. But Cancellara, having been shielded from high winds by teammates, had enough left to surge ahead and overtake the four with a couple hundred meters to go.
"I have no words after winning something like that," he said. "I
attacked. It was instinctive."
Sprint specialist Erik Zabel of Germany was second and Danilo Napolitano
of Italy was third.
They and the trailing pack took 6 hours, 36 minutes, 15 seconds to complete the course, averaging an unusually slow 35.81 kph.
"It was a really long day but because of the wind we couldn't go faster.
We are not machines," said Cancellara, who was caught in the horrific group crash Monday and slightly injured his left hand.
|Looking to leave Belgium in a hurry [GALLO/GETTY]|
All riders finish
All 187 riders that began the stage finished, carefully negotiating sharp
turns and cobblestone patches near the end.
Cancellara extended his lead by 10 seconds by gaining bonus points for the victory.
He leads Andreas Kloeden of Germany by 33 seconds. David Millar of
Britain is third, 41 seconds behind, and George Hincapie of the USA is
fourth, 43 seconds back.
The Tour features mostly flat early stages that favor sprinters. The fourth stage is another one a 193-kilometer (119.9-mile) ride from Villers-Cotterets to Joigny.
On Saturday, the race reaches the Alps for three days, and the climbers
most likely will begin moving closer to the overall lead.
Other key stages are time trials in the 13th stage and the next-to-last stage before the July 29 finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.