LA GRANDE-MOTTE, France - Lance Armstrong jumped from 10th to third place at the Tour de France on Monday, positioning himself for a shot at the yellow jersey after evading trouble on a windy ride along the Mediterranean.
Britain's Mark Cavendish won his second straight stage. He, Armstrong and overall leader Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland kept up with a breakaway group that bolted from the pack with 18 miles left in the 122-mile third stage.
Armstrong, a seven-time champion coming out of retirement, is 40 seconds behind. He was able to make his big jump because riders in front of him at the start of the day got trapped in the main pack.
The race is set for a shakeout featuring Cancellara, Armstrong and Germany's Tony Martin in today's team time trial. Each team is strong in the 24-mile event, which starts and finishes in Montpellier. If Astana wins, Armstrong could take the yellow jersey. The race ends July 26 in Paris.
The Tour said Armstrong will be fined the equivalent of $92 for failing to sign in before the stage. His Astana team said the Texan was delayed because of autographs and interviews.
This was the sixth time Cavendish won a Tour stage. He finished in 5 hours, 1 minute, 24 seconds on the hot and breezy ride from Marseille to La Grande-Motte.
Armstrong, Cancellara and 22 other cyclists had the same time. Cancellara, who rides for Saxo Bank, extended his lead and is ahead of Martin by 33 seconds.
Cavendish mimed talking on a cell phone - in recognition of one of the Columbia team sponsors - as he led a sprint finish ahead of Norway's Thor Hushovd and France's Cyril Lemoine.
"It was brilliant," Cavendish said. "We were the only sprint team that wanted to ride today."
The pack, including expected contenders like Armstrong's Astana teammate Alberto Contador of Spain, the 2007 Tour champion, and two-time runner-up Cadel Evans of Australia, finished 41 seconds behind.
Columbia took control with about 18 miles left. Its riders led a 29-man breakaway that included several Astana cyclists, among them Armstrong and Cancellara.
They used the gusty conditions to their advantage in a tactic known as "bordure," which can help breakaway groups gain time on the main pack. Contador and other favorites were caught off-guard.
"We knew the wind was going to be a factor," said Armstrong, noting Columbia's move. "When you see a team at the front like that, you have to pay attention."
Armstrong said it was "not my objective" to gain ground on Contador, insisting he was "just trying to stay up front and out of trouble. ... I turned around and was surprised there was a split."
Contador dropped to fourth from second and is 59 seconds back from Cancellara. Fellow Astana rider Levi Leipheimer slipped to 10th, from sixth, and is 1:11 behind.