Meanwhile, the five escapees were enjoying a brisk tailwind that had them zinging along at near 70kph (44mph) and holding their gap at about a half minute.
With 18km to go, Delage and Gutierrez attacked the breakaway and the others were soon absorbed by the hungry pack. The pair dangled off the front as HTC began ramping up the pace to position Cavendish.
The two entered the final 10k with a 12 second gap and finally conceded the inevitable a kilometer later.
HTC, Garmin and Lampre battled for control of the front, while GC favorites like Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador made sure to stay within spitting distance to protect their interests.
With 3k to go, HTC seemed to have firm control. The yellow jersey had Farrar on his wheel entering the final 2k, where a few attacks blistered off the front, upsetting HTC’s control. Garmin took control in the final kilometer. After a big charge from Hushvod, Farrar came off Danny Pate’s wheel to take his first Tour stage sprint win. Cavendish never hit the front, coming in fifth.
Tuesday’s stage has a hilly finale that may suit stage 1 winner Philippe Gilbert. The Mur de Bretagne finish climb is a difficult 2km long with an average gradient of 6.9 percent, with pitches in the first kilometer hitting 10 percent.
Rojas, third on the stage, takes over the green points leader jersey for stage 4. Delage was awarded the Most Aggressive prize for the day.
1. Tyler Farrar, Team Garmin – Cervelo, at 4:40:21