While Tyler Farrar was celebrating Independence Day with a maiden Tour win, Mark Cavendish was left to rue a missed opportunity.
After the disappointment of Sunday's team time trial - where HTC had the ignominy of being outdone by fellow US-based minnows BMC - the former bullyboys of bunch sprint racing looked to have Cav on course for the win.
But their man found himself boxed in by a Romain Feillu-Jose Rojas sandwich (not something you'd ever find at Pret a Manger) and then almost became part of the Little Sammy Dumoulin circus act as the Frenchman almost became the first rider in Tour history to pull off a full forward somersault while still clipped into his pedals on the final bend.
After finishing fifth, a piqued Cavendish blamed it all on "kamikaze" Feillu, telling reporters: "As usual, Romain Feillu just causes havoc in every sprint. Ask every sprinter who causes havoc and you might get a couple of Garmin guys saying me but most will say Feillu."
Clearly there's a bit of bad blood between the two riders, and Cav might well have got wind of Feillu's comments prior to the stage, in which the Frenchman told a group of reporters that "Cavendish behaves a bit like Ricco" before qualifying the statement with the caveat: "Regarding doping, I'm sure he's different".
Having been protected on the front of the peloton by team-mates Tony Martin, Matt Goss and Mark Renshaw, Cav's first tricky moment came about one kilometre from the finish when he lost touch with Goss and Renshaw.
He showed just why he has 15 Tour stages to his name in fighting back into contention, but then he was shackled by the Feillu-Rojas-Dumoulin triple whammy just at the same time as the Garmin train was in full throttle.
"It would take a very uneducated person to write me off," a bullish Cav nevertheless said moments after the finish. "I still managed to catch the front five. I had great legs today, I won the intermediate sprint quite comfortably."
Except that soon was to be taken away from him, capping a torrid day in the saddle for Cavendish.
Taking the dim view that Cav and yellow jersey Thor Hushovd had sprinted irregularly in the approach to the intermediate sprint, the race commissaires decided - with all the sense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn pondering the best way of tipping his hotel cleaner - to strip both riders of their points.
Saddles has watched the replays and, like everyone else with any sense on this planet, has come to the conclusion that the race commissaires clearly don't use the same optician as Monday's stage winner Farrar.
It's one thing to disqualify a rider like Renshaw for head-butting in the 2010 Tour - and even that was a bit harsh - but punishing two experienced sprinters for something as innocuous as that is pushing the cork too far, as they say in France.
Even Hushovd was joking about the incident prior to the shock announcement, saying he was just "trying to put some sun cream on Cav's arms."
Later, the Norwegian was so convinced of the unjustness of the decision that he even offered to take the punishment solely.
If Cav loses out on the green jersey in Paris by 10 points or less there will be an outrage - and rightly so.
So incensed was Cavendish that he suggested the race commissaires changed the Tour into a race of 21 individual time trials. Their decision, he said, had been a "personal" one.
Stage 4 prediction:
Unfortunately for Cav, there will be little chance of an instant reprieve on Tuesday with the 172.5km stage culminating with a third-category summit finish atop the Mur de Bretagne. Philippe Gilbert (enigmatically referred to as "13 incher" today by Cav) will be amongst the favourite to net his second stage of the race on his 29th birthday - but the slope will perhaps be too steep for the Belgian jack-of-all-trades (he's now worn all jerseys except the maillot blanc and we're not on day four yet).
Given his sorry situation, Alberto Contador will be forced to launch an attack to claw back a few seconds from his rivals. But Cadel Evans will be his match, taking the stage and with it the yellow jersey. Watch out for Vacansoleil's Hoogerland and Sky's Gerrans though, plus usual suspects Vinokourov and Voeckler.