Encore, the third flat stage and the wind should be back again but not as strong as the first two stages. This could be the last chance for many sprinters to challenge Dylan Groenewegen.
Double Dutch: a frantic stage, 165km covered at over 50km/h thanks to a three-quarters tailwind which tore the bunch to shreds and made for a stressful day for the riders. This was vintage racing to watch, TV caviar… but spare a thought for the violence as riders crashed out, on Sunday Michael Matthews lost conciousness after a crash, yesterday it was Warren Barguil’s turn to black out briefly and several riders have broken bones while others have seen their ambitions for the overall vanish, Simon Yates being the latest.
A steady start allowed Direct Energie’s Damien Gaudin to get in the early break and secure the mountains jersey, then peloton picked up the pace and the move was caught. The speed hardly dropped below 50km/h while the race split to pieces. Michał Kwiatkowski had the misfortune to puncture late and it could have ruined his bid for the overall classification but he managed to hitch onto the next group which clawed back the leaders, only for the group to split again in the final moments with the Pole helping to instigate the move of seven which contained Dylan Groenewegen. If the result sounds like a formality, it wasn’t and it must have cost Groenewegen a lot of energy just to make the move. Several riders concurred it had been one of their hardest days of racing.
The Route: 200km tracking the Loire valley right into the middle of France. It’s flat – the route runs alongside several canals – and there’s not a categorised climb all day. There’s little of note along the way, it’s rural bordering on empty with empty houses in the towns along the way, their shutters closed for good. It’s exposed to the wind again for the most part and one nervous part will be the road leading to the second intermediate sprint as it is a narrow, secondary road.
The Finish: more urban obstacles than recent stages. After the three kilometre to go point they cross the Allier river but the bridge is wide and flat and then the road climbs a touch between the 2km and 1km to go points. The final kilometre is flat, straight and wide.
The Contenders: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) has two stages and who’d be against him taking a third? That said he’s only won by a small margin each time so others should be in the mix. Once again Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) should be close and Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is fast for the sprint too but popped yesterday out of the groups and the fatigue will accumulate, it’s one thing to be a fast sprinter but much of this is being able to handle the effort needed to reach the final kilometre and several sprinters don’t look as sharp.
|Dylan Groenewegen, Caleb Ewan|
|Bennet, Démare, Greipel, Kittel|
Weather: sunshine and milder, a top temperature of 16°C but it’ll turn cloudy and could rain later in the stage. It’ll be windy again with a 30-40km/h crosswind which could gust stronger.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.30pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans and steephill.tv have schedules and streams.