Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

A short stage to London where a sprint finish looks certain given the flat terrain and wide roads in the British capital. After yesterday’s slog across the climbs of Yorkshire today’s stage is almost a rest day but it’s never easy when the race speeds through at city at 60km/h. If you plan to watch note the earlier than usual finish.

Stage 2 Wrap

A stage win and the yellow jersey for Vincenzo Nibali. He jumped with two kilometres to go and quickly got a gap but seemed unsure, he kept looking back but held off the chase to win. Peter Sagan seemed to lose the stage being almost too visible in the finale but he late said that once Nibali jumped he didn’t want to chase his friend. They were team mates at Liquigas before.

The rest of the stage was as gruelling as predicted but the racing lacked fireworks for long periods, the TV producers forced to catalogue events at the back of the race such as Richie Porte’s chase to the peloton, Arnaud Démare’s puncture or long shots of Marcel Kittel after he’d been dropped. It was a hard day and the tension built towards the finish. Stage 2 and Albert Contador, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali were already swapping attacks.

The yellow jersey is the ultimate prize in cycling and Nibali leads by two seconds. But does he want to hold this position? It’s one of cycling’s subtitles that a rider who wants to win the race often doesn’t want to inherit the lead to early. Now Nibali must pose for photos, give interviews and becomes the centre of attention plus the Astana team have the implicit duty to defend his measly lead.

The Route
Yorkshire’s grabbed all the attention but here’s a stage to London with a start in the university town of Cambridge. It’s flat roads all the way to London via the Olympic park. The South-East of England is the most crowded part of the UK and we can expect busy roads packed with street furniture. These obstacles and the way the riders negotiate them probably present the greatest danger of the day

The Finish

Flat with wide roads for most of the way, the only pinch points come from street furniture like islands for pedestrian crossings. The riders pass under the 1km to go kite and sweep right past Buckingham Palace to finish on the red tarmac of The Mall, the broad avenue that isn’t a shopping destination. The finishing straight is the same as the Olympics and the Ride London-Surrey Classic.

The Scenario
Who’s going attack first? The question is not about identifying the riders, rather why would they bother? Going clear today has to be a futile exercise in sporting terms, a sprint finish seems certain with several sprint teams keen to set up a win for their fastman. So the only reason to go up the road is business, to get a team’s jersey on TV. But even the value of this has to be questioned, to try and fail might liven up the race but would you want a consumer loan, some laminate flooring or a rental car that was fun for a moment but failed within hours? A touch cynical yes but all that TV time for a breakaway isn’t necessarily the publicity manna we might imagine.

The Contenders

Marcel Kittel is the prime pick. He’s got the form, he’s got the team, he’s got the confidence and he hasn’t got to worry about Mark Cavendish any more. Despite all the teamwork and applying new techniques sprinting always involves a degree of luck, you make your own to some extent but the actions of others often spoil the best laid plans, you can be in the perfect position with 400m to go only to get swamped, flicked, nudged, bumped, switched, chopped.  But what if the team decide to back John Degenkolb today? If so then it’ll be fascinating to see how this works.

André Greipel is the next pick. He’s perhaps not as fast but if there’s an open door he’ll take it in the 11T. He’s got a good team and the absence of Cavendish means a different sprint. It’ll be interesting to see what OPQS do now, a sprint train without their sprinter but Mark Renshaw, Matteo Trentin and Alessandro Petacchi can all be given the job for a day however their chances against Kittel and Co. seem reduced.

Arnaud Démare is the third pick. The Frenchman has won on the same road before when he took the Ride London classic last August but that’s anecdotal, it’s his fast sprint that makes him likely to triumph… but he’s been complaining of a sore wrist. Fellow Frenchman Bryan Coquard is doing very well so far too, twice winning the intermediate sprints which have been the only contests of straight speed on a flat road we’ve had so far.

Alexander Kristoff is another who’s won a sprint on The Mall as he was third in the Olympic road race and first in the breakaway. Today’s stage might be too easy though as the Norwegian often triumphs in long distance races in grim conditions, the last sprinter standing in Milan-Sanremo.

Peter Sagan will contest the sprint but as ever his chances of beating the specialist sprinters is reduced. He’ll be in the mix and has green jersey points to grab but I wonder if Elia Viviani is the faster in a straight line. Watch also for Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Séché).

There’s the possibility of a late attack but an ambush always needs some cover or a distraction and there’s little on supply, only if the sprint trains relent and there’s hesitation could someone take off.

Marcel Kittel
André Greipel, John Degenkolb
Arnaud Démare, Bryan Coquard, Alexander Kristoff
Peter Sagan
Elia Viviani

TV: live from start to finish. But tune in for the sprint action. Today’s stage has an unusually early finish that’s planned for 3.50pm UK time / 4.50pm Euro time. The race will pass the Olympic park around half an hour before this and tune in to watch the speed soar and the famous landmarks fly by.

Weather: cloudy with a top temperature of reaching 22°C. There’s the chance of rain in the afternoon but the latest is that it should stay dry.

Transfer: the stage finishes in London but the race convoy keeps going to France with the idea of getting all the riders to France for dinner and a massage. The riders will fly from London City Airport to Le Touquet while the rest of the race convoy goes by ferry from the port of Dover. But perhaps one rider has alternative plans?

30 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Should be fairly light work for Astana for the this and tomorrow’s stage as they can ease back and rely on the sprinters’ teams to chase down breaks and set tempo, the real challenge will come on the cobbles.

  2. On a slightly different note – what was with the podium girl today? She intentionally rejected poor Nibali. Is the kiss optional now? Are we going to get Mexican kiss stand-offs between rider and podium girl? Until today I thought the only potential cause of awkwardness was the two-cheek vs three-cheek dilemma.

  3. Why do you say that there is little promotional value in getting in the break today? Surely it’s good to get your jersey some air time. That’s one/the aim of the game, no?

    • It depends what the sponsor wants. Being in the world’s biggest bike race brings big publicity and recognition. It all depends on the story and image the sponsor wants: going in a doomed move can look like failure from the start but it can also be taking part, working hard etc. But it’s not a one way street to success.

  4. I was impressed with Sagan yesterday, he was with Froome, Contador and Nibali on the final climb and one of the few to keep on Froome’s wheel when he attacked uphill. I know he’s able to climb, but that was phenomenal. I hope he lights up the race on all stages

      • Agreed. He was by far the fastest sprinter in that group so he should have marked the attackers (GVA, Gallopin etc) and let the GC boys do their thing instead of showing off his descending skills and trying to go solo. Didn’t see good images of the sprint for 2nd but surely if he hadn’t wasted so much energy before he could have gotten it?
        BTW, another prime example of a Pierre Rolland Energy Wasting Attack TM. I’m not sure what Europcar’s reasons are for letting him ride full out in the Giro, it’s not as if they have other viable GC options for their home race.

  5. An excellent first two days in Yorkshire. One sprinters stage with the attendant drama and one classic type stage with the leaders being forced to show themselves. The real news should concern the enormous amount of publicity and the huge partying crowds present, often in the middle of nowhere. If this is the future, then bike racing would have few worries. There are important lessons here for all promoters, UCI and national federations which should not be lost. I hope inrng and others will spend time analysing the ingredients for such success. One thing is for sure, ASO bought the event to Yorkshire, but were not responsible for the breath taking reception.

    • A 45 minute drive followed by a 90 minute hike across the moorland on the pennine way to Holme moss. A 3.5 hour wait for 3 minutes of action. Then the 90 minute hike and drive back with thousands of others in a rain storm. Was it worth it? ….

      Ee by gum, Yeah!

      The atmosphere was brilliant, especially for the kids being cheered up the hill.

      Long live INRNG’s previews and reports! A cap for me young sir.

  6. Amazing how many times Sagz and Nibz have contested the end of tough stages together – that one when they were together at liquigas and Sagan ‘accidentally’ won (I can’t remember which race), Tirreno last year, Oman (?) this year with the Sagan curb bunny hop, and now yesterday. And I’m sure some others. Both have obvious individual qualities but on certain days they are inseparable.

    • Probably your mean the 6. stage of Vuelta 2011, after a quick descent together with Lastras, who threatened to go past Nibali and win. Things like this were probably a part of yesterday’s Sagan’s remark, that he owed Nibbles something from the past.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if these two plucky and skilful pilots were up to something on the muddy cobbles. Sagan wants yellow, green and a stage, and Nibali could do with a couple of minutes on Froome and Contador. They could could be of some avail to one another on Wednesday.

        • I doubt the two of them are strong enough to shake off the real cobble-eaters. 4 out of 5 riders that finished in front of Sagan in P-R are riding the tour as well. So that stage win for Sagan will not be easy.

          • Quite right. But both (riders and teams) are interested in chaos, even if Sagan finishes 5th again. Besides, if it rains, Sagan bike-handling skills should change the equation.

  7. Re: the route. Administratively, Cambridgeshire and Essex, through which the race passes before reaching London, are considered to be in the East of England/East Anglia, rather than the South East, so probably aren’t included in the “most crowded part of the UK” statistic. Having ridden the route yesterday, the first half takes place among fields and little villages, but from the intermediate sprint onwards it is almost completely built up.

    A lot of the road furniture has been removed, by the way. Certainly the pedestrian crossing islands around St James’s Park have gone. There is a pinch point just before they reach the Park though, where the “ASO control” line is on the map above, where the course goes from 4 lanes to 2. Might be important with 1.5km to go.

  8. I’ll be heading out in an hour or so. Think I’ll head out towards Moreton. Can’t wait.

    Just need to decide whether to take the mankini or not…


  9. I’m with you that last night’s stage struggled to get going until the very end. Thank goodness for Garmin Sharp for finally lighting the thing up. I was surprised that none of the non-GC teams took the opportunity afforded by the course and the wind to spice things up a bit. And why didn’t the GC teams put Porte to the sword when they had the opportunity on Holme Moss? Never mind, a good finish: it felt a bit like a World Champs finale: nervous and no one willing to lay down their cards until the last possible moment. Good comments re: Sagan and his need to temper his enthusiasm. I tipped GvA – should have known he’d be 2nd (yet again).

    • On Sagan: Both you and inrng do not take into account one fact. Nobody wants to bring him to the line, I would even say “Let us win someone else, just not take him to the line” – at least it often looks so in the very end of classics or tough stages. He said yesterday: “It’s difficult when everybody is watching me.”
      I can imagine that someone / Tinkoff, Alonso / buys both Sagan and one more excellent classics rider (say Vanmarcke) and with two card to play (or to cover late breaks) they will win much more then each one separately.

  10. isn’t it a smart move, to be the leader before the cobble sections stage? Astanas Team Car was way back in the order…all GC contenders are trying to be in front it seams…

  11. Crowds did look crazy. Nice to see the GCs being put into the spotlight early.

    Impressed that Sky can bring Porte from his puncture probs to finish with the top group especially as it wasnt a bunch sprint. Pretty clear how important they regard him.

    Glad to see Horner wasnt too far off the top group – it always gives me hope @ 34 that i still have time to go from mediocre commuter to World Tour rider. :0)

    Also is Purito in a really bad way or is he deliberately losing time to convince everyone of his non-GC ambitions?

  12. I think we now have a good reason why a rider would bother with a breakaway on a stage like today; to win the most combative award and kiss the pretty girls on top of the podium in front of the world. Jan Barta looked awestruck when receiving his accolades today. For me, just having Hinault zip up the shirt would be reason enough for me to bury myself at the front all day.

  13. Does anyone know what’s up with Greipel? Lotto have been pulling in the sprints but he seems to have gone missing when it comes down to the last 200m.

    • well, there was the crash on stage 1 that he got caught behind and on stage 3 he apparently lost his lead-out so didn’t bother contesting the sprint – more energy for today? i have him on my velogames squad so i’m a bit disappointed…

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