Stage 3 Wrap
The certainty, the inevitability. Everything we could have expected happened: a doomed breakaway, an Andy Schleck crash, London rain, famous landmarks and a Marcel Kittel triumph. The German is looking unbeatable. Visually it’s like watching a race for 14 year olds where one participant hit puberty two years ahead of the rest. Talking of advances, Kittel won by a bike length from Peter Sagan who seemed resigned to second place, sat in Kittel’s slipstream.
Is Kittel beatable? Maybe. We’ve seen several of his rivals flop in the finish, denying the drag race. Yesterday André Greipel lost contact with his sprint train and Arnaud Démare’s had problems with his FDJ train, they’ve been struggling to get and hold him near the front. But this is testimony to Giant-Shimano’s power and composure and if Fernando Alonso isn’t buying the team they could try pitching to UPS because they deliver on time. We’ll also see Giant-Shimano left to do more work earlier on the sprint stages, other teams will look to them to control the breakaways.
One last word on the visit to Britain: it will be the standard by which crowds are measured.
- Km 34.0 – Côte de Campagnette, 1 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 4
- Km 117.5 – Mont Noir, 1.3 kilometre-long climb at 5.7% – category 4
Two climbs are listed but as you can see from the profile there’s more along the way including the intermediate sprint on Mont Cassel. The course is straight out of the Four Days of Dunkerque race scaling the Monts and riding past the terrils, the large spoil tips that resemble black pyramids, a reminder of the region’s mining past.
The Mont Cassel intermediate sprint sees the road twist and turn but this isn’t the cobbled climb used in Gent-Wevelgem. The last climb of the day is the Mont Noir, the Black Mountain, known for its dark pine trees rather than mining waste. But it won’t trouble the sprinters and it’s 46km from the finish. Then the roads flatten out for the finish and heads through Lille and its suburbs.
Back to France and back to drab roads of the edge of town. That said Sheffield wasn’t picture-postcard stuff either. The greatest dangers come after the 5km to go sign, urban roads with some street furniture but these are passed and the race take a large road to head out of town to finish outside the large sports stadium. It’s flat and fast with a sweeping left hand bend in the finish, not a tight turn but one where the inside line is worth a bike length or two.
It’s worth watching to see who tries to go up the road because Cyril “The Monk” Lemoine leads the mountains competition but if Jens Voigt, Blel Kadri or team mate Nicolas Edet go up the road they could collect points to equal his haul. Otherwise it’s another futile grab for airtime for everyone else as this stage is another day for the sprinters. The weather could be a factor with a promised crosswind but it’s not forecast to be angry enough to split things up.
Marcel Kittel is the prime pick. He’s got the form, he’s got the team, he’s got the confidence and he’s so far ahead of everyone else. But again sprinting’s a risky business and therefore there’s no such thing as a certainty.
André Greipel is the next pick. The stage includes a brief detour into Belgium although neither Lotto-Belisol nor anyone else need any extra incentives or pressure.
Arnaud Démare is the third pick. FDJ have been making a mess of their sprints with Marc Madiot saying they’re still learning, we’ll see what they’ve learned. Démare was sensational in the Four Days of Dunkirk but the level of competition was much lower, still these are familiar roads. Bryan Coquard continues to impress.
Alexander Kristoff was fifth yesterday despite a mechanical as the race sped through London so with fresher legs he could do better.
Peter Sagan will contest the sprint and we’ve seen Viviani is purely on lead-out duty. OPQS settled on Mark Renshaw yesterday and he got third.
Adrien Petit (Cofidis) is the local today, apparently the race almost passes his flat. Watch for Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Séché).
|Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare, Bryan Coquard, Alexander Kristoff
TV: live from start to finish. Be sure to tune in for the sprint but the rest of the stage might be worth dipping in and out of, check if there’s any crosswind action.
The race is now back on French time and the finish expected for 5.30pm Euro time.
Weather: a mix of sunshine and clouds with the chance of rain. A top temperature 18°C and the forecast says a 15-20km/h breeze from the northwest meaning a tailwind for the latter part of the stage.