The longest stage in the race and the day for breakaway chancers to go on a raid. For a change today’s finish is later than the previous stages.
Stage 3 Wrap: a win for BMC Racing just ahead of Astana and Movistar and interesting to see neo-pro Dylan Teuns as one of the five riders to cross the line together. It was a good course, few technical points but up and down and the varying gradients of the Beaujolais enough to tease apart many teams and you had to go to Bora-Argon 18 in 11th place on the stage to find a team finishing with more than the minimum of five riders.
The surprise was Team Sky’s sixth place. Ian Stannard blew up and Luke Rowe had a mechanical leaving the team without two precious riders and they paid the price. Overall it puts Rohan Dennis in the yellow jersey but keeps everyone else in a close group, the GC spreads apart but by seconds rather than minutes. Tinkoff-Saxo unveiled new camouflage kit for the Tour de France but finished 19th proving you don’t need stealth clothing to go unnoticed.
The Route: 228km, the longest stage of the race. So long yet so short to describe because there’s little of note along the way. The Col de Lescou is 3.9km at 4.9% and climbs fast. Look the profile and you’ll see the day is all about gradual climbs. All until the Côte de la Marquise which is 1.3km at 6.7% with 12km to go, a scenic climb up above the finish. Just two days ago Cofidis management were saying Bouhanni is fine in short climbs but if he gets over no problem will his be able to control things? A tricky descent follows with several tight bends.
The Finish: flat and fast.
The Contenders: a sprint? The hilly finish is fine for Nacer Bouhanni, his problem is the 200 kilometres before. Cofidis will struggle to chase all day. BMC Racing may help early on to defend the yellow and blue jersey but they won’t want to be too tired ahead of the Alps. Giant-Alpecin might help to Luka Mezgec. This changes the usual dynamic of chancers going clear only to be crushed by the sprint trains, now everyone will want to go clear, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So who will pack the breakaway? Let’s start with the desperate who include many French riders fighting for a ride in the Tour de France, the old-school “shine in June” practice still seems to work – one rider said just this yesterday – even if it the “turn stale by July” counterpart is ignored; for added desperation factor in Europcar who still have no news on a replacement sponsor. Otherwise think of the breakaway specialists, think Simon Gerrans, Thomas Voeckler, Tony Martin, Nicolas Edet, Tony Gallopin or Ramūnas Navardauskas for some examples.
|Nacer Bouhanni, Edvald Boasson Hagen|
|Navardauskas, Martin, Dumoulin, Benoot|
Weather: hot with temperatures of 32°C and a light crosswind for much of the day
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time. It’s an ASO race so you should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport too and if all else fails you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.