Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

A long day and a likely sprint finish, today probably isn’t the day to tune in for hours of TV expecting action or stunning scenery, save your anticipation for the sprint royale in Angers.

Stage 2 Wrap: the predicted result but it wasn’t obvious. The early move of four stayed up well beyond their bedtime, the other teams seemed unwilling to chase and the gap was significant with 10km to go. Soon after Jasper Stuyven left his breakaway companions behind on the penultimate climb and had a good lead as he rode past the quays in Cherbourg only to melt on climb to La Glacerie where he was swept up just as the bunch started the rise to the line. Alaphilippe led out and Sagan came past to take the stage, the points jersey and his first yellow jersey.

Peter Sagan Julian Alaphilippe

Behind Alberto Contador and Richie Porte lost time and it’s worrying in different ways for then. For Contador because he crashed again, this time he banged his left knee and was so sore he couldn’t follow the pace up the final climb which suggests fundamentally issues: he lost 48 seconds. Porte only had a puncture but lost 1.45 thanks to a slow wheel change from the neutral service and there was no teammate in sight to surrender a wheel. Hopefully he’ll prove this wrong but in past races once he’s suffered a setback he’s struggled to recover and even imploded; see his Giro in 2015 for an example. Implicitly or explicity his status with the BMC Racing team has changed.

Alberto Contador

The Route: a long day with 223.5km to cover as the race quits Normandy to head south across a gentle and harmless land. They pass by roads used by smaller French races like the Boucles de Mayenne and the Route d’Adélie and at KM160 the race goes by Renazé, home of the Madiot brothers who run the FDJ team. Marc remains the totemic figurehead but is just that while Yvon is the DS who directs the team on the road. If you want more thoughts on Marc Madiot then the book review of Parlons Vélo says as much about him as it does the book.


The Finish: a city finish which is to be celebrated because often Tour stages end up on the soulless outskirts of town. Today the race finishes in the heart of Angers which, despite the name, is a rather pleasant and relaxing place. It’s full of boulevards and the race runs over the Maine river to find the 1KM to go banner and then there’s a slight uphill at 2-3% before a sweeping wide right-hander which leads onto the 300m long finishing straight where the slope levels out.

The Scenario: a likely sprint finish, the long flat route is hardest at the start and so those who want to barge away will be left to get on with it and the chase can be coordinated later on. There are no surprises on this course, someone like Fabian Cancellara could try a flyer in the finish but even the final corner is wide and offers little advantage to the leader. Look to see how the sprint trains work, once upon a time the likes of Saeco or Highroad seemed to boss the finish for ages, now the fashion is to surge as late as possible after someone else has done the work.

Mark Cavendish Marcel Kittel André Greipel

The Contenders: Marcel Kittel, André Greipel or Mark Cavendish? We can extrapolate arguments for all three based on Saturday’s sprint. Kittel didn’t get a good lead out and had to go in the wind for a long time but still ran close. Greipel had a similar story and started his sprint without a leadout and from further back while Cavendish had the craft and speed to win. All three are obvious picks and how they react to and against each other will be interesting. If pressed, and that’s what these previews are all about, Kittel is the prime pick.

The others? Peter Sagan of course but surely the names cited above are faster and if the finish is slightly uphill it’s no way selective enough. Alexander Kristoff will miss Michael Mørkøv who crashed hard on Stage 1 but the long finish suits him, again if he’s missing speed expect him to wait for the others to fade in the coming days. Bryan Coquard wanted yesterday’s stage but that all went wrong, tomorrow suits him more but he’s bound to try. Dylan Groenewegen is bound to win a stage one year and the thing with sprinters is that they often triumph from a young age; he’s been ill with stomach problems which is a worry for a long stage but if these have passed then watch for him. Otherwise Edward Theuns, Dan McLay and Christophe Laporte could place. Sam Bennett is too bashed up to feature, he was last yesterday all by himself.

Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Mark Cavendish
Peter Sagan
Kristoff, Groenewegen, Coquard

Weather: a cloudy start and then the sun is forecast to appear with a top temperature of 21°C and little wind to speak of.

TV: given the flat route and benign weather forecast this is probably a day to tune in for the sprint rather than watch the rural procession that precedes it. The finish is forecast for 5.20pm Euro time. No other race attracts as much TV coverage but if you can’t find it on TV at home cyclinghub serves up a pirate feed.

49 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

  1. “I was thinking that there were still two guys in the front” … Sagan learning mind game tricks straight out of the Alberto Contadour playbook?

    • He did it last year too, when finishing 2nd in LBL, as a rookie. That guy is the real deal, a winner pur sang. He’s bound to get the better of Sagan e tutti quanti someday. Good placing of Dan Martin too.

    • yeah i agree – when you see how major races are lost to punctures, you’d think the minor weight penalty would be worth having tubeless tyres.

      • Does anyone know if sealant actually works in tubs? I know few people who have tried it in road clinchers with tubes and due to the high tire pressure all that happens is you flat and get yourself and your bike covered in slime.

        I know it works well on MTB tubeless tires but the lower pressure higher volume tires are part of the success.

        • In road tubs with their high pressure using sealant can cure very small leaks while riding but not as well as it usually helps in tubeless tires. The sealant has a more “solid” and longer channel to fill up in a tire when compared to the thin and flexy character of a hole in an inner tube.
          Given how good road tubeless tires work and how superior they roll staying with tubs and all the associated hassle seems to be one of the things in professional road cycling that remain as they are because of an inherent reluctance to change.

        • Sealant works well in tubs. I run tubs filled with sealant (generally part worn ones from friends who have rejected them off their racing bikes) on a bike I use around the city. Only the other day I heard the fizz of a flat for a few seconds before it sealed and I kept going.

          Granted it won’t seal a big cut but it will seal anything that would have gone down slowly.

      • Tubeless road tires have generally poor rolling resistance, compared to the best race tubulars or clinchers. That’s a continuous 5-10 watt penalty , even if you’re out of the wind.

        • TomH,
          please bring your knowledge up to the latest state of technology. It will not only help you with regards to your reputation as a commenter 😉 but you could also benefit as a rider. With the exception of some tubulars used for track racing only there is no tubular which can compete with tubeless road tires as the S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless or Schwalbe Pro ONE. The information about independent testing proving this is readily available on the internet.

          • It’s very tricky to compare Crr across different websites, as the result is sensitive to test conditions & protocol.
            My “go to” source has usually been Tom Anhalt’s site, .
            Upper right corner of the webpage, click on “Roller Testing Crr Results Spreadsheet”, or direct url:

            He doesn’t list an S-Works Turbo Road Tubeless or Schwalbe Pro ONE, maybe these tires are still too new.

            The best tubeless tire on his list ranks #16 overall, Schwalbe IM Tubeless 22C.
            Note he tests at typical 45 kph = 28 mph and vertical load ~50kg.
            This matters because the watts of power loss is proportional to Crr x Speed x Vertical Load.

            I did find this other reference to Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless :
            He tests at 29 kph = 18 mph and 42.5 kg load, already a big difference.

            Therefore the wattage loss cannot be directly compared, although Crr is *supposed* to be independent of those factors. That still would Not move the Schwalbe Pro One Tubeless to top-10 in Mr Anhalt’s list.

            To campare “apples to apples” I invoked the “compare” feature on the
            website, comparing the 2016 Schwalbe to reliable standby Conti GP4000S II with latex tubes.

            The GP4000S II still comes out ahead, so WHY BOTHER with the tubeless on a road bike ?! I’ve read all the pros and cons and I am not convinced.

            A friend tried various tubeless over a 1+ yr period. About 1/2 his punctures would not seal, and he’d have to fight a *very* tight tubeless tire to install a tube on the road. Again, Why Bother?! Just ride clincher and no side-of-the-road worries.

            When I race criteriums or road races in USA , I will use tubulars on carbon rims. The lightest tire/wheel combination, and properly glued, will Not come off the rim when punctured, and lead to mass crash pileups.

            A tubeless tire requires special rim shape (some call it “bead locking shelf”) to stay tightly on the rim. AFAIK, this makes tubeless Not compatible with most aero, all-carbon clincher wheels on the market. Supposedly Enve has some rims that will work, but Zipp & HED do not.
            At the end of the day, tubeless still won’t be as secure on the rim as a well-glued tubular.

            As you can see, I’m a grouchy skeptic on road tubeless. I don’t see the point, especially not for racing. Even in recreational use, road tubeless seem more trouble than it’s worth, espeically after observing my riding partner over the course of a year — he’s back on clinchers now.
            (I typed this hurriedly, pls be tolerant of spelling and grammar errors).

    • It is used sometimes, but more for puncture prone races like Paris-Roubaix. We often see punctures on TV but the statistical incidence is much lower than we think and as others say it doesn’t fix everything.

  2. Cav said in an interview yesterday that he went deep at the finish in trying to honour the yellow jersey, so was playing down his own chances. Be interesting to see if he’s in the mix today or if he’ll save himself for another day.

  3. Not too sure about Cyclinghub pirate feeds for the Tour, his site had no videos on Saturday (while I was still trying to sort my cable TV out, I only have cable TV enabled one month a year…)

    He did have a YouTube preview clip where he said ASO are being very vigorous in chasing down pirate feeds and other recordings.

  4. Richie Porte has been “unlucky” again. A couple of weeks back he managed to get boxed in on the final metres at the Dauphine so lost out on the podium, the 2015 Giro was just a succession of “bad luck”, etc etc. Whilst the time loss does not have to be terminal to his chances (if my memory is correct something similar happened to Chris Froome in 2012 and he could have won if it wasnt for team orders) it is going to be a struggle to say the least. Punctures can happen to anyone but where were his team mates? If it had been Foome or Quintana a team mate would have been there handing over their bike.

    • As Inrng says, when Porte has his “bad luck” thats usually it for him. Do we really expect him to recover 1.45 against the best grand tour riders in the world? Nope. More likely is I see him working as an unofficial helper for Froome in the mountains. Should he be there to do so. I can imagine a “I’ll let you win the stage if you work with me” scenario being offered up by best buddy Froome at some point.

      • On the contrary… He’ll be lining up for BMC’s newly appointed sole leader TJVG.

        Giving help for Froome won’t be happening

        • I’m sure Porte will be good for TJVG for a while. But by the time Froome can profit from Porte’s help, TJVG will be 5+ minutes down, maybe more. Expect to see Froome and Porte riding away together on the finish of stage 17.

      • Well, if past years are any indication, he’s more than capable of pegging a minute or so back against anybody bar Froome & Quintana.

    • If Porte was a true co-leader at BMC, then why wasn’t he truly protected by having a dedicated support rider with him at all times? Why was he left on his own especially near the end of the race, where just such a scenario is more likely to inflict damage to his overall standing that is unrecoverable? While this was going on, most likely, TVG had a possee of red&black riders around him. This is all part of BMC’s nefarious plan to have Richie ride the Tour as TVG’s gregario royale. But, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, TVG will never win the Tour.

      • It’s hard to do, some riders had been dropped, others were working for Van Avermaet and the stage win and it’s easy to get separated in the finish and hard to hear the team radio over the crowds and helicopters etc.

  5. Alaphilippe’s lead out for Sagan almost beats Greg Henderson’s sterling early work for Cavendish on Stage 1 (they never look behind, do they? – just plough on). Saying that, Sagan was smart refusing to lead out when he found himself at the front and relying on his superior sprint.
    Can’t believe I didn’t have money on this: Sagan always looked favourite, Alaphilippe is making a distinct habit of coming 2nd and inevitably Valverde came 3rd.
    Shame about Contador – it’s looking more and more like a two horse race.
    Porte. Again. Would a more intelligent leader ensure he had a teammate behind him? Think how often in that situation you see a rider taking a teammate’s wheel. Then think about how often in that situation you see them having to take a neutral service wheel. How many of the BMC team must have come past him? Maybe they don’t see him as a prospective winner.
    Sagan probably only won because he thought there was someone else ahead and thus thought he was coming 2nd.

    • Contador has 2 days to bluff and hope to roll through the stages without further damage. But on stage 5 there are a couple of sharp testers where, if he’s really as bad as yesterday’s lost seconds suggest, then he may very well be dropped again. If so, bye bye. Personally, I was always of the view this is a two horse race anyway. It was both times these two guys were here before.

    • Yes, shame about Kontador. Doesn’t look good for him. If he further looses time in stage 5, I don’t know whether there is much sense in continuing. He probably better prepares Olympics and/or Vuelta.
      I think he was below quintana and froome anyway, but he is just the kind of rider able to use that in his own benefit by trying something “different”. Now, I am afraid the race will turn out to be much more a W/kg contest.

  6. I don’t buy the line from Sagan claiming he thought two were still ahead of him. One of other riders whose name fails me confirmed he’d heard it confirmed on race radio. It is just mind tricks to play himself down as a threat, as he has complained before that people don’t work with him in breaks etc.

    He showed he’s learned from past errors as he was at the front with 500 to go and where in the past he would have gunned it to the line to be pipped and looked like he waited before launching his final sprint.

    Loved his tweet after which was something like “If I lose yellow jersey, I have the green jersey and if I lose that I have the rainbow jersey” 🙂

    Stupid question alert but something I was wondering, but for the jersey presentations do they have them made for all teams just in case for the riders sponsors to be shown?

    • My imagination or in the first interview he did with Matt Rendell did Sagan say that he thought he was coming 2nd – i.e. behind one guy, not two?

    • “for the jersey presentations do they have them made for all teams just in case for the riders sponsors to be shown?”

      I’m sure I saw a feature on this a couple of years back where they have a single jersey, but it has a couple of blank spaces, and the appropriate sponsors are hastily applied (iron-on?) when the holder is known

      This may be one of the reasons that the advertising space is carefully mandated/limited 🙂

    • I do buy it.
      Not everyone is paying attention to the race radio in last heat up km of the race. I can imagine especially Sagan don’t give much f* then. They knew there were 4 guys ahead, that group splitted to solo riders, which all were caught one by one by the Sagan group while last 2k at high speed. Not everyone has the oversight in such moments who got caught and who’s not.

      And nothing looks more dull than a victory pose coming in as second 😉
      Classy one last week at German nationals, held on a 12km circuit, when that unknown rider of a 4th row team outsprinted every other German world class sprinter and celebrated like crazy. Bunch behind laughed their ass of. It was the penultimate round.

  7. Its game over for Porte and possibly Contador as well, unless something dramatic happens in their favour. Yesterday was Alaphillipe’s win to be honest, he just timed it wrong and died so close to the line, rather than Sagan powering past him. Regarding Porte’s puncture, I may have lost something in translation but did he not say he was riding second in the group when he felt the puncture? If so, how can it be possible none of his team mates saw what was happening.

  8. Disappointed for Porte but it has to be said it’s no surprise there was no team mates around when they have so many interests – trying to protect Porte & TJVG for GC as well as win the stage with GVA was always going to be a tall order. Throw in something going wrong (as what happened) and it’s never going to work.
    I can’t help but think this wouldn’t have happened at another big team or a team with a sole interest.. BMC have made their bed IMO and now Richie has to lie in it..

    • Seeing the finishing times it seems that Porte would never have a teammate wheel:

      08 Van Avermaet 00 (battling for stage win)
      19 van Garderen 00 (co-leader)
      81 Porte 1:45
      90 Caruso 2:10
      119 Moinard 4:16
      124 Burghardt 4:46
      134 Schar 5:56

      I didn’t watch yesterday’s stage, but it seems a failure of BMC as a team when we know there wouldn’t be last 3km rule for that stage.

        • That’s the point with there’s no assurance in case a mishap, the team should keep lieutenants with leaders at the last 10km. The hill on the km7 split the field(?).

          Did Caruso, Moinard and Burghardt pass for him and yet lost 2min on a last 3km hill [Moinard and Burghardt in this scenario]?

          Or they were so behind of him that could help?

          People keep saying the Sky is too restricted, but last year on the Giro Porte had 3 team mates together on the last 7 km, but he decided to get “wrong” wheel of Orica guy in a lapse of seconds.

        • Yeah, but moments before that situation the chasing peloton was seen lead by more than 3 BMC riders. Then we saw remainig breakway riders and next time only GvA and Van Garderen were left, both of which obviously wont help, since GvA goes for that stage win. The other BMCs must have dropped out in between

  9. Does anyone know how the GC classifications are calculated, when, early in the race, many riders share the same time; for example for fourth place after these two stages? Barguil is in fourth, with Froome next and several riders behind, but on the same time.
    I was of the opinion that it was dependent on finishing positions on the most recent stage, but if that were the case, then Dan Martin would be above Froome. Could it be combined positions over the two days?

    • That’s right, you add up the positions in case of equal times, eg 3rd and 17th is 3+17=20 vs 4th and 12th 4+12=16 and the lowest combined total is the leader. This holds until a TT stage when riders are timed to the nearest 100th of a second. In case riders end up in the same time, even to the 100th of a second and their stage places are identical for all 21 stages then the winner of the race is determined by who finishes ahead on the Champs Elysées in Paris.

  10. inrng,

    the picture with Contador and Ten Dam is over the links of right frame of page. I’m using FF 47, Win10.

    Btw, thanks for the amazing content and thoughts.

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