Yesterday felt like the longest day but today’s stage is the longest when measured by distance. The race heads south, the weather gets warmer and there’s an uphill finish. A sprint finish is still likely but the tactics will vary.
Stage 3 Wrap: a lethargic peloton let Armindo Fonseca go solo, the sole Breton on the Breton team Fortuneo-Vital Concept on the sole stage in Brittany. Fonseca was barely any more energetic and never got a big lead, he just wanted to ride past his friends. The rest of the peloton barely wanted to ride as they averaged 33km/h for hours leaving television viewers in torpor and TV commentators dredging up anecdotes. It was dull and surprising that the other wildcard invitees didn’t bother doing anything.
Finally the speed picked up and we got a sprint in Angers. Mark Cavendish won, popping out from André Greipel’s slipstream and just pipping him on the line. The pair were the most convincing in the sprint but Greipel seemed to lead for two long while Marcel Kittel’s leadout didn’t work and Bryan Coquard was third.
The Route: the longest stage of the race with 237.5km (but yesterday’s stage took more time and tomorrow’s 216km route will take as long and features more climbing). They pass through Châtellerault at 75km, birthplace of Sylvain Chavanel but his chances of going in a move are slim as he’s needed on team duty later.
Once they get past the intermediate sprint at Le Dorat the roads get hillier and rougher as they reach the start of the Massif Central’s hills but there are few surprises.
The Finish: another city finish to cheer, previous arrivals in Limoges have been outside town/ But before the city comes into sight there’s a climb at the 8km to go point. 1.5km at 5% sounds like nothing but remember after 230km it’s a touch more but it’s no Poggio either, just a small drag. There’s a fast descent between 3km and 2km to go then the road flattens out briefly. It drops again, 500m at 4% and a crash risk given the speed but the road is very wide. With 1km to go they cross the Vienne river on a wide bridge and from here there’s 750m to the finish, the road rises at 5-6% all the way to the line.
The Scenario: with each passing day the chances of a breakaway sticking rise but it’s still another likely sprint finish. Many strong teams still have an interest in setting up a bunch sprint rather than gambling on a breakaway. The hilly terrain later on does rise and fall a lot but it features large roads and so gives little advantage to any fugitives.
The Contenders: an uphill sprint, just. It’s not long enough nor steep enough to make it a certainty for Peter Sagan but he’s an obvious pick given his power and consistency.
Among Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Marcel Kittel all have won uphill sprints on a similar finish to this over the years. Kittel struggled a bit yesterday with a gentler uphill finish and so he’s downgraded today while Cavendish looked explosive which won’t be so easy to repeat after such a long stage. So André Greipel is the deductive second pick.
Now or never for Bryan Coquard, third yesterday and now with a finish to suit yet it’s hard to imagine him getting the better of everyone.
|Peter Sagan, André Greipel
|Bryan Coquard, Mark Cavendish
|Boasson Hagen*, Matthews, Theuns
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 28°C at the finish. A 15km/h tailwind will try to help keep the speed up
TV: 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.