The crucial time trial stage to reshape the overall classification and an early test of fitness for all the Tour de France contenders.
Stage 3 Wrap: not every train arrives on time. FDJ and Lotto-Soudal capped the lead of the six rider breakaway at around six minutes, Cofidis and Dimension Data helped bring it down to two minutes, Katusha got towards one minute. Then the peloton ran out of steam and the sprint trains never brought back the breakaway, each outfit wanted someone else to chase so that they could preserve wagons for the finish. The escapees were helped by two teams having two riders each in the move which helped prevent games, there was always someone to take a pull to help the move and things never got tactical, even in the finishing straight. Lotto-Jumbo’s Koen Bouwman jumped first, got a gap and never looked back. It was an impressive win for a rider who’d gone in the break to mop up mountains points to add to the tally he’d earned by going in the previous day’s breakaway too.
The Route: 23.5km and hillier than the profile suggests. It’s uphill straight out of town with some 5-6% sections, nothing savage and since it’s all on a wide road most will stay in an aero tuck but it’s an immediate advantage for the lighter rouleurs as the road drags up to Rochetoirin at 5km. Then the road dips down for a fast section to the halfway time check in Laval. The hardest part of the course comes after 16km with the climb to Demptézieu, the one moment when the wide roads close in and the road climbs via tight hairpins. It’s a fun moment but over quickly and back to wider roads for the final 6km to the finish in Bourgoin-Jallieu. There’s a descent into town which is fast, there are corners but those hoping to contend for the stage will ride the course in the morning to avoid nasty surprises.
The Contenders: the prototype rider would be Tom Dumoulin given the climbing and fast sections here so who to pick instead. It’s not obvious. Tony Martin (Katusha) will have to do instead but he’s not the certainty he used to be, his last success in a World Tour TT dates from over two years ago, the 2015 Tour de Romandie. But the 32 year old has to be back in form soon, the Düsseldorf grand départ is 24 days away.
Another rider facing a fitness test today is Chris Froome and what better way to put an end to the lack of a win so far this year with a time trial victory? At Sky Michał Kwiatkowski could fancy his chances on this medium distance course too.
The same for Alberto Contador, how is his form? Monday’s L’Equipe reported riders noticing Contador wasn’t at ease during Sunday’s climb to Rochetaillé, is he a touch short of form? Or was this an extrapolation? Two team mates have been ill too, with Fumiyuki Beppu soldiering on and Edward Theuns out.
Richie Porte is another contender. He’s got a good record in one week stage races but he’s been better in the mountains than against the clock. BMC Racing team mate Brent Bookwalter must be one of the most under-rated riders in the peloton. He can climb with the best until late and does a good time trial too – second in the recent Tour of California’s Big Bear TT stage – which makes him a valuable team mate at BMC Racing but not headline news because he’s only taken two career wins.
Luis Leon Sanchez would prefer a long course to power around, the intensity today might be too much. Astana team mate Sergey Chernetski is Russian’s time trial champion and could feature.
Among some other names there’s Movistar’s Jasha Sütterlin, a TT specialist. Bahrain-Merida’s Ramūnas Navardauskas is enigmatic, sometimes able to pull of a surprise. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) wears the stars and stripes of US national champion and finished a solid third in the Big bear TT in California. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) is an all rounder in search of a speciality and can do well in the time trials, a win would be a shock though. FDJ’s Ignatas Konovalovas used to be a TT specialist but has been an engine of their sprint train more of late.
Can Thomas de Gendt stay in yellow? Yes. His results in past time trials may sometimes look bad but that’s because he doesn’t chase the overall classification too often and so enjoyed an undeclared rest day like so many do. Now there’s a yellow jersey on the line it’s worth fighting for. The stage win seems out of the question but he’s got 1m09s on all the main rivals which is a good buffer.
|Tony Martin, Chris Froome
|Brent Bookwalter, Michał Kwiatkowski
|Gallopin, Porte, Talansky, Sütterlin, Contador
Weather: sunny and a mild 21°C with a light 5-10km/h breeze from the north.
TV: the first rider starts around 1.00pm and last rider is due to arrive at 4.20pm CET. All riders go off at one minute intervals. It should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.