Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

A hilly stage with a lively uphill finish. The different finish means different teams will chase today because the slopes in Longwy are too much for most sprinters which in turn means more riders might fancy their chance in the day’s breakaway.

Taylor Phinney

Stage 2 review: an instant breakaway of four riders but not necessarily a futile move. Taylor Phinney took the king of the mountains jersey and Yoann Offredo scooped up plenty of publicity for his Wanty-Gobert team. When asked what his plans were before the stage he cited the Ghislain Lambert film and team orders “to see Magicreme everywhere“, in other words his team had to get in the move. With 30km to go there was a crash at the front of the bunch which brought down many riders including Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Romain Bardet, Richie Porte and Robert Gesink and many more, some superficial injuries reported but nobody left the race. If the bunch sprint was a certainty, many teams saw their plans falls apart and most of the top riders came into the final 400m without help, having to watch their rivals and wait for others to make their move. Peter Sagan went first but his generous effort just launched the sprint for others while Marcel Kittel was out of the picture at first but bided his time in the slipstream before surging to the win. He was clearly the fastest in the finish. Second placed Arnaud Démare was close and will hope his team can deliver him again, this time he lost Mickaël Delage in the big crash and Ignatas Konovalovas to a puncture in the final kilometres. Mark Cavendish was an encouraging fourth after a long sprint in the headwind.

The Route: 212km across Belgium and Luxembourg before the races reaches France. The first climb is listed at Sart and 2.8km at 5.1% but the road rises long before, this is hilly country in the Ardennes and familiar to many racers from the Eneco Tour, the Ster ZLM and other events.

The climb to Eschdorf is listed as 2.3km at 9.3% and arguably the first real climb of the Tour with a pronounced gradient and hairpin bends. Along with the climb to Wiltz there’s a real opportunity to get out and take the mountains jersey and keep it for a day because tomorrow only has one marked climb so we can expect a breakaway to mop up the points.

The Finish: they ride downhill via some wide hairpin bends, pass over the railway line and after crossing the Chiers river they take the Rue de l’Abbatoir. With 2.3km the road dips down before a sharp left bend to funnel the riders onto a narrow road and the start of the climb to the finish, here the road rises a little more than the profile suggests before the start of the the Rue de la Banque, the steep part of the finish. It’s here they flick left, another pinch point where contenders need to be well-placed, and then they climb with 8-10% biting soon before the slope eases to 6%. There’s a left bend where it’s steep on the inside but worth the shortcut and then comes the flamme rouge, followed by a sharp bend to the right and the climbs at 3-4% to the line, easing for the final 100 metres.

The Contenders: Peter Sagan is an obvious pick, he’s the normally the master at these kind of finishes. But you’ll remember Zdeněk Štybar winning ahead of him in the 2015 Tour de France in Le Havre, ditto Greg Van Avermaet in Rodez that year. But those were the days when Sagan kept finishing second, he’s a more prolific winner but both of those riders are contenders today. Štybar might be tasked with trying to get Matteo Trentin to the finish because the Italian is a 10 second time bonus away from the yellow jersey thanks to the hundredths of a second recorded in the time trial and Trentin will probably find this finish too much. Meanwhile also at Quick Step Philippe Gilbert‘s problem is not the climb, it’s the way the road levels out towards the finish. He used to be invincible in finishes like this but he’s about to turn 35 this week and doesn’t have that old zip so he’s not such a firm pick

Michael Matthews is a good challenger but how to beat Sagan? Does he ask his team for a high tempo on the steepest parts of the climb to try and put Sagan and the other sprinters into the red knowing he just might be able to outpace them or just simply stick to Sagan and hope for the best with 100 metres to go?

There’s a long list of other contenders who will queue on Sagan’s wheel. Diego Ulissi might prefer a slightly more sustained climb but is still very good for a finish like this and maybe UAE team mate Ben Swift can hold tight for the sprint. FDJ will count on Arthur Vichot who looked good in the Tour de Suisse but the level of opposition here is so big that a win seems unlikely. Orica-Scott have Michael Albasini, a specialist at uphill finishes but a rare winner outside his native Switzerland. Trek-Segafredo’s Fabio Felline could pounce, Cannondale-Drapac’s Patrick Bevin is handy for short uphill sprints and Dimension Data’s Edvald Boasson Hagen had a great time trial, the form is there. Finally Movistar’s Carlos Betancur who is looking much leaner these days, perhaps not the winner but we’ll see if he’s back to his fighting weight.

Peter Sagan
Michael Matthews
Ulissi, Boasson Hagen, Felline, Albasini, Bevin, Van Avermaet, Gilbert, Kwiatkowski, Swift

Weather: cloudy with some sun at times, 18°C and a 20km/h wind from the west, meaning a light crosswind for 90% of the stage before a headwind for the final 20 minutes until the reach the finish in Longwy where they zig and zag to the finishing straight with a tailwind.

TV: live from the start at 12.15pm CET with the finish forecast for 5.20pm CET.

74 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Chapeau for your return to form with your predictions – your 10 picks filled 8 of the top 10, + 13th and 15th. That nearly makes up for missing out on the ITT result 😉

    • +1. Another solid start to the Grand Tour “INRNG” better strategy (bet on a 3-sprocket pick, if it wins half the winnings on the next days picks). Normally turns a few quid into enough money to spend on jerseys and other cycling things (from Prendas of course)

      • Most people lose their shirt betting, not buying new ones 😉

        I can only feel nervous reading this. I remember a very angry email from a reader a couple of years ago saying he bet on the predictions during the Tour and lost money, I had to explain that I sadly could not predict the future.

        • Priceless! 🙂

          Really love your previews!
          They’re a big talking point at home, and my 12-year old always ask’s “what does inrng thinks before this stage dad?” 🙂

        • Wow. That is incredible.

          People are MAD.

          I have to admit I come here because there is a significant reduction in the madness levels, never expected someone like that would visit here!

          PS – Where is Gabriele? We miss you Gabriele.

  2. On the retro theme, it’s cool to see the proliferation of tan wheel walls in the peloton.
    Even if their price is thoroughly contemporary!

  3. Colbrelli might be the quickest of the climby sprinters. Needs to keep up on the first half though but if he does he could make it an Italian one/two with Felline.

  4. Hi, enjoying your wrap-ups as usual! Small correction: Robert Gesink stated he did not go down but stopped to help Tom Leezer, important part of Groenewegen’s sprint lead-out. On some footage one could indeed see him trying to repair a teammates’ bike. Gesink doesn’t mind losing some time, probably hoping to be in the right escape group on Wednesday…

    • Thanks, glad to hear it. Gesink was joking on Saturday that after his good TT he needed to start losing time. We’ll see if he goes for stage wins, either way he sounds relaxed and in good shape.

  5. GVA beating Sagan in Rodez was also in Rodez. I’d like to add Jan Bakelants as aa one chainring contender. He said on sporza radio he’d done a recon of this stage and might get his chance if Bardet is safe.

  6. This Stage 2 from last year’s Tour all over again, with the messy uphill dash with both the Classics guys and the overall contenders. Except hopefully Richie Porte won’t lose 2 minutes again while the rest of the team follow GvA up the final hill!

    Would have thought guys like Dan Martin & Simon Yates (and maybe even Esteban Chaves) would feature high on the sprocket-meter?

  7. It didn’t look to me like Sagan went first yesterday. He just ended up at the front a little too early. You could actually see him hold back and look over his shoulder when that happened. But Kittel came up too far to the right for him to get onto his wheel. Colbrelli was the one that went first.
    For today the mix between hilly start to the final and flatter finish keeps the excitement going until the final meters. But I think Sagan will not let this one escape him. It will also be interesting to see if any gc contender will attempt to take back a few petty seconds on Froome. Or the other way around, if Froome will try to stamp on his authority early like he did in Huy a few years back.

  8. Plenty of options, I noticed that about Trentin being only 10s down that maybe QST would fancy trying to get him to the line.

    GVA for me!

  9. I once met Matteo Trentin after a Tour of Britain stage he won in 2015. I’m sure he’d like to win today and wear yellow for a day but sadly for him I just think there are better contenders. Can’t really see past the Sagan/GVA head to head but it will also depend on what break is allowed to go away. Thomas should retain yellow another day.

  10. See Mollema listed in 178th yesterday but with time lost apparently neutralised. Any explanation?

    Also, for the prologue TT, Velopro report that corner where Valverde, Durbridge and co crashed was the site of an earlier TdF moto crash which left fluid on the road. Confirmation?

    This afternoon the road to Longwy Haut is narrow at the steepest part which could help climber’s attack, if not a GC favorite. Can’t wait.

    • It would mean “egg ship” in Welsh (give or take a bit of mutation in the first letter). Wonder what that means for today’s stage?

  11. Today would be a great day for a strong Classics-style rider to go long on a solo breakaway–if he can somehow get away from the pack. The sheer length of the stage (211 Km) with a long climb at the end would be ideal for van Avermaet or Gilbert. Matthews rarely does the long solo break, and Sagan too. But those two are the favorites if the bunch stay together ’til the end. It would be fantastic to see a lesser known up-and-comer take the win today–like Naessen!

    • Would be incredible to see maybe Gilbert try and sneak away, employ some classics tactics to the tour… although I realise there are very good reasons this rarely happens…

  12. I wonder if we will see Sky attempt to grab a few more seconds here. I dont think the 3 second rule applies on this stage? Chris Froome gave it a go on the Mur de Huy a couple of years back. Michal Kwiatkowski seems to be in good form too. Of the other GC contenders maybe only Dan Martin or Simon Yates might be suited to this sort of finish. The chance to grab 5 seconds on Richie Porte or Nairo Quintana might be to good to miss.

    • I did think of him too but the list of one chainring names was getting long enough already. He’s had a difficult year with a car crash earlier this year (he was in the car, not riding) which brought injuries and he’s been playing catch-up ever since.

  13. I love stages like this as there are so many potential winners and the finish is bound to be exciting. You’ve got the obvious classics specialists such as Sagan, Gilbert and GVA, the GC men and an array of good climbers who could nip off while they all look at each other. Any one of about 5 Sky riders Could win this. I would say it’s ideal for both Kwiatkowski and Henao.

  14. Guys, what do you think about following bets?

    Ben Swift over Colbrelli 3/1
    Degenkolb over Demare 2/1
    Fuglsang over Uran 2/3

      • I know nothing about betting but fascinated – so you can bet that a certain rider will beat another?
        That’s amazing.

        Swift over Colbrelli is a hard shout… Swift hasn’t shown brilliant sprinting form this season, but is climbing well (Dauphine) and was just behind Colbrelli yesterday.

        Colbrelli as won Brabantse Pijl this season and has had his best season to date in the big races… so it’s almost impossible to say. Personally I’d pick Colbrelli on recent form.

        Is it Degenkolb over Demare for today’s stage? Again… difficult! Demare is going very well currently but today is possibly too steep for him. Degenkolb I don’t expect to win but could place higher than Demare if as expected Demare is jettisoned…

        Fuglsang over Uran… cor? I wouldn’t expect either to be involved today, but as Fuglsang has almost never shown interest in small hilly bunch gallops and Uran has been decent in one dayer’s you’d have to go with Uran. I just doubt either will figure so it’s a lottery as to who might cross the line first. Seems a very random bet – as though you might as well bet between Luke Rowe vs Castrovejo today..

        I don’t really understand the odds – so if you bet £10 on Swift beating Colbrelli you get £30 back? That’s probably the one I’d risk it for a biscuit on…

        Although Degenkolb beating Demare is extremely likely today.

    • Everyone bets at their own risk and it never works, most clients lose money and those that consistently make it are asked to take their business elsewhere so over time nobody wins. As a warning I’ll probably zap comments if there’s too much talk about betting and people seeking advice, it’s your own peril.

        • I love you INRNG. Thank You for all the brilliant posting. And feel free to delete anything I write. I’m obvs the dumbo here and I don’t really even understand how it works. I’m genuinely surprised you can bet on a certain rider beating another rider. Sounds like you could rake it in with micro bets like that.

          • These are the offerings of the bookmaker. They pick tricky matchups to fool you. You can’t pick any rider you like against another one. Another matchup iş Sagan over Matthews. They offer something like 1/2 for that. 15 bucks for 10. And for stage win Sagan also favorite @ 1.60.

          • Last comment on this as I’m sure it’ll be zapped if more – but if they’d done Demare over Degenkolb that would have been a great bet, quite surprised by the outcome of that match up. Same for Swift/Colbrelli although neither anywhere to be seen. Surprised Fuglsang/Uran turned out to be the most contested! That would have been the best bet.

          • Hope our moderator bear with us but these are two sided bets. You can pick either Demare or Degenkolb. Since the odds are even you have the same return for Demare for the same amount of money. Anyway I didn’t check the results yet but for sure my bet is lost 🙂

  15. Wouldn’t Thomas want to be up there at least to get same time as the winners and possibly pick up a few seconds on Kittel to protect his yellow against time bonuses on offer for Kittel in the coming days?

  16. From memory, Thomas sat up on a couple of similar stages in 2015 (mur de Bretagne…and one other one – possibly Huy?), which was a regret later in the race when he was still in touch of a podium. Suspect he won’t do the same this time, and may well lead Froome to the finish but keep on it all the way.

    I like Gilbert as a pick however given the year he’s been having.

  17. Just read french press (l’equipe) and they have another insight on yesterday’s sprint. For them, Demare was clearly the fastest, only that he was surprised by Kittel sarting really strong form behind.

    I’d be surprised to see Gilbert winning this. This is definitely not steep enough in the last k.
    For me GvA or Sagan. Matthews if he plays it well.

  18. No coverage seems to have mentioned Simon Yates dropped 10secs and Talansky dropped 25secs today.

    Shocked by Talansky. So strange how both US hopes of that generation have disappeared (TVG).

    • Why? It’s just like a Cannondale rider (see: Ryder Hesjedal) to be incredibly poorly positioned at the decisive moment of a race and lose a good chunk of time in the first week of a race.

      • Is it really necessary to be slanderous?

        Stuff happens – I don’t know what it was – but if someone in front of you unclips at the wrong time it can cost quite a bit.

        The point being is that we get that BMC, Sky, Quickstep, Movistar, and sometimes Orica are better than the other teams right now. Money makes a big difference but constantly slamming other teams is not needed.

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