A likely sprint finish and with a long straight road to the line making for a less technical finish, a dragstrip finish albeit with a rise to the line. Expect huge crowds as the race reaches Brittany, one of the hotbeds of French cycling.
Stage 3 Review: a win for BMC Racing, four seconds ahead of Team Sky and seven on Quick Step. Greg Van Avermaet took the yellow jersey and BMC were all smiles on the podium, a rare sight for a team that often looks more serious than cheerful. Quick Step could have been frowning as they blew part at one point, looking like a group ride trying to burn each other up – remember with the noise of the crowds, helicopters and aero helmets, hearing alerts from the team car isn’t easy – and perhaps this brief breakdown cost them the stage win and the yellow jersey Philippe Gilbert. Movistar lost 53 seconds, a few more than had seemed likely but the top-10 were all within a minute, a much closer result than last month’s dress rehearsal at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The surprise was EF Education First-Drapac, 6th on the stage and only losing 35 seconds to BMC which was far ahead of expectations. No surprise UAE-Emirates were the last of the teams with any GC ambitions but it was always a tall order to keep Dan Martin in contention for a jumbled squad that’s still a few signings away from becoming a big squad.
The Route: 195km around Brittany before finishing on the coast at Sarzeau where the local mayor is none other than David Lappartient, the President of the UCI. There’s nothing particular to note along the way, there will be huge crowds as the race goes through Brittany, arguably the hotbed of French cycling, an area that has produced many of France’s champion cyclists from Bobet to Barguil; is home to the Fortuneo team – their kit is a play on Breton stripes – and where the local newspaper Ouest France (France’s biggest selling newspaper, more than nationals like Le Monde, Le Figaro etc) regularly features cycling as the lead story on the back page.
The climb of the day is a real ascent, 800m at 7.5% and with a sharp U-turn before the start to make it harder.
The Finish: big, wide, fast roads. Sunday’s finish in La Roche-sur-Yon hardly showed off the charms of the city but it did flick around tight corners. Today there’s one left hander with 4km to go and it’s not even a 90 degree bend. Then there’s a long finishing straight. The last two kilometres rise, just 2% but we’ll have to wait for Saturday for the first real flat finish of a Tour stage (Friday’s finish in Chartres is uphill to the line too). Still it’s a pure sprint finish and one danger is not the slope but the sight of the finish area, it’s easy to see it from far out, get “finish line fever” and launch a sprint too early.
The Contenders: Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) lost out because of the crash and Stage 2 and was dropped by his team mates yesterday, a sign of soreness or not? It makes him less than a certain pick. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is going to be in the mix but can he win? The rise to the line might not make it selective enough, ditto Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida). Marcel Kittel will like this big wide finish, less so the slope but he’s won uphill sprints before so this is a good test of fitness for him. The same for Dylan Groenwegen (Lotto-Jumbo), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) with the latter trio having bigger trains in their service which could help for today’s big long finish.
|Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan|
|Démare, Greipel, Groenewegen, Colbrelli, Cavendish|
Weather: hot and sunny again and the wind reaching 20km/h, enough to cause stress in the final hour but not to rip up the race.
TV: live from the start at 13.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.50pm CEST. This is going to be a long day for the TV commentators.