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Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

The Tour goes to France, swapping beer-producing Binche for Epernay, capital of champagne wines. The finale 50km have plenty of fizz, with steep climbs amid the vineyards and a sharp ramp to the finish line.

Stage 2 Review: the stage win for Jumbo-Visma and you can see why Wout van Aert got the call-up, he was taking very long turns for the team and they finished 20 seconds ahead of Ineos, a big margin. The story of the day was one proximity, the next ten teams all within 21 seconds of each other. Movistar, Trek-Segafredo and Ag2r La Mondiale were outliers, the Spanish team the surprise, Ag2r La Mondiale less so given their past record and current injuries and while Porte’s taken bigger time loss than many expected.

The Route: 215km due south with names like Binche and Fourmies that evoke late season one day races and 150km to Reims. Then it’s out into the “Montagne de Reims”, nothing Alpine but this is part of the area where grapes for champagne are grown and as well as the tourism promotion it means sharp climbs amid the sloping vineyards. They’re hard work but they’re spaced apart which allows the race a brief moment to regroup, for riders to make up position.

The first climb isn’t counted by the race but it’s the Rue de la Montagne and climbs for 2km at an average of 5% with a steeper second part, all on a regular road. The second climb out of Nanteuil is rectiligne, a straight line up a regular road to the first mountains classification point of the day and followed by a regular descent down to the Marne valley. Then it’s across to the “Côte de Hautvilliers”, better known to locals as Côte des Morts, the climb “of the dead”, and it’s 1km at 10%, all on a narrow road to Hautvilliers – where Dom Pérignon is buried – and then across to the next climb by Champillon which isn’t as technical but is the longest and highest of the categorised climbs.

The final climb is out of the valley to Mutigny and a sharp ramp, just 900m but 12% and narrow too and with the 8-5-2 seconds time bonus. From the top there’s 16km to go, a quick descent through the vineyards before things calm down with wide and flat roads into Epernay…

The Finish: …only with 5km to go there’s a stinker of a climb, it flicks off the main road into town to tackle a small lane that drags up before 700 of 8% which steepens just before the top and then chased by a steep and narrow descent into town. Here there’s 3km to go on boulevards as they circle town and, instead of finishing outside any of the elegant champagne houses, they head for a residential housing estate. It’s not as swank but it’s there’s logic, the road drags up under the flamme rouge before kicking up one last time to the line, first with a straight ramp of 6% and then after a right hand bend the road goes up then eases off, up then eases off, then up again like some infernal interval session with the final 300m at over 10%.

The Contenders: There’s a long list of riders capable of winning today but Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is the prototype rider for today, he’s agile on the sharp climbs, confident on the narrow descents and the 10% slope to the finish line is perfect for his sprint. He’s got plans for today and has ridden the final 40km in recon. But it’s all so obvious, surely he’s going to be man-marked to the point of riders queing to be on his wheel.

Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) has mentioned today as a stage he’s got his eye on and he’s ridden the finale too. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is another prototype rider for today but hasn’t been as convincing this season. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is another prototype for today.

Now for three tandems, Bahrain-Merida have Dylan Teuns and Matej Mohorič with Dauphiné stage winner Teuns probably better for the uphill finish. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First) is a strong rider and in form but has a low win rate and if he could make the selection, how to win from the group while for team mate Michael Woods today might not be hard enough. Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot have terrain to suit, it’s midway between the Flanders and Ardennes climbs.

What chance the sprinters? Zero for the pure sprinters, but Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) will hope things aren’t too frantic in the finish and they can contest the uphill finish. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) should feature but does he sprint for polka dot points or save energy for the finish, Michał Kwiatkowski is probably on bodyguard duty for Ineos and Michael Valgren is Dimension Data’s best shot.

Finally it’s been champagne for Jumbo-Visma so far but Mike Teunissen has his work cut out, he was good on the steep, cobbled Mont Cassel in the Four Days of Dunkerque but today is much harder, we’ll see if it’s Wout van Aert‘s chance today but for all his power and punch this is a tricky, hilly finish.

Julian Alaphilippe
Max Schachmann, Alejandro Valverde, Wout van Aert, Dylan Teuns
Matthews, Sagan, GVA, Wellens, D Martin, Bettiol, Valgren, Teunissen

Yellow story: to the outside world the yellow jersey is iconic and, short of polling data, at a guess it’s more famous than any one rider. Within the sport it’s respected too, join a group ride anywhere from Paris to Peoria, Parma to Perth and it’s rare to see anyone wearing yellow, there’s a cultural element of veneration.

Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 24°C and light tailwind for most of the stage until the hilly finish when the road twists around a lot and the wind becomes more important because of the uvine monoculture, nothing but vines meaning no shelter from even a slight breeze.

TV: the stage starts at 12.10pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST / Euro time. The final 90 minutes should be exciting with the hilly terrain and glorious for tourism-boosting aerial shots of the manicured vineyards.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 7:47 am

    Great parcours and a great preview. Maybe even the possibility of the first GC scuffle if someone decides to go for that 8 seconds bonus, although faster riders might want it to give them a better chance of yellow.

    • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 7:55 am

      Also, you’d hope Ineos would permit Kwiatkowski to go for it today – hope, but perhaps not expect. They have plenty of riders who can support their leaders – Moscon, for instance, should be able to stay with them – and it’s such a shame to see a rider of Kwiatkowski’s calibre not being allowed to race (although it’s his choice – he knew the score when he joined that team and from the team’s point of view it’s eminently sensible).

      • Ecky Thump Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:05 am

        No chance JE, I reckon.
        Why would they risk taking the leader’s jersey at this point?

        • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:45 am

          I don’t think taking yellow is much of a risk – they wouldn’t have to defend it (there’s no actual obligation), they could simply refuse to lead the peloton, if they didn’t want to. Plus, there’s every chance of them taking it at stage 6 anyway.
          The far bigger risk is ‘doing a BMC’, where they left Porte stranded without a team mate, needing a wheel change. Ineos are smarter than that and have bigger fish to fry than winning a stage.

      • Morten Reippuert Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:14 am

        Kwiatkowski is payed to loose, so i dont see it happening.

      • Richard S Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:02 am

        It is a shame that Kwiatkowski seems to have willingly swapped being one of the very best one day riders in the world – up there with Sagan, Alaphilippe, GVA et al, capable of winning any one day race bar probably only Roubaix – for being a really solid domestique. All those times he helps someone in to Paris in yellow won’t be on his palmares.

        • Anonymous Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:15 am

          no, but it will be on his bank account

        • ac Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:16 am

          no, but it will be on his bank account

        • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:17 am

          In sporting terms I think we’d all agree. But imagine if you could get paid more at Ineos for helping rather than having to deal with leading? It’s a bit like when we see a rider who probably should have retired a year or two ago because their aura is waning and they haven’t got it any more, like a sad old lion in the zoo… but for them they’re on a nice contract, far more than they’d get outside the sport and doing rather well.

          • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:04 am

            If I was Kwiatkowski, having no doubt earned plenty in the last four years, I’d be willing to take a cut in salary in order to ride for myself.
            The extra few hundred grand probably won’t add to one’s happiness that much – not as much as having fulfilled your potential in the sport you (presumably) enjoy.
            As fans we lose out entertainment-wise from one team having so much cash.

          • Larrick Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:06 am

            Yet Kwiato still rides the races he’s best suited to as well. With Sky he’s won and had a 3rd at MSR. Won Strade. 3rd at LBL. Won San Seb and E3 and a 2nd at Amstel.

            It can be argued that he could have concentrated even more on those types of races but just as much that he wants to win stage races and a win at T-A and a podium at P-N bears that out. At 29, he still might believe he can keep moving towards being a GC rider. Wasn’t too late for Thomas…

          • KevinR Monday, 8 July 2019, 3:21 pm


          • Larrick Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:14 am

            Probably worth pointing out that before he rode for Sky, in those five WT years on trade teams his comparative results were that he won Strade (also did with Sky) Amstel (2nd with Sky) and Algarve which he’s also won with Sky. Every other top result has been since he joined Sky ‘for the money’.

            Memes huh…

          • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:21 am

            True, Larrick, but he was also younger before he was at Sky, whereas these have been – and still are – his peak years. With a focus on winning one-day races (which are more important, in my view, than week-long stage races), he might have won many more. Or he might not have.

          • Larrick Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:56 am

            JE – That’s a fair point but I’d say the progression is there anyway. I think his Worlds win skews the perception. Take that away and look at what he had won outside of that and the last 4 years have been as good as you could expect. A Monument win and 2 monument podiums isn’t bad when his best prior result before was either Amstel or Strade Bianchi, depending on your view.

            I think that there was an expectation he’d ride more spring classics but after his first two years with Quickstep giving it a go without results, they left him out between MSR and the Ardennes for the next two years. It was with Sky that he won E3 and rode Flanders but you can only imagine he doesn’t prefer the cobbles (maybe a Polish reader has some thoughts) as he seems happier doing the stage racing instead.

        • Larry T Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:52 am

          Certainly. One of my objections to the “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” strategy.
          Regarding yellow, I wish ASO would have forced Jumbo/Visma to race in other colors as they did back-in-the-day with Mercatone Uno and ONCE. RCS should have done the same at the Giro with EF.

          • RICycleKing Monday, 8 July 2019, 4:32 pm

            I totally agree with you. Teams should not be wearing yellow during the Tour.

      • ronytominger Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:18 am

        no way they let kwiatkowski go at that stage., thats their triyk, concentrate everything merciless on one goal.

      • eric dolphy Monday, 8 July 2019, 2:35 pm

        agreed I would love to see it perfect rider just wrong race. They use him on all the most technical finishes as a guide as he picks out the good lines. I hope im wrong and obviously his own team agrees with you otherwise he wouldn’t be so restricted on this type of stage or finish. Just look at how good he is MSR type races. Never gets caught out and always there at the end. In TDF where they will get the same time and not quite the premium on actually crossing the line first hes too perfect not to use in that role. Embarrassment of riches. Good breakdown too if JA gets marked out WVA has just been so strong…..so many contenders though.

        • PaulG Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:07 pm

          Kwiato is the Shepherd for Bernal…His own personal Road Captain…..

          Rowe may be the Road Team Captain but MK is there to look after EB…Check out the body languages, who MK rides with, the little conversations with EB. He is passing on his race experience as the Tour unfolds….

  • Martiin Monday, 8 July 2019, 7:50 am

    That’s a long list of strong contenders for the win.I can see some GC contenders scrapping for the bonus seconds at the finish and on the last climb as well, to improve their position after yesterday. Looking forward to watching later.

    • JeroenK Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:21 am

      It’s felt like that in the peleton too: Wout van Aert said yesterday that for today, everybody thinks they can win it. It’s going to be a nice battle, that’s for sure.

  • Cassandra Monday, 8 July 2019, 7:59 am

    Jumbo Visna these days…..

    ( paragraph before the chain rings)

  • Ecky Thump Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:03 am

    I’m reading this and I can’t help thinking “there’s going to be a crash”.
    I haven’t even seen the course but it sounds technical and stressful?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:18 am

      Yes, the roads are narrow and twisty in places, dusty in places too.

      • Larry T Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:58 am

        Complaints usually reserved for races that are not the Tour de France, but I believe bike handling skills should be tested with courses like these. Especially these days, too much is already boiled down to watts/kilograms. I’m not suggesting they race over jumps or through hoops of fire but a bit of unpaved road, tricky descents and the like should be included to reward the all-rounder -which I thought was the goal of stage races, especially Grand Tours?

        • JeroenK Monday, 8 July 2019, 12:35 pm

          Agreed. As long as they do not go overboard with it, like the descending segment competition idea in the Giro a few years back.

          • Steve Monday, 8 July 2019, 1:02 pm

            I agree too, but I must be eminently suggestible as I am now dreaming of a stage over jumps and through hoops of fire!

          • Larry T Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:29 pm

            Don’t get me started! Pirelli’s promotion didn’t force anyone to do anything even remotely dangerous – merely kept track of descending times on various sections to award a prize.

  • Martijn Stolze Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:11 am

    I am not a fan of this time bonus on a climb. Will only make things more fraught and stressful, and really encourages the wrong ‘benefit’. Stupid idea.

    • Martijn Stolze Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:13 am

      I mean, it will most likely, most often benefit Alaphillipe, which is no surprise with ASO.

      • betabug Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:09 am

        Not sure ASO likes Alaphillipe so much. They changed the rules to get him out of the mountains jersey, remember?

        • Martijn Stolze Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:55 am

          This Tour has been absolutely tailormade to get Alaphillipe into the yellow for a while. First stage a sprint, then a TTT where DQST are great at, and then this finish.

          • Adrian Monday, 8 July 2019, 7:27 pm

            Take a bow , you called it.

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:19 am

      I don’t think they’ll make much difference, the reward is small compared to the risks, ie sprint for it and you could later lose out on the sprint for the stage, be cooked for the attack that comes after, miss a split etc

  • RQS Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:03 am

    I was looking at the profile and was surprised they called it ‘medium mountains’. Those hills look like a leg bender. If ‘Groan-a-wagon’ couldn’t stay in the TTT very long he’ll struggle with those steep climbs.

    Interesting commentary by Wiggins on TTT technique on Eurosport. He made the comment about riders spending too long on the front and working too hard, which is a sign of bad technique.

    It feels like the art of the TT is not what it once was, with teams barely looking like they know how to ride together, but perhaps this more perception than reality. AG2R looked a shambles. Not that it’s unexpected.

    • Davesta Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:39 am

      I think the reason for the apparent shambles is simply the speeds they’re going – as it was a flat TTT, the speeds were up around 57kph average, and so even higher at times (on downhills etc). And at that speed, even the most minor movement or error can appear exaggerated – for example, if you mistime slotting in at the back of the line, the effort/power required to accelerate back up to those speeds is massive, and so gaps can form very easily…

    • Anonymous Monday, 8 July 2019, 2:38 pm

      The art of the team time trial is not what it was, riders have bad technique, yet the time gaps between the teams get smaller and smaller. Wiggins already sounds like Roger de Vlaeminck. Everything was always better in his day.

  • ZigaK Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:08 am

    Caleb Ewan might do well?

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:19 am

      I think it’s too hard, too many steep climbs. If he wins it’d be a masterpiece but think the team will back Wellens and others instead.

      • Tim Fitzpatrick Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:07 am

        Ewan almost got to Carapaz in the Giro stage into Frascati — it was a similarly contorted and lumpy stage, with the organisers zig-zagging around the landscape to fit as many sharp descents and climbs as possible into the mix in the last section (I drove the last 50K before the stage, and it was exhausting even with petrol assistance!). Caleb was the only sprinter to survive into the final small group, and was most impressive despite not quite getting to Carapaz on the line.

  • AK Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:18 am

    With the ttt already done it doesn’t seem like those 8s of bonus are going to be a goal for anyone. Though you would want to be near the front anyway if you’re aiming for the stage win, sprinting here means valuable energy is used up. Alaphilipe is 31s behind Teunissen, who is not bad in an uphill sprint and he is going to give everything to stay in yellow. I think Teunissen keeps it.

    It will be a hustle with all the punchers aiming for the stage plus the gc contenders wanting to stay in front and not loose a few seconds. Hopefully they don’t crash.

  • KevinK Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:23 am

    Just read your tweets about Viviani and Bennett. If the latter transfer happens, I guess now we’ll see how Sam really compares to Ackermann and Sagan. For Viviani, it seems like a big step down, though perhaps the money is better.

  • jc Monday, 8 July 2019, 9:57 am

    It is probably too early in the race to draw too many conclusions. However some of the pre race thoughts seem to be not too far wide of the mark.

    Jumbo are the form team (though their Giro fell apart somewhat), Tony Martin still has “it” and Wout van Aert clearly is going to be challenging for TTs too.

    Ineos are continuing where Sky left off, they were probably surprised to be beaten by such a margin but is Steven Kruiswijk really a possibility for the top step rather than top 5?

    Thibaut Pinot looks like he might really be a serious contender this time, not sure the inevitable French media focus will be helpful to him.

    Michelton Scott were not great by their standards, in the grand scheme of things 20 seconds or so is not likely to be a big issue for Adam Yates but sure he would have preferred not to loose them.

    Romain Bardet’s, Mikel Landa’s and Nairo Quintana’s time loss is hardly a surprise but even so it just confirms what was guessed at. With all of them likely to loose around another minute in the TT they are on the back foot before even a serious hill let alone a mountain has come into view. I cant see any of them being allowed to do what Richard Carapaz did in the Giro.

    I do wonder if some of the GC folk might think about having a go today, not impossible to see splits in the peloton. Geraint Thomas was very alert last year picking up time bonuses at any opportunity, wonder if he might follow the same strategy here, going into the mountains with a lead would help establish him as the team leader.

    As Inrng says Julian Allaphippe is the obvious pick but with it being so early in the race lots of riders will be feeling fit and lots might try to grab a win which could mean a very nervous and tense final few kms.

    • Mr Autocorrect Monday, 8 July 2019, 3:07 pm

      Lose, not Loose.

      • jc Monday, 8 July 2019, 6:00 pm

        Might be a spelling mistoke but did manage to agree with Inrng’s correct choice of likely winner and suggest a possible split in the peloton, though it was Egan Beranl not G who took advantage.

        • jc Monday, 8 July 2019, 6:01 pm

          Beranl 🙂

          • cp Monday, 8 July 2019, 8:57 pm

            At least you spelled “G” correctly…🙂

  • Richard S Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:08 am

    I fancy a little sub group getting away and pinching 10 or so seconds. I fancy Alaphilippe, Valverde, van Aert and maybe even Fuglsang to be there, possibly Benoot too.

  • ronytominger Monday, 8 July 2019, 10:24 am

    watched the last climb on streetview 1) i hope they resurfaced it a bit 2) the lane is extremely narrow. favourites need to be high up, will they attack alredy in mutigny? theres some 10km in between. sounds like not a bad route for wellens/benoot.

  • plurien Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:01 am

    No mention of Nibali. Really? 2014 into Sheffield… Ok that was then but he has some time to make up and these punchy climbs with his tactical nouse must put him alongside or ahead of Valverde, even if he can’t go with WVA and other young guns.
    But yeah, this should be a good show for Alaphilippe

    • The Inner Ring Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:02 am

      I can’t see him going clear of the entire field or winning a sprint against other names. But happy to be wrong, we’d have even more of a race on if this happened.

  • Gentle reminder Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:07 am

    You ‘lose’ a race.
    ‘Loose’ is the opposite of tight.
    Non-native English speakers are entirely forgiven.

    • jc Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:53 am

      Blame Google’s spell checker for not being affective enough 🙂

      • J Evans Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:55 am

        You’re really testing the sangfroid of an incorrigible pedant here.

        • Steve Monday, 8 July 2019, 1:12 pm

          Rather effectively done though………

  • RQS Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:13 am

    I was wondering about a possible break. But I would imagine that the action is to concentrated at the end, and that there is a combination of ‘fresh legs’ and the possibility of win for riders that any breaks will be scooped up before the hills really begin. Maybe Terpstra might go for it?

  • irungo txuletak Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:22 am

    I am very curious about WVA – a good ride and he takes the jersey.
    We don’t know well where this guy’s limits are on the road, but I suspect this kind of route to be within his range.

    • Davesta Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:48 am

      His record at Strade Bianche suggests that this sort of parcours is within his range…

  • brent sword Monday, 8 July 2019, 11:34 am

    I think there is at least some chance of a breakaway win today. With the finish being so hard to control and some of the stronger teams not really wanting to win, chancing down a breakaway may be difficult. Jumbo and quickstep may have to do all of the chasing. At this point the DS of jumbo may even want to lose the yellow if they have real ideas of GC. If not a short breakaway in the last 10 – 30 km may be the go. If a break goes with the correct teams (DQ, CCC, Jumbo) represented the other teams may not chase.
    Yesterdays result – Only thing I noticed was Trek for what should be a high profile team were terrible.

  • Stuie Monday, 8 July 2019, 2:04 pm

    I fear crashes will be on the cards today in the run up to those hills. Roads being narrow will mean a pretty ferocious fight for the front.