A time trial to shape the overall classification.
Stage 3 Review: a long solo break for Tom Devriendt who couldn’t find a friend to go with him on his 180km raid. Deceuninck-Quickstep and Bora-Hansgrohe tried to split the field in the final kilometres but it seemed like there was too much of a headwind rather than a crosswind. The promised bunch sprint happened only without many of the sprinters as a crash took out several riders. Hugo Hofstetter was aiming for Peter Sagan’s wheel only for Cees Bol and Caleb Ewan to close in sideways, leaving the Israel rider nowhere to go but down and he tangled on Ewan’s wheel and the move caught Sam Bennett. Up ahead Ivan Garcia Cortina launched a powerful sprint and took the stage win. Peter Sagan finished second and it was the kind of scenario you’d have expected Sagan to shine in but earlier he’d been working hard for team mate Pascal Ackermann, only for the German to have a mechanical in the final kilometres leaving Sagan to sprint.
The Route: 15km around Saint-Amand, one of the towns in France that claims to be the centre point of France (more on this below). The profile says plenty. The first climb drags on is chased by a quick descent back into town with bends that can be taken at speed before riding along a flat road through town. There are two left hand bends and the road takes a climb out of town, from here for the next few kilometres it’s on a narrow backroad, it’s steep with a 12% and above all rural bordering on farm track and in places the crown of the road is covered in moss. There’s a summit of sorts marked by a communications mast but it’s more of a long false flat until the descent proper back into town begins. Once in town there’s a tricky S-bend with 3km to go. Soon they ride around town passing the Cité d’Or gold museum with its pyramids that you might remember from the day the 2013 Tour de France came to town and Mark Cavendish won a memorable stage in the crosswinds and it’s 2km on a flat road into town.
The Contenders: the two climbs make it harder for some time trial specialists but Victor Campenaerts (NTT) is no flatland specialist, he probably would have a stage of the Giro on his palmarès were it not for mechanical problems on the final climb in San Marino, plus the Belgian has been biding his time all week for today. He’s yet to race a TT but was climbing very well in the UAE Tour.
Take your pick from Deceuninck-Quickstep’s squad. Julian Alaphilippe has ridden this course as he’s a local of sorts. Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert and Bob Jungels can also feature with the Dane the stronger pick.
Trek-Segafredo have Ryan Mullen as a TT specialist but the hilly course is too much, instead Richie Porte finds a course to suit.
Groupama-FDJ’s Stefan Küng is a big rider but can cope with some hills however he’s been on bodyguard duty for Thibaut Pinot so won’t be as fresh. Pinot has won time trials in the past but will surely settle for a good place relative to the GC riders today.
Sergio Higuita has been riding like a Flandrien for the last few days, it’s not because he’s suited to the terrain but because he’s in great form and the course here suits too.
Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-McLaren) has a time trial win already this season and will like this course. Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) is flying too but a stage win sounds like a big ask, just limiting his time losses would be good. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Israel) should be good here but a win would be a surprise. Team Sunweb have a trio in Michael Matthews, Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen with Matthews the most mercurial, capable of winning on his best days.
Finally race leader Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) can excel against the clock, he won the opening stage of the Tour of the Basque Country a year ago and the course suits him too.
|Victor Campenaerts, Max Schachmann
|Kasper Asgreen, Sergio Higuita, Julian Alaphilippe, Dylan Teuns
|Porte, Matthews, Würtz, Lampaert, Küng
Weather: milder, a top temperature of 17°C and cloudy but rain will clear in the morning to leave dry roads and the wind will drop, further aiding later starters.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.25pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.
The Centre of France? Nobody knows where the centre of France is, or at least it’s a disputed point. Do you plot a point at the middle of all of the French mainland? Do you include coastal islands, including Corsica? If you do it’s still not clear. Several places have staked their claim and have their backers, whether a spot beside a field in Nassigny to the south of Saint-Amand-Montrond, or a small marker stone in the small town of Bruère-Allichamps to the north of Saint-Amand. In between these there’s a point in Saint-Amand itself too. But the early claims came from more rudimentary maps and recently France’s Institut national de l’information géographique et forestière, the government agency tasked with measuring and mapping France’s geography, says Nassigny.