Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

The Tour says au revoir to Nice and heads to Sisteron via the Alpine foothills. If this was the in third week of the Tour it’d be a good day for the breakaway but a sprint finish looks likely.

Eze rider: a big day in the mountains but no big moves on the Colmiane or Turini, they just helped soften the peloton up for the finale and showed off the beauty of the Turini’s hairpin bends to the world. Instead an early break with Peter Sagan hunting points but interestingly Matteo Trentin beat him to the intermediate sprint: we have a contest. Behind David Gaudu looked to be in trouble, his crash the day before leaving him in visible agony but he’d make it back to Nice.

Dani Martinez had a mishap on the descent of the Col d’Eze, he chased and got back but paid the price for his efforts, losing contact and over three minutes and EF’s tridente is a prong down. The second time up the Col d’Eze Michał Kwiatkowski drifted right just as Tom Dumoulin looked the other way, a touch of wheels and the Dutchman was down but the story isn’t the crash, it’s how easily he rode back. Moments later Julian Alaphilippe attacked and only Marc Hirschi would, or could, follow. Adam Yates floated across to form a trio with a slender lead going into the finishing straight. The headwind made for a polite sprint, the riders motioning “no, after you, I insist” as the Astana-led peloton closed in on them. Alaphilippe just held off Hirschi and celebrated pointing at the sky in memory of his father who died two months ago. Hirschi impressed too, he’s just turned 22 and hails from the same suburb of Bern as Fabian Cancellara. Yates is likely to feature again in the coming days and is enjoying the sort of tactical freedom that his move to Ineos may not allow.

Alaphilippe made the move everyone expected and then won the stage to take the yellow jersey. You could see it coming yet that made the win all the more surprising because as inevitable as his uphill attack seemed nobody could stop him. Which brings to mind the next question: how long Alaphilippe can hold onto the yellow jersey? We’ll see tomorrow with the Orcières-Merlette summit finish, normally within his range. Jumbo-Visma will be happy with him in yellow for a week or more, they worked hard on the front yesterday and now have another team to do the work. If Alaphilippe wobbles Adam Yates is ready to pick up the jersey and Jumbo will like that as well.

The Route: 198km north, the first part to Grasse is a classic training loop for many of the peloton’s Monaco residents, and for those with an imperial streak, more famous as the Route Napoléon. Normally it’d be good terrain for a breakaway to go and take the mountains points but yesterday’s stage has put the jersey out of reach for a raid today, win every climb today and there’s seven points on offer while Benoît Cosnefroy and Anthony Perez are tied on 18 points each. Instead the big goal for the breakaway is to take time and try to hold out for the stage win. The problem is the final 80km suit the peloton and the sprinter’s teams who all want to set up the finish for themselves.

The Finish: the main road up the valley into town, there’s a roundabout with 2km to go that the Tour’s roadbook says you can take both sides but the first rule of race previews is bin the roadbook and it’s quicker if taken on the left and then a slight rise in the road before big boulevard finish in town.

The Contenders: a rematch between Jérome Cousin and Nils Politt? Surely not, more likely a second chance for the sprinters and another dragstrip finish. When Cousin beat Politt here in 2018 it was André Greipel who won the bunch sprint two seconds later and he’d make a nice winner but time passes fast. So the same names again as Saturday, but who to pick? Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) is the fastest on paper but his Lotto-Soudal team have la scoumoune, they’re unlucky so far. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quicktep) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) the other obvious picks with the Irishman ahead because his leadout train is solid. Cees Bol (Sunweb), Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) should be close.

Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett
Elia Viviani, Cees Bol
Kristoff, Nizzolo, Coquard, Sagan

Weather: sunshine and mild temperatures, 23°C but the chance of a shower or two in the mountainous section mid-way. This can be windy terrain but so far the forecast is just a 10-15km/h cross/headwind when normally 20km/h is the minimum to split things up.

TV: live coverage from start at 12.15pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm Euro time.

70 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

        • Perhaps rather than enjoying his freedom while it lasts Yates will demonstrate his worthiness as a protected rider for GC ahead of 2021 season planning, he certainly looked strong yesterday. Interesting comment re Dumoulin looking so strong too, maybe his long lay-off has helped him to focus more and feel fresh and tranquilo where others feel tense and weird because of the disrupted season. He already adapted mentally to a huge change of plan in 2019. I believe he can still win on a parcours that theoretically doesn’t suit him because of this.

  1. Yesterday’s predictable result was in stark contrast to the “chaos” of the day before, which was probably welcomed by all of the riders.

    I was a little surprised that JV did not have a stronger presence in the final kilometres. Also that Primoz Roglic made no effort to go with Julian Alaphilippe when he made his move. I can see the sense in not expending too much energy too early in the race but not sure allowing Julian Alaphilippe any sort of lead is a good idea. Maybe last year was a one off and maybe his comments about only going for stage wins are true but he has shown he is very difficult to dislodge once he takes the lead.

    Hopefully Sam Bennett today but he does seem to be rather inconsistent.

    Sunweb thing is odd, Warren Barguil made sense moving to a French team but Tom Dumoulin, Sam Oomen and now Michael Matthews suggest issues with how the team is run.

    PS missing “how” in front of “long Alaphilippe”

      • Sunweb signed Hirchel before he won the U23 worlds in Insbruck (20y) and Euro U23 in Brno (19y) in 2018. He is just 16mths older than Evenepol and as big a tallent.

        (and chek who was 3rd at last years San Sebastian).

    • Its a bit stretched.

      Maybee those riders just feel they need chnage of enviroment?

      Sunweb is the only team that has allowed switching teams within contract for high profile riders since Wiggens went from Garmin to Sky by the end of 2009. It’s unlikely that the only riders wanting to switch mid-contract on the entire worldtourin a decade are Barguil, Kittel, Dolumlin and now Matthews.
      Difference is that Sunweb are more transperant than other teams, and that they are the ONLY team that does not want to keep riders who does not want to be on the team anyway.

      btw – Am i the only one who can recall how dissatisfied Matthews was with Micgelton-Scott by the end of the 2015 season?

      • Not quite correct as fellow Australian Rohan Dennis has moved teams “mid season” too but I agree with your general sentiment. I’m surprised there is not more of it – pro cycling requires so much sacrifice among teammates, once someone wants “out”, it’s probably far better for team morale to just let them go, no matter how high profile they are and the precedent it sets.

        The reason for Matthews leaving Orica last time was a dispute over team leadership – Gerrans wasn’t giving it up and like the young “ challenger” gorilla, Matthews had to give way to the silverback…. he was also a bit of a prat by all accounts so perhaps he’s mellowed a bit now.

        • im aware about Dennis, he switched from Garmin before he was a high profile rider – his latest switch was not a switch. His team actually fired him because he refused to work which makes it a very different case.

          As for sunweb there is nothing to see, except they actually care about employees wellbeing and do let them go if they dont want to work there. Kudos Sunweb!

      • Perfectly understandable that some riders will find they do not fit in, for some reason, with a particular team. Different cultures, languages, training regime or whatever just wont work well for an individual. For example no shortage of riders who have felt the need to move on from Sky / Ineos. However the Sunweb thing seems a bit different. To have their big GT winner, especially given the dutch connection, decide he no longer wants to be part of the set up mid season was not a good reflection on the team setup. While it is probably for the best to allow unhappy riders to leave when it keeps happening there must be questions over how the team is run. There have been plenty of rumours flying around about the culture inside the team. It seemed an odd decision not to send Michael Matthews to the TdF, wonder if that decision precipitated the move or whether it was on the cards anyway.

      • Fausto Masnada just swapped teams too, he joined DQT just before the national championships. I think one of the reasons this is quite rare is that contracts are generally quite short too: most are on a 1-2 year deal and the really important riders sometimes more.

        • 1) Masnada is not exactly a high profile rider.
          2) QS wanted him ahead the Giro, CCC is closing shop, has too many riders for the short 2020 program AND has reduced wages by a wapping 70%. Its a no brainer.

          What im saying is you can be certain that plenty of high profile non-sunweb riders wants to chnage team every year, but teams are not letting them. Sunweb is the exception only because thet ARE letting riders tearing up contracts because there is no point in retaining an employee for 1-2y who does not want to be there.

          aka nothing to see, except Subweb IS transperant and does actually care about its emplyees wellbeing (its proberbly not normal in the anglosaxon employment world – but in the northgermanic world its a value on most workplaces).

  2. A stage that looked designed for Alaphilippe to take the Jersey, but like you say, he still had to deliver. It’s good to see him in yellow again. Yates was more of a surprise to me, looking every bit as strong as he did way back at UAE. You never know how much of Alaphilippe’s suffering is theatre, but Yates looked to be climbing a whole lot better and must be thinking about taking that jersey on the final of stage 4. But hopefully there a few with the same plan!

    • The Yates brothers are an enigma to me, on their day they’re better than the best, and 2 weeks later they collapse spectacularly. On all days, though, the same poker face behind the ski-mask-shaped sunglasses.

      He could go pretty far, and maybe his driving of the sprint yesterday wasn’t so much a crack under pressure like others have suggested, but rather a calculated decision to save his chances of taking the lead on stage 4 or beyond.

      • Or, perhaps, not so much to save himself as to put himself in position to take the lead on stage 4. If he knew he couldn’t win the stage against Alaphilippe and Hirschi maybe he thought the time bonuses and perhaps a few seconds (it ended up being just one because of the trio’s dawdling at the end) on the GC favourites would be enough to give him a shot on stage 4?

        • Dont belive for a second that Yates is not supposed to ride GC despite what he and his team says.

          There is no point of bringing Christoffer Juul Jensen or scouting the final ITT if Yates is not there for GC. Its not like Yates has a chance of winning that ITT or even making it into top 10.

          • Hmmm, heard on LA’s podcast this morn that someone at Mitchellton confirmed that they held back Yates at the Dauphine etc. If that, along with the “we’re going for stages” talk was all a ruse to have the peloton buy Yates as a non-threat, that would be something… and looks like it’s worked. But if he’s secretly the strongest in the bunch and about to do a Carapaz at the Giro, that would be a stone cold master stroke!

      • I quite like the Yates’ fragility. I feel rubbish on the bike at least once a week, I find it amazing that anyone can be on it for 3 whole weeks. Their collapses make them seem normal!

        • I agree, a champion with a vulnerability is more likable, probably makes them look more human and relatable.

          In the case of the Yates brothers, though, it looks less like off days than huge variations of form throughout the year. For instance, Adam Yates was far above everyone else in the UAE Tour, and in the Dauphine he felt way off the contenders. 2 weeks later, and he’s putting the most solid display in the mountains. I have no idea what could cause that. Maybe I read too much in the early-season race performances too.

          • The off days are more common that people think, riders need them to happen on the sprint stages and why the Dauphiné was so difficult, Nicolas Roche joked this year’s five day version was tougher than the usual 8 day format. Today is a hard day because it’s got a lot of climbing, it’s for the sprinters but tiring.

  3. My passport compels me to mention Mads.
    There is too much climbing for him, but Trek may actually have the best train for a lead out in the race, and stage 1 showed that he keeps getting faster.
    We shouldn’t overestimate his win in Poland, but he did beat Ackermann (an off form version of him, but still) in a drag-strip sprint.

  4. I fancy Bennett to make use of the Quick Step train today. He doesn’t inspire masses of confidence though, much like Viviani last year.

    I’m not sure it’s that smart to let Alaphilippe keep yellow for a week. By then France will be whipped into a frenzy and he’ll have added some bonus seconds here and there and pushed it out to 30 seconds. Once he’s riding ‘pour la patrie’ who knows what could happen. Best to nip it in the bud early tomorrow I would say.

  5. I’d love to have seen the Cosnefroy vs Perez sprint at the end for the polka dots – finished 92nd and 94th – anyone know of a video? These are the little gems TV should pick up (and maybe they did).

    Hirschi, unfortunately for him, left too big a gap between himself and Alaphilippe before Ala kicked off the sprint – otherwise he might have caught him. A bit of inexperience, perhaps. Mind you, Ala deserves it for so consistently enlivening races.

    • Fake news. Cosnefroy finished twenty places in front of Perez on stage 1 so the mountains jersey didn’t depend just on their placings on stage 2 if they finished in the same time.

    • I also had the same impression: with a bit more experience Hirschi might have won. He did well in the break by not spending as much energy as Alaphillipe, but he shoud have launched the sprint himself and a bit earlier I think.

  6. On Alaphilippe taking the jersey, I understand your comment about Jumbo Visma being content to let Deceuninck have to ride, but before the TDF started there was lots of talk about how long it would be allowed to run for, and at what point the Yellow jersey would matter, the longer the race goes on the greater the risk that the fellow in yellow on the day it is cancelled, keeps it.

    • There’s lots on English-speaking cycling websites about this, less in France. There’s a real commitment from government to see the race happen, political capital has gone in from several ministers. Anyway, if it were to stop it wouldn’t be overnight, it’d likely to happen after a series of measures imposed in France, things would escalate inside and outside the race so there would be advanced warning. Also the race rulebook says the GC is awarded after 21 stages, it’s black and white that there’s no provision for an abbreviated Tour right now. All sides could agree a re-write but we’re not there yet.

      • Not sure it can be black and white if there’s no provision. Doesn’t that inherently make it a grey area? Besides, isn’t there already a bit of precedent for awarding GC for a truncated race with Paris-Nice?

        I would imagine that if it comes to it they’d take a pragmatic view as to how much of the race has been completed – 18 stages and you’d probably get a GC; 12 stages, probably not; where the cut-off is between might depend on the race situation (whether there’s one rider who looks to be substantially in control at that point).

        • It’s black and white because, to paraphrase, it says the Tour is awarded after 21 stages. It’d be Exhibit A for a sports lawyer at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. As you say though things could be revised and agreed on but we’re a long way from that, both in sporting terms, politics and epidemiology.

  7. JV on the front was just vanity. Waste of energy. Alaphilippe is fantastic – on worse form than last year but still got it done. Chapeau.

  8. Can anyone clear up the correct way to pronounce Cosnefroy?
    Those who sound every letter or those who say “confwaa”

    I want to know who I should be tutting at.
    : )

  9. Thanks very much Inrng. Great analysis as always 🙂

    Have Jumbo-Visma made the same mistake ineos did last year in underestimating Alaphilippe..? and this time no high altitude… 😉

  10. Was Caleb Ewan saving his legs or was his crash on Saturday quite hard? I noticed that he finished almost last yesterday. They’ve been hit hard in the sprint train too. Ewan will have to surf the wheels with conviction shorn of the greater part of his protective sprint train. I’m sure he’s capable, but equally I don’t think he’s perhaps as adept at making his way as Cav or Sagan.
    I’d like to see Bennett win and prove himself for DQS. But I’m going with Nizzolo.
    I’d like Sagan to win the green.

  11. Personally I was expecting a bit more from the other GC guys. Impressively riding back to a peloton on stage 2 is all well and good, but winning a tour also needs an adventurous state of mind. Just a few gained seconds can be psychologically significant, it felt a bit like ‘waiting for Valverde’.

    • It’s stage 2. There are 3 weeks and 21 stages in total. It’s about measuring your efforts. Burning yourself and your team out is not tactically astute.

  12. Small correction: Kwiatkowski moved left not right to take down Tom D (road turned left, peloton turned left, Tom looked behind him and kept going straight a little too long)

    • I read that article as well over at VeloNews.
      Systeme U used Michelin clinchers during the 1989 tour, so it really was not a first for clinchers yesterday. Systeme U won the 2nd stage TTT and Fignon took stage 18 in Villard-de-Lans.
      If anyone tried on clinchers prior to that, I don’t know.

      • Fignon’s autobiography mentions moving to clincher tires in 1989, there’s skepticism at first but he’s a convert to the point he took them with him when he moved to the Gatorade team. They were also popular among riders in the early 90s it seems because they didn’t roll off, so safer on a hot or wet descent.

        • Exactly. I read an interview back in some 1989 issue of Velo where he also waxed a lot about these clinchers. Might have been some sponsor requirements, but he did talk a lot about their resistance to punctures and how tubular they felt. (Why I remember this so celarly to this day, I cannot explain, it just stands out to me, somehow)

          • My comment was a bit tongue in cheek! found it amusing how a clincher shod bike can be ridden to victory in this day and age. Whatever next, a rim brake bike winning hahaha!

      • Michelin BIsport – wonderfull puncture prone clincher on Mavic Module series rims. (first clinhcer rim able to retain a narrow clincher tyre at high pressure).

        Rofl Sørensen actually won LBL on the 2nd gen of that tire in 94.

  13. I find it interesting that the French seem to celebrate their Royal heritage as much as the Napoleonic?
    There’s some unmissable Grenadiers links on offer for the race commentators today.
    Very nice piece that.

    • Todays route is Route Napoleon from Bar sur Loup to Sisteron. (rode it in 2010 & partially 2012).

      (he landed from exile on Corisca near Cannes and gathered an army en route to Gap)

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