Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

A stage for the sprinters but a day’s racing in Brittany which means up and down roads. The defining characteristic of today’s route is the narrow rural roads along much of the route before the tricky finish in Pontivy.

The son in the name of the father and the Holy Spirit: Mathieu van der Poel’s first champion was his father Adri, it’s only in the last few years that he began to appreciate the exploits of his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor, “Poupou” to the French and “Papy” to Mathie. As if Poulidor’s career belonged to an unrelatable black and white past. But his path to the Tour de France put him on the same page and crossing the finish line yesterday he pointed to the sky in tribute, a gift to the heavens he couldn’t present to his grandfather during his life.

It was the manner of the win that impressed as much as the DNA lineage and sentimental tribute. Van der Poel attacked on the first climb to the finish line to take the eight second time bonus solo as everyone struggled behind, Julian Alaphilippe struggled, perhaps paying for Saturday’s efforts. Then the final  time up the climb Nairo Quintana made an attack and van der Poel covered him. Next Sonny Colbrelli made another and van der Poel chased him down. Then he waited for what felt like an eternal second and took off again to leave the likes of Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič watching like spectators, the pair would finish eight seconds behind and leading in all the GC contenders, except Geraint Thomas who lost 23 seconds.

The Route: 182km and lots of narrow roads. A lot of the peloton will get a feeling of déjà vu, notably Warren Barguil as the start rolls by his house but also everyone else who has done the U23 Tour de Bretagne or other races in the region. The Côte de Cadoudal is a staple of the GP Morbihan and featured in the 2016 European championships won by Peter Sagan and has been in the Tour many times, it’s got a short “wall” section and is more like 5% than the 3% suggested by the roadbook.

The Finish: a downhill dash into town and after the 3km point there’s a narrow run along the banks of the Blavet, first north, then up and across the bridge, before back down the quays and a narrow turn onto the finishing straight. Here things get more regular with a 1.5km run to the line but there’s a slight kink at the end, the line isn’t visible from afar and it’s slightly downhill for the final 200 metres.

The Contenders: Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) is the obvious pick for a sprint but his leadout train isn’t as good as he is, they’re good but not world class. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has the better train but they’re also prone to launching him too early.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is after a stage win and always a menace in sprints but this finish doesn’t have any features, as in an uphill slope, to advantage him and [update 8.30am] Belgian media say he’s going to sit out the sprint and aim for the time trial instead. Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain) also won’t find much to suit in the finish today.

Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) had a bad crash on the opening day, injuring both knees so will Mathieu van der Poel sprint instead or do they play the Jasper Philipsen card? Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quickstep), well why not? But even in his pomp he often needed a sprint stage or two to get going. Cees Bol (DSM) gets a run for the line, Trek-Segafredo will probably back Mads Pedersen today and

Caleb Ewan
Arnaud Démare
WvA, Bol, MvdP, Merlier, Pedersen, Colbrelli, Cavendish, Laporte, Bouhanni

Weather: an increasing chance of rain later into the stage, a top temperature of 16°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.35pm CEST. Tune in for the final hectic half hour at least.

55 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

    • Can you imagine if MvP had briefly done this after he got the 8-second time bonus after crossing the finish line the first time? What would the UCI have done? Would they really give him a 30-s. time penalty (I think that’s the penalty for a first infraction in a stage race).

  1. Good day’s racing yesterday and deserved win for MVDP. After the first ascent of the final climb, I worried when he sat up, that he’d gone too soon. Hindsight suggests both hoovering up bonus seconds and testing his legs ahead of the last lap then dropping the field like a yellow raincoat to pull on a yellow jersey.

    Emotions writ large during the post-race interview, it was impossible not to feel happy for the fellow. Chapeau!

    Interesting chatter amongst the breakaway – general unhappiness with Schellings work rate which didn’t seem to bother him overly. You could see the thought bubble as he crested one of the climbs: “you guys are getting upset over a single KOM point and €200?”. Seemed like he and Perez made up afterwards.

    • I think, because of the back story and emotion, yesterday will go down in legend.
      A real privilege to watch that amazing win, for an amazing rider, from an amazing family.
      His papy would have been so proud.

  2. I guess many could conceive of a coup like that, but how many would be able to deliver it? A phenomenal ride in of itself, add in the family story and it feels like we saw a bright golden thread weaved into the grand tapestry yesterday.

    Crashes aside, it was a thrilling first weekend with two great victories.

  3. MVDP win was like it was scripted, the retro jerseys in stage 1 and not been able to match Julian Alaphilippe attack and caught it seemed, out of position as was too far back. All the pre race hype about doing what his grandfather couldn’t could have been seen as arrogance and ultimately not able do what was hope before stage 1.

    It was all to do and he had to do it with such explosivity with narrative of needing those bonus seconds with that incredible attack on first ascent then the raw emotion at the end and interviews after.

    Wonderful and it showed another side to him, could clearly see how much it meant and crashes aside it’s been a great first weekend.

    • He was too far back on stage 1 to contemplate following Alaphilippe. On yesterday’s showing I’m not sure he’d have struggled.

  4. I’m wondering if Ineos are more pleased about Thomas avoiding the Saturday crashes than they are concerned about him losing some seconds on the climb yesterday (not his type) to his GC rivals.

    • G losing time didn’t get much coverage yesterday, but I suppose it’s not really his kind of ascent. I don’t think it speaks volumes towards his form for the big mountains. But it will be frustrating for them nonetheless.

      • As a fan of Thomas, I must confess I’m worried he lost that time yesterday – plenty of others didn’t who he should be riding away from, virtually at will, if he wants to podium. I hope it’s just taking him a while to “warm up” but it’s not a good early sign to me.

  5. I know it’s been expected to rain in the first two stages and largely hasn’t, but right now the weather prediction is strongly suggesting rain through much of the stage. That coupled with the technical finish and having a bunch of sprinters champing at the bit to strut their stuff and the last couple of km will likely be dicey. Plus a few teams will likely try to use the lumpiness of the stage to stress both the pure sprinters and their lead-outs. The long, straight final km mitigates against this, but I’m expecting a chaotic, fraught finish that makes this very tough to predict.

    Inrng mentioned that Cavendish has a history of needing a sprint stage or two to get dialed in, but this is also true of Ewan. Still, he has to be the favorite.

  6. After Stage 2

    12   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    10 Alpecin–Fenix
    8   Team Jumbo–Visma
    7  UAE Team Emirates
    6   Team BikeExchange
    5   Bora–Hansgrohe
    3  Team Bahrain Victorious
    1  Trek–Segafredo

    Over the last or so I’ve come to the belief that the Team competition doesn’t reflect the race. At present it is based on a team’s best 3 riders times for each stage. This leaves much of emphasis on the mountain stages. What I would prefer a points system that treats each stage equally regardless of whether the stage is a time trial, flat, intermediate, mountain or even a team time trial. The reason for this is that cycling is a team sport where the individual gets all the credit. I am thinking of a sprint train or a mountain train have the same effect in working for the teams objective of the day.

    I would love to see a points system based on the F1 during the 1990s. 1st -10pts, 2nd-6pts, 3rd-4pts, 4th-3pts, 5th-2pts & 6th-1pt. Each stage has the same points. It is only the top 6 positions because it puts the emphasis on finishing very well rather than just being consistent. Plus it follows the bonus seconds for the first 3 in each stage. I will try to update the list each day to show how it could work.

    • Interesting concept, keep going.
      What it also demonstrates so far also is that Ineos have been front and centre doing or sharing a lot of the work on the front with DQS but have zilch to show for it!
      As said above, their two main contenders stayed out of the crashes, so that can partly justify riding on the front, but Pogacar and Roglic have drafted, watched, then conquered to date.
      A recurring theme?

        • I don’t know. The point is that your classification is as arbitrary as the other one ; for a small team, it could be way more rewarding to have the maillot à pois for three days than three sixth places. It can even be more visible for the sponsor, and more motivating for the rider, to be in a big escape and to have the combativity prize… Bora is much more visible since the beginning of the Tour thanks to Schelling than Trek with a sixth place yesterday, and we could argue their Tour has started better. And a big team can have not so much placings but with a rider finishing fourth at the end, and everyone working for him… You didn’t speak about the overall classification. Your idea is not bad, it can be interesting at the end ; but I’m not sure it will tell us a lot about which teams really had a successfull Tour.

    • Interesting concept – you are right, the current team competition is a consolation price for the GC team that comes with 3-4 solid GC riders but usually their leader didn’t live up to expectations on final GC.

      6-5-4-3-2-1 Best 3 riders
      1.TJV 59 MST
      2.DSM 43 TJV
      3. TS 42 BV
      4.UAE 38 EF
      5.DQS 35 IG
      6.BHG 28 TS
      7.COF 25 AST
      8. IG 22 AG2r
      9.LOS 17 UAE
      10. BBH 17 TBE
      11.AST 16 FDJ
      12.CCC 15 ARS
      13.TBE 15 COF
      14. EF 13 CCC
      15.AG2r 11 BGH
      16.TQN 9 BBH
      17.MST 7 DSM
      18.FDJ 7 DQS
      19.ISN 5 ISN
      20.ARS 4 TQN
      21.BH 2 TE
      22.TE 0 LOS

      Thought your idea was interesting and did the numbers for last year’s Tour. First column: placing arcording to your points scheme, second column: points and third column: official team ranking.
      I find that your scheme puts a strong focus on teams with one or two very strong riders (think Cav in his pomp). In so far it reflects better the “tour feeling”.

      acronyms I used:
      Trek Segafredo TS
      UAE UAE
      Dekeukink Quickstep DQS
      Team DSM DSM
      Bora-Hansgrohe BHG
      Cofidis COF
      Team Bike Exchange TBE
      CCC CCC
      Education First EF
      Lotto-Soudal LOS
      Israel Startup Nation ISN
      Team Jumbo-Visma TJV
      Arcea-Samsic ARS
      Astana AST
      Ineos-Grenadier IG
      B&B Hotels BBH
      AG2r AG2r
      Moviestar MST
      Bahrain Victorious BV
      France de Jeu FDJ
      Team Qubekha Nexthash TQN
      Total Energies TE

      • When I did TDF 2020 last year the result I got was:

        Total Points
        75 Team Jumbo–Visma
        57 Team Sunweb
        55 UAE Team Emirates
        54 Deceuninck–Quick-Step
        45 Trek–Segafredo
        39 Bora–Hansgrohe
        28 Ineos Grenadiers
        26 Lotto–Soudal
        26 Cofidis
        24 Astana
        18 B&B Hotels–Vital Concept
        17 EF Pro Cycling
        17 Mitchelton–Scott
        15 AG2R La Mondiale
        15 CCC Team
        10 NTT Pro Cycling
        7 Groupama–FDJ
        7 Movistar Team
        5 Israel Start-Up Nation
        4 Arkéa–Samsic
        2 Bahrain–McLaren
        0 Total Direct Énergie

  7. The heart says a win for Cavendish today but the head says no. Hopefully he will at least be competitive in the sprints, it’s been an amazing comeback from him.

    • For Cav today, I’d be happy to see him in the mix without a big bunch crash. That’s a tricky run in if many teams try to deploy their full trains. Geraint Thomas also showed what could be done on a tight turn in the Dauphine (?) this year, that was the kind of move you might have expected Sagan to try in his full pomp. Feels a bigger ask in the tour

  8. If the intermediate sprint means anything from yesterday (and it probably doesn’t) Ewan is the top pick followed by Cavendish. I don’t see Démare has the top speed over either of them. Merlier hadn’t featured at all in intermediates, which makes sense given M. Rng says he’s injured. It looked like Cavendish sat up yesterday once he’d made the initial jump – if he’d pushed he might (might!) have held off Ewan, who closed him from a little further back. Very different to an all out sprint though, so take what you want from it – no doubt in my mind that Ewan is favourite.

    With that finish I can see a reduced bunch competing it, especially if it’s wet.

    • The Cav of old could have sat up 25 metres earlier and still bested his rivals back in the day. He’s probably made a mental note to race through (rather than to) the line today.

  9. Geraint Thomas crashing again?!? What the… every single Tour he does this early on…. apparently he was back in the bunch… doesn’t he ever learn?

    Contador, Lance, Indurain, etc. – did they ever spend time in the bunch early in the Tour? Froome made this mistake a bunch of times too… even when I was racing there were only two places to sit – near the front, or comfortably off the back. The only other option was for a teammate to zip you up the side to drop you off at the front. Ridiculous for a 35 year-old GC contender to not know this by now.

    • From the pictures I saw, G was very near the front: in the first 10 or 15 riders, with teammates close by. Cause unknown – indeed, possibly his mistake – but he and Gesink were right at the heart of the crash, not innocent victims of a massed pile-up like we saw on Saturday.

      • Yikes, sorry, I made an assumption – but if he’s at the front and crashes, is there a spot that he is safe?

        What a rough stage, hopefully things calm down moving forward.

  10. It is going to take a while to pick the bones out of that. Above all these guys are hardcore with so many injuries and still riding. I wonder if anything will come to light from on-board cameras? There is so much to winning a grand tour that to do it once is amazing.

    • The “still riding” is something I’ve been meaning to address. It might be obvious but is still worth repeating that riders are sore, skin is missing, wounds weep, joints ache, tissue is inflamed, hormone levels off, white blood cell counts rising, sleep is harder to get and lest restful, recovery is harder and this adds up like compound interest, there’s the risk of overcompensating injuries and saddle sores as riders shift positions. There’s almost never a crash without some kind of knock-on effect. So when a rider gets back on the bike we take this as shorthand they’re ok but there’s a lot to deal with.

  11. Reading Madiot’s comments about danger – I get it, this stage was rough… but even he had zero clue what would fix it… it’s not possible to fix this. Unless the first few stages are TT’s these conditions cannot be addressed sufficient.

    Maybe doing a 3-day TT will take the nervousness out of guys a…

    • He was letting off some steam, a lot of it. But he was right in a way that there’s no easy fix, no single change to make. I can can see a lot of suggestions doing the rounds on social media but they often tend to reveal people’s pre-existing ideas, eg if you thought something before then today confirmed it, eg if you believed race radios ruin the sport this proves it, if you think prologues reduce crashes this is it, if you have a grudge against the UCI then it’s their fault, if you dislike ASO then the same again etc.

      • There’s a lot that you could do to mitigate the hazards and risks but the end results would reveal something very different from a race / stage that we have now.

      • Yeah, I read his comment about race radios… zero clue how that would have stopped the crashes this week. The woman with the poster, Caleb and Sagan, Geraint and Gesink, etc. They are riding bikes at high speed, unfortunately crashes happen… this is one of the toughest sports on the planet.

        Now, what we do need is better protection for the riders after they crash – medical coverage is excellent at the races, but we need to keep increasing insurance coverage, pensions and lifetime health coverage, better and better contractual conditions (longer contracts so can come back from injuries), etc. Especially for the women’s racers who mostly make $10 for a year’s work.

      • Hot air, rather than steam, but par for the course with Madiot. The CN article quotes him as saying “With a corner like that at 150 metres” which made my eyes do a full 360. A gentle bend, on a wide boulevard is hardly a hazard, unless a rider screws up and wipes himself out. We’ve also seen many, many bad crashes in the past (starting with the famous one on the Champs with Dynamite Unpronounceable) and the First Week Big Crash is almost written into the script. The only way to stop them is to replace every stage with a time trial and ban fans. I feel for the poor chaps who end up skinned and battered, but cycling = speed and speed = risk. There was nothing on today’s stage that the organisers got wrong and blowing off steam doesn’t help anyone.

  12. There’s no meaningful historical data to study accidents.
    Narrow and twisty roads, paper thin clothing?
    But the one thing that strikes me is that the race never stops.
    Bad enough that you’ve fallen and lost skin, but your race chance has gone with it.
    Is there any other sport where this happens?
    Carry on Regardless, a 1960s farce, appearing on a road near you?

    • I have often wondered about some kind of body armour clothing. For the first week of the Tour, particular if it starts somewhere not too hot, is it worth having a thicker kit with longer arms and legs to prevent much of the roadrash that will come with the almost inevitable crashes.

      • Some kind of kevlar weave might help with that, on the arse and thigh areas in particular, and there are materials (non-Newtonian?) which are like a gel, but solidify instantly on impact. Won’t help with bruising, but could prevent loss of skin. Seems like an easy win, so I wonder if there are reasons why manufacturers don’t produce them.

        • I was a short-tracker (ice) back in the day. Talk about crashes and cuts. Then the kevlar and other protective stuff came along (too late for me). Bike racing will eventually turn to that, if only because it’s money lost, not just skin.

        • Scott had some kevlar type weave in their cycling kit for a while. Must have been at least 5 years ago, probably more. Clearly didn’t progress.

          • A quick google; Santini had dyneema panels in 2017, and Etxeondo had same, which Giant Alpecin were supposedly going to wear.

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