Tour de France Stage 3 Preview

The Tour calms down today with a long parade and a likely sprint.

Vauquelin ends the drought: another solid breakaway including the polka-dotted Jonas Abrahamsen. No threats on GC meant so DSM let them take time. It was only over the hills that the other teams upped the pace, but this was defensive on the climbs and amid a surprising crosswind. Safety but Laurens De Plus, Wout van Aert and Matteo Jorgenson crashed and in response the peloton seemed to ease up and the gap went out 10 minutes. Victor Campenaerts though led the chase and took a chunk out of the lead, only four minutes by Bologna.

Having scaled the San Luca once Nelson Oliveira attacked the breakaway on the boulevards of Bologna. As Arkéa had two riders in the break one of them had to respond. Was it clever that Kévin Vauquelin did not follow instantly? It allowed Oliveira to open a gap and then Vauquelin could use his skills – a frustrated second in the recent French TT championships – to bridge across, rather than close it down. Abrahamsen followed but as soon as the San Luca climb started Vauquelin attacked to go solo. It’d been almost 24 hours since a Frenchman won a stage.

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Few would have had Vauquelin winning after being dropped the previous day, he said he’d been “at the bottom of the bucket” to use the literal translation which half works. But a big win was due. Second in the Flèche Wallonne, a defeat that he said he’s thought about probably every day since. Plenty would have been delighted with a podium finish, he’s been consumed by it.

Vauquelin has grown up in cycling in his native Normandy, collecting regional and national titles on the road and track since he was a boy. He was turning out 6.5W/kg… as a cadet, the 15-16 year old category, according to L’Equipe’s vital podcast. What kind of rider he’ll become remains to be seen but you’ll have read here before he’s reminiscent of Geraint Thomas, a rouleur who wants to become a grimpeur as well. Even amid the delight yesterday he was saying he only won from the breakaway: he sees himself one day going up against the best for the win.

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We got two races for the price of one. It was a day rich in information for the overall classification even if the time gaps were compact. Tadej Pogačar is now in yellow with Jonas Vingegaard matching his attack on the San Luca climb, the Dane’s rehab seems on track.

Just behind the pair was Remco Evenepoel. He is looking sharp – no frikandel, he told TV he’s lost 2.5kg since the Dauphiné – and he caught Pogačar and Vingegaard by the finish with Richard Carapaz for company. The Ecuadorian is a very interesting position now as of late he’s tried to follow moves and imploded, now he was there even if the workload with Evenepoel was hardly 50-50.

The surprise on the downside was Roglič. Out of position and unable to respond on familiar ground but he only lost 21 seconds. Worse off were Santiago Buitrago, Geraint Thomas, Jack Haig, Chris Harper and Derek Gee who aren’t done for if they want a top-10 but lost time.

Many sprinters finished way down but there was no point fighting for time. However it was notable that once again Mark Cavendish and Fabio Jakobsen were adrift in the hills of Emilia-Romagna, distanced when rival sprinters were not.

The Route: 230km, the longest of the race and there’s no point trying to decrypt every kilometre of the course. After Bartali and Pantani, now Coppi gets the limelight with the visit to Tortona where he lived.

The Barbaresco climb is amid the vineyards and the road keeps on going up after the KoM point.

The final climb is 3km long with a bit of 7% as it goes to Sommariva, the hilltop town whose name is derived from “summit” but it’s not much of a launchpad even the opposite, a chance to eject suffering sprinters as there’s still 50km to go.

The Finish: a flat run along the Corso Unione Sovietica, a long straight road past the Fiat factory.

At 900m to go there is a 90° left turn, another with 750m to go and it’s onto the finishing straight by the Olympic park. A dragster finish.

The Contenders: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is the reductive pick. He’s been beaten a few times this season but now his sprint train is upgraded with Mathieu van der Poel who even Philipsen finds hard to follow.

Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco) gets a stage to suit, the last climb is an hour from the finish, there are days when these obstacles come closer.

Beyond them things open up more. Three days in a row for French riders? Tough as Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) would like a more acrobatic finish. It suits Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) more and he won the intermediate sprint yesterday but parlaying that into triumph today is a massive ask, he hasn’t had a podium finish this year.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek), Wout van Aert (Visma-LAB), Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dsnty) might not have the pure speed but an opening and they can win.

Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) might like a thunderstorm or more but has a beefy leadout. Sam Bennett (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) is in the mix but not an easy pick. Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain) likewise. Do Intermarché-Wanty back Biniam Girmay or Gerben Thijssen… or both?

Mark Cavendish (Astana) isn’t an easy pick after the struggles on the hills, likewise Fabio Jakobsen (DSM), they’ve had it harder although and there’s always the chance some team exploit this by upping the pace on the climbs. If you want to rate sprinters on fitness Pascal Ackermann has (IPT) been among the last sprinters to be dropped… but that doesn’t equate to speed today.

Philipsen, Groenewegen
Girmay, WvA, De Lie, Kristoff, Démare, Bauhaus

Weather: 28°C with some clouds.

TV: a long day for those doing live commentary. KM0 is at 11.35am and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Dip in to see if anything is happening but otherwise take a leaf out of the sprinters’ books and get in place for the finish.

Postcard from Torino: here were again after the Giro d’Italia’s grande partenza. It’s the home of brands like Fiat and Lavazza and long time the seat of the Italian monarchy until the establishment of today’s republic in 1946. It’s this history that is of interest today because to speak of the Italian royal family is a relatively modern concept, instead for the best part of a thousand years the Casa Savoia (“House of Savoy”, at times the Duchy, Kingdom, County et cetera) ruled the north-west corner of Italy and beyond into the Alps which are now in France. The great stages of the Tour de France to come, whether on the Galibier tomorrow or the final days in the Alps and Nice were for centuries under “Italian” rule.

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Today Italy is a republic but a monarchical tradition persists with the use of the colour blue. Italy’s flag is the tricolore of green, white and red but sports teams wears blue. This is the blu Savoia and the azure tone supplies the collective term azzuri, as in “blues”, for the national sports teams whether it’s football, cycling, or in general at the Olympics. It is unusual to see national athletes in different colours to the flag but happens elsewhere, look at the Dutch and their oranje which is also a nod to the royal standard.

71 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 3 Preview”

  1. If another Frenchman wins today I predict that the next year’s Tour there will be 20 stages in Italy followed by a sprint in Paris

    • In a small way, as in for the race and caravan which doesn’t count for much, it’s lucky for the race to be in Italy right now, away from the political crisis… but not for long with the second/final round of voting next weekend. A future “postcard” will probably touch on this as there’s an overlap with the Tour.

  2. Vingegaard really doesn’t like windshield duty … at this stage it looks as though the GC will be determined by time trials and bonus points.

    • Patience young skywalker, it’s stage 2 and there are mountains on Tuesday! If this TdF isn’t a procession for Pogi then we should all be grateful given the starting odds. A wonderful start to the tour so far, a mon avis.

    • Last one to do a turn is the race winner.

      There are times when it makes sense to do turns. Coming back from an injury. Keep the work load as light as possible until the end of the 2nd week is sensible.
      Whether he did turns or not he was not going to take even one second on Pogacar.

      • It is a bit more than that I think. Even in previous years he had been extremely reluctant to put himself on the front … measures his efforts very, very carefully.

        • I find the Dane’s way of racing extremely irritating. If you want to be The Dude, be The Dude. Race. There’s winning, and then there’s *winning*. You’ve won 2 Tours. Arguing with your chief rival because you don’t want to pull just comes off as petty and unsportsmanlike. I don’t recall WvA and MvdP doing that with each other.

  3. I always wondered about Italy’s choice of blue kit. Thanks for explaining.
    Thanks too for the great write ups every day.

  4. Thanks for the preview.

    Another couple of countries using different colors for sports than the flag might suggest are Australia (green and gold) and New Zealand (black and silver).

      • As an Australian, I’m very confident in saying neither nation is in line to change their national flag any time soon.

        No Australian government is going to stick their neck out and waste political capital on that at the moment. A significant shift in the population’s political views would be needed for that.

        New Zealand looked at this a few years ago. Designs were put forward and voted on, and then the winning design went on to comprehensively lose a second vote to the current flag.

  5. Jonas V looked remarkably good but I suppose we won’t know for sure until a long mountain top finish deeper into the race. What never ceases to amaze me, is that the riders still have the bottle to descend at such speeds, with such aggression, after a crash as bad as the one he had in Itzulia. Chapeau

    • Yes, straight back into the bunch and then downhill at such speed.

      Readers might recall Pierre Latour’s problems on descents, a phobia of some sorts. We saw it last year on the Grand Colombier stage he made the break but couldn’t stay with them on a descent when if he’d have had a good chance at the win for the stage. The story (a third hand account) goes that he was sent on a descending course run by a coach and almost nobody could keep up with him on the corners downhill. Anyway what looks slow at the Tour de France is beyond most people.

      • Or Enric Mas having massive problems in the tdf a few years back. And then by the next race (Vuelta i think) he was pretty good having done some remediable training or perhaps just putting some liquid courage in his bidons.

  6. Please may someone explain the mechanism by which Pog has arrived Yellow? Some kind of count back on places in the stages?

    It looked like he was trying to avoid taking it by swinging to the back of the little of group as they came over the line. That said, he looked pretty pleased to be wearing it on the podium.

    • Yes, countback. Four riders on the same time but Pogačar has finished ahead of them by placings.

      Pogačar: 4th+14th= 18.
      Evenepoel: 8th+12th = 20.
      Vingegaard: 16th+13th = 29
      Carapaz: 22nd+10th= 32

      He didn’t want the jersey yesterday and thought about trying to get Evenepoel or Vingegaard to take it but hard to engineer.

      • Will this change based on ongoing results, eg if they finish on the same time but Remco is saying 5 places in front of pog will he be in yellow?

        • Art.24 a) yes. It is the accumulated sum of placings that decides their individual GC-rankings. In case of same sum the final (note the specific wording, it is not “the last” which is to unspecific but “the final” i.e. Nice-stage) stage will decide.
          So they could happen to have the same placings as we have not had a prolog or TT yet.

          • Thankfully the relevant UCI regulation is clearer about what happens with the daily general classification, giving the finish line commissaire the information they need on how to draw up each day’s general classification if riders are tied on time:

            “… as a last resort, the place obtained in the last stage ridden shall be taken into consideration.”

            Where things get interesting is if there’s a dead heat that the finish line commissaire cannot separate even after viewing the photo finish. Dead heats for placings other than the winner are accepted by the UCI, with the points classification and UCI ranking points for the tied positions added together and split equally.

            If the dead heat is for a win, the procedure is to take the riders back to the 1km banner for a match sprint.

      • Should be easy to engineer in a bunch finish today, just make sure he rolls in behind Evenepoel. Roll in at the back of the main bunch and any of the other 3 might take it.

        Unless they all put their hands up with a “mechanical” immediately after the 5km banner to keep Pogacar on interview duty…

        • e) Team classification
          Theteamclassification is calculated byaddingtogether the three bestindividual times by riders on each team on every stage. If there is a tie between teams in the stage rankings, the three highest places achieved by each team’s riders on that stage are added together. In the eventofa further tie, the teams are split by the finishing position of their highest placed rider on the stage. If
          there is a tie between teams in the general team classification, they will be separated by adding upthenumberofstagevictoriesperteam, thenbythe number ofsecond places, and so on, until the number of places obtained by one team enables a definitive ranking to be established. If there is still a
          tie, teams will be split by the positions of their highest placed rider in the general individual classification. Any team reduced to fewer than three riders will be eliminated from the team classification.

  7. Secretly when this stage was announced I was praying for a velodrome style finish on top of the old Lingotto factory roof.

    Vuelta will probably do that next year :))

  8. I thought Jonas Vinegegaard looked as if he was not under any stress, surprising given the run up he has had, suggests he might be the rider to beat. I was also surprised at Remco Evenepoel’s ride not surprised that he was dropped on the climb but he pretty much managed to ride back to the front two on his own as Richard Carapaz appeared to offer little. He might put up more of a fight than many previews suggested.

    You do have to wonder about some of the longer efforts and how that will affect Tadej Pogacer, a combination of the Giro and virus might be an issue going foward.

    • Remco was reportedly out of position at the bottom of the final ascent, so had to close some gaps and ride back to the front split…just as he got there, Pogacar attacked, so Remco couldn’t follow…based on the way he then TT’d back up to Pogacar & Vingegaard, I’d imagine he could have followed the attack if he hadn’t already spiked his heart rate riding back to the front.

      That said, yesterday’s climbs were very LBL-like, so right in the sweetspot of what we know Remco is world class at. The bigger indicator of his competitiveness will be the big multi-mountain stages like tomorrow.

      • Agree with that. But he wasted a lot of energy just by being out of position. Which in turn doesn’t help when it comes to mountain stages with multiple climbs, when he tends to have one really bad day that ruins his GC bid.

      • I was thinking that about Remco – the run in suited his qualities perfectly, no other rider could have closed a gap like that by himself.

        And so I wonder what we did learn yesterday? Adam Yates set a ferocious pace on the climb, but Pog’s attack was an opportunistic one as the road levelled. We learnt that Vingegaard was well positioned to respond, but he didn’t have to cope with a long attack or a horrendous gradient. We found out that Remco can use his TT powers to close a gap, and that Ineos and Roglic were out of position when it counted.

        I suppose there are some indicators here but thankfully the race is still open, and we know the main protagonists are ready for battle.

  9. Is Cavendish suffering more or being very canny? I’m not sure what sprinters gain by staying with the bunch so long, especially on a hot day. Just a thought.

    • He lost 30 minutes, risked the entire team being OTL and was vomiting on the bike during stage 1 so yes, he’s suffering and will probably struggle all week

    • It can depend on the rider and the team – sometimes it’s easier for a sprinter to put in a short 5-10 minute effort on a climb and then be able to follow the wheels in the peloton for a couple of hours afterwards, as the overall energy expenditure will be less despite the effort on the climb…if the team is willing to send 4-5 riders back to support the sprinter, then this might be negated as they’ll get the same drafting benefit from the teammates without having to make the hard effort, hence Cav’s approach…but if the team is only willing to lend one rider, then it may still make sense for the sprinter to stay in the peloton.

      Part of it is psychological as well…I imagine somebody like Pedersen gets a psychological boost from staying in the bunch while other sprinters (and even climbers) are dropped. So he feels stronger and more confident than his rivals when the sprint day arrives.

  10. First and Foremost: Thanks again for taking us with you on the ride trough France!

    However I would have to make one remark regarding today’s contenders specifically Arnaud de Lie, where you claim he “might not have the pure speed”…

    After watching the belgium champs I beg to disagree..

    He definitely didnt lack “that pure speed” there, as much as the likes of Philipsen, Merlier, Van Aert, Nys, Meeus, couldn’t even bring their wheel out of de Lie’s shadow, quite remarkable to watch.

  11. Kudos to Abrahamsen who has managed to get 2 jerseys at once. Depending on who wins the stage and how many intermediate points go to that rider he may still keep them both today.

    The youth jersey may need some reduction in age as i count 5 or 6 top ten GC chances in the current top 10 of that competition. So many riders have such a professional training regine before they turn pro it’s sort of lost its meaning.

  12. Philipsen, Groenewegen, Pedersen, Girmay, WvA, De Lie, Kristoff, Démare, Bauhaus… that’s just a really daunting list of names for Cavendish to have to overcome.

    • Isn’t it. Though as you set them out that, I can’t help but feel better about his chances. For a start you miss out Jakobsen, surely an oversight, so I’ll include him even though he seems out sorts.

      We must assert that for any sprinter to win, everything must go perfectly for them. So if everything goes perfectly for Cav I’d still have him down as faster (on a drag strip finish) than Girmay, Kristoff, Demare and Bauhaus. I think he’s close with Pedersen, De Lie (though recent events may nudge him up a bracket) and WvA, and might only really struggle with Jakobsen, Philipsen and Groenewegen. So he needs only those three to get in a muddle, be out of position, have some small misfortune, and he’s in with a chance.

      But this is all key board talk, and I’m old romantic when it comes to this stuff. I hope he can pull it off – he so nearly did last year.

  13. I know that Jasper Phillipsen was mentioned in the preview as a contender for a stage win today due to journalistic objectivity, but after what he’d done on stage 18 last year, he should be forgotten. IMO he really deserved to be ostracized by the community and this begins with us, the fans.

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