Peter Sagan turns on the gas to power his way to victory on stage 3 of the Tour de France
The Tour de France has had plenty of talking points thus far. The big question of the day was who had enough fight and tactical awareness to overcome a technical finish consisting of two narrow hill climbs on stage 3, many fancied superstar Peter Sagan to battle it out with Dan Martin.
Geraint Thomas wore the yellow jersey for a second consecutive day, Marcel Kittel wore green and Taylor Phinney had the honour of wearing the polkadot jersey.
Thomas De Gendt made the break from the gun. Nils Politt and Adam Hansen were two of a trio in the break along with Fortuneo rider Romain Hardy. Michal Kwiatkowski was also in hot pursuit on the uphill start.
Just after noon the riders entered the Belgian race track, Spa, more famous for Formula One than cycling. There wasn’t much to report during the middle part of the stage but the wind played it’s part. It was strong enough to reduce the peloton to just 16KMH at one point. Politt picked up the intermediate sprint with Mark Cavendish finishing in 7th place to claim nine points.
The TV cameras caught the dual between Nathan Brown and Politt as both riders made their way up the category 3 climb of Cote d’Eschdorf. Brown won that dual to move one point ahead of his compatriot Phinney. Inclines, big crowds, narrow roads and a swollen peloton often make for unwanted bottlenecks, that’s exactly what happened at the 90km mark – one or two riders almost coming to a complete standstill at the back of the peloton.
With 80KM to go Adam Hansen, Romain Sicard, Romain Hardy, Frederick Backaert joined Pollit and Brown in a six-man breakaway, the gap was 2’30”. Hansen displayed his leadership abilities when he organised the six riders into a team time-trial type formation. The GC contenders of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Romain Badet et al were all anonymous, as you’d expect. As the six-man breakaway rolled through the 50KM marker they were joined by Pierre-Luc Périchon, Lillian Calmejane and Belgian rider Thomas De Gendt
The tension built up among the peloton as they wound the breakaway back to 1’00” with around 22 KM to go. Team Sky adopted their usual dominant position towards the front of the peloton. 24-year-old French rider Calmejane was the lone rider ahead of the chasing field and he won the KOM Côte de Villers-la-Montagne. Eventually all the riders came together with just over 9km to go.
As the riders approached the flamme rouge the, stage favourites of Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews, Philippe Gilbert and Dan Martin all jostled for position. The wattage was cranked up and it was BMC’s Richie Porte who made the first attack, Alberto Contador went with him but the Spaniard couldn’t hold on to his wheel. Thomas along with his leader Chris Froome also went with the attack.
Sagan, Matthews and company drilled their bikes as hard as they could but in the end it was there was only ever going to be one winner. Sagan looked relatively relaxed as he crossed the line to take stage three, Matthews and Martin finished second and third respectively. Thomas remains in yellow for a third consecutive day.
There is plenty of racing still to come and the competition is wide open. As the tour continues Sagan will be looking to add to this stage win. BMC are looking strong and Porte is looking hungry. Contador couldn’t hang on to Porte’s wheel on the final attack but don’t read too much into that. Team Sky can’t have too many complaints, they will look to control the pace on stage four.
Stage 3 results
Stage 4 takes the riders 207.5 Km from Mondorf-les-Bains South to Vittel. The stage has one category four climb towards the end of the stage. It will be another chance for the sprinters to stamp their authority. Could it be back-to-back wins for Sagan?