Stage 3: Verviers to Longwy (213.5 km)

The skies cleared up and the Sun God finally smiled on the 3rd Day of Tour De France.

The peloton finally entered France after travelling through Germany, Belgium & partly through Luxembourg today.

Course profile: 5 categorised climbs and not one flat stretch

Philippe Gilbert(2017 Amstel Gold and Tour De France winner from Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team and born in Verviers, the start city for the stage), Peter Sagan( BORA-hansgrohe), Greg Van Avermaet(BMC Racing Team) started off as favourites for Stage 3 with its 1.7k not-so-steep uphill finish favouring these men with a 10” bonus on offer for the stage winner. As usual, there was an early breakaway involving Nils Politt(Team KATUSHA ALPECIN), Romain Hardy (Team Fortuneo-Oscaro) and (riding his 18th consecutive Tour) Aussie Adam Hansen (Team Lotto Soudal). They were soon joined by Romain Sicard (Team Direct Energie), Frederik Backaert (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) and Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team). The peloton kept the breakaway in check even as Nate Brown took the 1st of the 5 categorised climbs today at the Cote De Sart at around 18k. The peloton passed through the incredible Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, which was quite a sight to behold.

The Peloton crossing Spa (not the vanity kind)

Even as the Peloton slowed down prompting the commentator to joke that they can catch the breakaway faster on foot, Nils Politt took the 1st Intermediate sprint, while among the Green Jersey contenders Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka)took the honours, showing he hasn’t lost his form despite the hiatus due to sickness. On the 2nd climb of the day at Cote De Wiltz, Politt and Backaert almost had a run-in but Politt reached the summit 1st. As the camera zoomed to the back of the peloton, there seemed to be some injury concerns(possibly wrist) for Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie). After the climb Politt and Brown broke away from the breakaway(haha!) and cracks appeared in the 4 pursuers with none of them willing to take the lead to chase down the duo at the front. On the 3rd climb of the day, Brown attacked up the hill and Politt had no response even as Brown kept checking and waiting for Politt to catch up, he took the Category 3 climb up Côte d'Eschdorf, taking 2 KOM points, virtually moving into the Polka Dot jersey and keeping the jersey with Cannondale Drapac.

The front of the peloton going up Côte d'Eschdorf

The original breakaway reorganised with 90k to go with carried on for 30 odd kms before there was a counter-attack from the Peloton in the form of Lilian Calmejane(Direct Energie), Pierre-Luc Périchon(Team Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) who later joined the breakaway. 58.5k to go saw a crash, with no major damages. With almost 40 to go, Brown, Politt and Hansen fell back as Calmejane, Perichon, Hardy and DeGendt moved upfront with the gap narrowing to +1’48”and just as the race returned to action after the advertisement, there was footage of Romain Bardet(Equipe cycliste AG2R LA MONDIALE, 2nd at the Tour last year) trailing the peloton by 45”. From the Race radio, it was learnt Bardet had crashed but was being brought back to the peloton by his team and was able to make it without any drama. On the 4th Climb of the day Calmejane attacked dropping everyone but Perichon, who followed him 30” behind and went solo with a 1’04” lead on the Peloton. 13k to go saw another crash this time involving sprint dark horse Sonny Colbrelli(Team Bahrain Merida) and former TT world champion Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), both of whom were able to rejoin the peloton. Calmejane scored 1 KOM at the Cat. 4, Côte de la Villers-la-Montagne climb but began to lose ground as the peloton aggressed up the hill and was soon caught as the peloton was together again with less than 10k to go. Cycling is a beautiful sport and there is nothing more beautiful than the sight of a fast peloton rushing through the streets. With 1.8k to go, the peloton approached the hill at 67 kmph with Van Avermaet, Jakob Fuglsang, Sagan all in the front. Green Jersey wearer, Kittel waved goodbye as the Peloton sped up the hill. With less than a Kilometer to go, Avermaet attacked with his teammate Richie Porte on his wheel and all of a sudden a lot of GC guys made it to the front. Sagan stayed on Porte’s wheel as Porte attacked with 780 meters to go and took the lead with just under 300 meters to go. And then..... Sagan unclipped! His foot was out! With the damn peloton behind him! And that too a man like Greg Van Avermaet, the Olympic Champion and winner of 4 classics this year. If it was a mere mortal, Avermaet would have taken it. But this was the almighty, Peter Sagan. He casually and coolly clipped back in and took the stage!

Sagan: "What is pressure?" when he was asked by the interviewer if he felt pressure before the stage?

The Top 10 of the stage:

Top 10, Stage 3

The Standings after Stage 3 (Chris Froome(Team Sky) moves into 2nd overall, while Geraint Thomas stayed in Yellow for a 3rd day):

Top 10 Overall.

Green Jersey Points:

Jersey Wearers after Stage 3: (Yellow: Geraint Thomas(Team Sky) Green: Marcel Kittel(Quick-Step Floors) Polka Dot: Nathan Brown(Cannondale Drapac) White: Pierre-Roger Latour(AG2R La Mondiale) Best Team: Team Sky Dossard Rouge: Lilian Calmejane(Direct Energie)


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