Tour de France (st. 3)
Great work from Movistar Team for its leader, focused and strong at the decisive Côte des Religieuses in Longwy. Sagan (BOH) wins sprint finish as Thomas (SKY) remains in yellow
Despite the rain finally leaving the 104th Tour de France on the long (212.5km) stage three. The route between Verviers and Longwy – across Wallonia and Luxembourg to finish at the race’s home country- did not offer any break to the main contenders. A lumpy terrain; intense racing all day into headwinds; and a counter-attack trio -including De Gendt (LTS) and Calmejane (DEN)- giving new life to the early break all forced the entire bunch to work hard.
The Movistar Team worked well organized, with the likes of Bennati, Erviti, Castroviejo, Sütterlin and Amador protecting Nairo Quintana. The fast pace into the final climb, which the Colombian started within the top 20, did not cause the ‘Cóndor’ any troubles, the Blue leader finishing safely in 11th place as Peter Sagan (BOH) claimed his first stage victory in this year’s race.
Quintana remains 48” behind Geraint Thomas in a GC quite different from the eve’s -only 50 riders were together at the line, Betancur and Herrada between them- before the first real mountain-top finish in La Planche des Belles Filles (Wednesday). Pure sprinters will be back on stage on Tuesday, with another long journey (207.5km) taking the riders from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel.
Nairo Quintana: “It’s beautiful to see all the Colombian fans supporting us at both the starts, finishes and the whole route. It’s really charming. We got through a dangerous day, one with a lot of stress, and that’s the important thing in the beginning of a Tour de France. Thanks to the support of the whole team we got safely through the day, and I finish really calm about all we did today.”
José Luis Arrieta (sports director): “It could have been a day way calmer than we had, but we were also keeping in mind that there would be some battle early in the stage for the breakaway. Then in the finale, with all the GC teams trying to keep their leaders at the front and other ones, like Bora, fighting for the stage, we were obviously in for a fast finish. There was lots of stress, all riders trying to get into good position so as to avoid any splits. Happily, Nairo could get through the day thanks to good team effort. The guys did things perfectly to keep him safe and in good place.
“Our tactics for Wednesday? It should be the same as in the previous few days; to be honest, our only goal in this first week is not losing the race. Froome, on the other hand, will be looking forward to claim his first stage win this year, but the other contenders might try to give it a short, too. I’m sure we will see all of them battling for the day’s honours.”