Tour de France (st. 3)
Explosive attack by Frenchman at bonus point in Mutigny leads him into Tour yellow, as combative Mikel & Movistar team-mates finish inside reduced main field.
A spectacular solo action in the last 15km of stage three, full of little, tough hills en route to Épernay (215km), put Julian Alaphilippe (DQT) into the GC lead of the 2019 Tour de Francia. The Frenchman won ahead of a group of favourites where the Movistar Team tried to notably feature, after a very difficult team time trial for the Blues on Sunday.
Mikel Landa went on a strong, four-man counter behind Alaphilippe -alongside Max Schachmann (BOH), Mike Woods (EF1) and Alexey Lutsenko (AST)-, a move which was nevertheless caught quickly by a 50-man peloton with some sprinters still present, a group which reached the line 25″ behind Alaphilippe.
The Basque led home a strong Blue representation in the selected group, with Quintana, Valverde, Soler and Amador also there, which remarks the collective power of the Movistar Team for the toughest stages of the race. Before the Vosges, a long, flat stage four (213km) will offer the purer sprinters another shot at victory in Nancy.
Mikel Landa: “It was a kind of finish which allowed us lighter riders giving it a try. I saw a group going after Alaphilippe’s move, with some important times in, and tried to get myself into it, thinking that Deceuninck wouldn’t push with Alaphilippe there and we could gain some seconds. However, it was difficult to get such a move going, to take consistent turns ourselves, and we were brought back easily. To be honest, not many people could expect such a powerful, early move from Alaphilippe, it was an exhibition. Regarding myself – I’m happy with my condition. I’m steadily improving, getting into race pace, and willing to do well here. We must remain day-by-day until the real mountains; surely Thursday will be a crucial stage, but we must get there first.”
Nairo Quintana: “We have talked between ourselves about following any significant moves in the finale and it was Mikel who went for that counter, he did well. I’ve tried to always remain in a good position and avoid any troubles near the end. Today’s climbs were short, those ones where some sprinters can still hold on through raw power, yet stages like these make it easier for us to move into the peloton and progress easier. We finished well, which is the important thing: getting through these early stages without setbacks, just like every single year in the Tour.”
Alejandro Valverde: “It was such an explosive finish. I was into a good position for the sprint in the peloton, but I was boxed in into the last turn before the final hill, like 500m before the end. I went back to maybe 20th into the peloton, and so it was impossible to make it back to the front. I wasn’t expecting Alaphilippe to try an attack from there, and it was fantastic – hats off to him. Another day without any troubles for us, which is what we looked for today.”