Soler (17th), Valverde, Mas finish unscathed as Cousin's break (TDE), thunderstorms dominate the landscape before the sprint.; Ewan (LTS) victorious.
/ Today’s route
Another day theoretically suited for the sprinters on stage three of the Tour de France, especially since the last climb, Orme (4ª), was more than 50km away from the finish and followed by long, flat straights. The start was demanding, though, with three Cat-3 ascents early on, climbing from sea level to nearly 1,200m.
/ Weather report
Warm yet not so much, with 23ºC and a slight rain chance in the early part of the stage, into the ‘Pre-Alps’ climbs. Some gusts from the west and a bit of Mistral (northerly), more sustained, in the last 20km.
/ Keys to the race
As it usually happens when a sprint finish is likely in the Tour, the break didn’t take long to form: three riders, with KOM classification leader Benoît Cosnefroy (ALM), rival Anthony Perez (COF) and Jêrome Cousin (TDE). The trio seemed to be joined by Oliver Naesen (ALM), yet the Belgian soon went back to the field as race leader Julian Alaphilippe’s Deceuninck – Quick Step kept them on a short leash.
The break split, through, before the feed zone, with Perez -who later crashed out- and Cosnefroy dropping back after taking most KOM points available in the stage. Cousin was thus left alone in the lead under the thunderstorms -two significant spells of rain in the first 100km- and opened the gap from the original two minutes to more than 3’30”.
Cousin’s adventure was over with 16km to go, as the sprinters’ teams already ammassed near the front to contest the finish, claimed by Caleb Ewan (LTS) ahead of Bennett (DQT) and Nizzolo (NTT). No setbacks for the Movistar Team, whose domestiques Verona, Erviti, Oliveira and Rojas -still recovering from injuries after Saturday’s crash- keeping in the bunchValverde, Mas and Marc Soler, who finished quite close to the front (17th).
/ Upcoming goals
Tuesday 1st September will mark the first mountain-top finish of the 2020 Tour de France, 160km from Sisteron with five categorized climbs and finish atop Orcières-Merlette (Cat-1; 7.1km @ 6.7%), with steady ramps and hard enough to create another big selection and even witness some attacks from the race contenders. Another day to keep a close eye on.