The first two stages were fun, but stage 3 is where it gets really interesting.
Geraint Thomas was a bit of a surprise winner on day one, even though I mentioned him as a potential victor in the preview. No one was surprised by Marcel Kittel’s win on Sunday. Predicting the third stage, however, is no joke.
The departure is in Belgium, taking a short cut through Luxembourg, and finishing in France. The stage is pretty bumpy, and the finish is steep (11% at the steepest). The riders must climb over 100 meters on the last two kilometers, and the final climb is 5,8% in average. There are also a couple of sharp turns leading up to the finish line. The first turn comes with 1.200 meters left, and the second 700 before the finish line. The last 700 are pretty straight forward – but fairly steep (a gradient between 4% and 5%). The finish is perfect for the so called “puncheurs”, but also a good finish for semi-sprinters. It might even be an OK finish for sprinters like Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb, even though I don’t think they have what it takes.
As I mentioned, this is an extremely hard stage to predict, as some riders might go hard for the yellow jersey as well. Several sprinters are just a few seconds behind Geraint Thomas, but can they follow uphill? Here are a few riders I do expect to fight for the win.
Even though Peter Sagan was way behind the best sprinters on stage 2, he’s ready to fight for a stage win in Longwy. He has shown time and time again that he can follow the best puncheurs, and he usually has an edge over most of them in the finish. He’s as fast uphill as he is on the flat, so Sagan is the big favorite to win this stage and take the green jersey as well.
Greg Van Avermaet
The Belgian olympic champion would love to win this stage, as it sets off from his home country. Van Avermaet also thrives in Luxembourg. He did the Tour de Luxembourg in June, and finished top five an all five stages. I expect him to be in the front, and maybe try to distance the competition on the final 700 meters. If not, he has the legs to win a sprint as well.
Another Belgian with winning chances. Gilbert is the prototypical puncheur, and has probably targeted this stage. He has several wins this season, and was really impressive at the Amstel Gold Race. It all depends on what kind of riders are left when the front group reaches the final turn. I doubt Gilbert can take the win if Peter Sagan or Michael Matthews are there.
Matthews is a similar rider to Peter Sagan, as he can fight for the win on a lot of different stages. That includes this stage into Longwy. Matthews finished 9th on stage two, and might actually be in the front seat for a potential yellow jersey. Matthews is 20 seconds behind Thomas, and a stage win would give him 10 bonus seconds. I doubt Thomas will let him get those final 10 seconds, but you never know.
And that is why we have to mention Trentin too. He’s just ten seconds behind Thomas, and I don’t think Kittel will be there in the finish. Then Trentin will be allowed to fight for his own chances, and he can potentially win a stage like this. If so, he will get the yellow jersey.
Edvald Boasson Hagen
The Norwegian is another one who targeted the yellow jersey after this stage, and he is only 16 seconds behind the Team Sky leader. Boasson Hagen is a great sprinter on a good day, and has a lot of stage wins lately. Still, the last hill might be a bit too much for the Norwegian. We have seen him try to go for finishes like this before, but his legs just doesn’t hold up when the tempo is turned up at the end.
The time trialist might also try to get those five seconds he is behind Geraint Thomas, but I do imagine the finish will be a bit to tough for the young Swiss.
The Irish is always a rider to look out for with finishes like this, even though the final probably is a little too “easy” for his liking.
Greg Van Avermaet, BMC. I think the Belgian has had his eyes on this stage ever since the route was announced. It’s a perfect stage for him, departing from Belgium. It’s written in the stars.
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