The pure sprinters couldn’t keep up on Stage 2 and their chances are not getting better on Stage 3. Mark Cavendish didn’t get to wear the Yellow Jersey this year and now Omega Pharma Quickstep have to change their focus. It could be a stage for a breakaway to make but most likely it will all come down to the final climb.
The starts with a category 4 climb right from the beginning. Col de San Bastiano is only 3.4 km long but its average gradient of 4.6 % will make a perfect place for a breakaway to be established. 15 km later, it’s time for the intermediate sprint and with the pure sprinters gone for the stage win, Cavendish and Greipel need to get points here.
There are only 117 km to go from the intermediate sprint and this short stage will be another fast one. Starting on the second climb of the day, there riders face 80 hilly km before the final climb. The hills are not very steep but in high speed and without time to relax they will make a big impact on the peloton.
With about 17 km to go it’s time for the final struggle of the day; Col de Marsolino. This category 2 climb is only 3.3 km long but it has an average gradient of 8.3 %. It’s steep near the top and the narrow road will see the favorites fight hard to be in front starting on the descent. Crossing the top, there are 13.5 km to the finishing line and it’s crucial to be in front. The view from the top of Col de Marsolino is absolutely spectacular but it will only be for the fans and maybe the grupetto to admire. The first couple of kilometers of the descent are not easy at all and it will be difficult keeping the front group together.
|The view from the top of Col de Marsolino|
from the side the riders climb.
Coming down from the climb, the riders turn left with 9 km to go. The following 8.5 km take place in head wind with only one roundabout to overcome. It won’t be easy for a lonely rider to keep the peloton at bay. Still, as we saw on Stage 2; a small group of riders can make it if the peloton hesitates again. There is another roundabout with 500 meters to go and from hereon it’s straight out towards the line - tail wind all the way.
Looking at the profile of the stage, the big favorite has to be Peter Sagan. Cannondale missed out on Stage 2 as they didn’t have a strong enough team to close the gap. Sagan had to start his sprint early and even though he didn’t catch Jan Bakelants, he had no problems keeping the rest behind him. The Slovakian Champion managed to get important points to for the Green Jersey but he didn’t get much closer to the Yellow Jersey. In fact, it will be more than difficult for Sagan to rip the jersey of Bakelants’ shoulder tomorrow. Sagan’s plan was to wear yellow on the team time trial and for that to happen, he needs to drop Bakelants and the rest of the riders in front of him in Calvi. I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to do it after all but Radioshack have a very strong team to defend the lead. I think Sagan will win the stage and take the Green Jersey but Bakelants will most likely stay in yellow.
The biggest threat to Peter Sagan is probably Michal Kwiatkowski. The Polish Champion is very fast on the line and he will be eager to hold on to his White Jersey. Omega Pharma Quickstep also have Sylvain Chavanel to play and I will be surprised not to see Chavanel attack in the final. He gambled – and lost – on Stage 2 when he didn’t want to close the gap to Bakelants. It would have been a great birthday gift for the French animateur but at least he has another chance on Stage 3. Chavanel shouldn’t have problems getting over the final climb and as a great descender, he may have a chance making it this time.
Another rider who has a very good chance on this stage is Simon Gerrans. The former Australian Champion was leadout man for Daryl Impey on Stage 2. Unfortunately Impey faded towards the line and is now “only” 4th overall. Gerrans himself moved up to 6th overall and in my opinion Stage 3 is a lot more suited for Gerrans than Impey. GreenEdge also have Michael Albasini but I think it would make more sense setting up Simon Gerrans in the final sprint. He’s fast and motivated and Gerrans’ success rate has been pretty good this season. He won in Catalunya and Pais Vasco the two days the team went for him and he has started out this Tour in a very strong way.
|The final 5 km of the stage.|
Radioshack will work hard to defend the Yellow Jersey and with that in mind, I doubt a morning breakaway will make it to the line. The teams with GC contenders also need to save some energy for the team time trial on Tuesday and that could hold back many domestique riders who usually would try on a stage like this. I think Peter Sagan will be very focused on not missing out a third day in a row. Cannondale (Sagan), Omega Pharma Quickstep (Kwiatkowski/Chavanel) and GreenEdge (Gerrans, Albasini & Impey) should be able to work together during the stage and control the race. Surely, some riders will try to get away on the final climb and I expect Pierre Rolland to attack in order to keep his Polka Dot Jersey. His teammate Thomas Voeckler is another good candidate but he can hardly be considered a joker.
As you can probably see, I don’t think the jokers have much chance on this stage. Still, I wouldn’t be fun not to mention one. Therefore, look to Julien El Fares. Sojasun didn’t start out Stage 2 in a very a good way but they still ended up with Julien Simon 3rd overall anyway. The French wildcard team now need to show their team colors and looking at the stage profile, this could be a good day for Julien El Fares. He can cope with these climbs and he’s semi-fast on the line. El Fares finished 7th overall in Tour de Luxembourg two weeks ago and he’s clearly in good shape. The Tour will soon reach his home roads - more on that when it happens - but I think this stage is good for him too.
Favorites: Peter Sagan / Simon Gerrans
Joker: Julien El Fares
For live race coverage go to Steephill.tv.
Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 3: