Brad on a Bike: Eurosport had Bradley Wiggins, a one-time broadcasting buddy of Max Rushden and I on Talksport (Sunday mornings, don’t touch that dial!) on the back of a motorbike yesterday, gadding up and down the course, armed with a microphone and chatting to riders (which is presumably frowned upon race officials) and assorted other folk involved in the race. It proved quite the hit. There’s a short clip in the tweet below, but you can click on this link to see extended highlights.
151km to go: The breakaway group is travelling at an average speed of 38km per hour. One of them, Yoann Ofredo, has dropped back to his team car for something or other – a snack or help from a mechanic, one presumes. Back in the bunch, riders from Jumbo-Visma, Quick Step and Astana are prominent towards the front of the bunch.
153km to go: The gap from the breakaway to the bunch is out to 3min 25sec. The three gentlemen in said escape party are all between 15 and 16 minutes behind race leader Julian Alaphilippe on GC.
159km to go: Sod’s law decrees that the second I leave my post, we have a crash. Cofidis riders Natnael Berhane and Pierre-Luc Perichon hit the deck but are both back on their bikes and have rejoined the peloton. We’ve have had no abandonments in this year’s Tour yet and all 176 riders are all still upright. Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang is riding in some discomfort, however, following a nasty crash in stage one.
“I’m not at 100%”, he said this morning. “I’m still struggling a little bit but it’s okay. I feel better every day. It’s about saving as much as possible on a day like today: stay out of trouble and not getting stuck behind a crash. On a Tour de France, there is nothing such as an easy day where you can relax completely. I didn’t say exactly I could cover Alaphilippe’s move. I just knew he was going to attack and I considered following his move, but I decided that I shouldn’t waste energy on that as I am focusing on the GC.”
Global Cycling Network: While your reporter pulls into the side of the road for a quick comfort break, feel free to enjoy these highlights from yesterday’s stage three, courtesy of the good people at the GCN.
171km to go: Our three-man breakaway group of Michael Schär (CCC), Yoann Offredo (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) are 2min 59sec clear of the bunch as they cycle past the Porte Sainte Croix in Chalons-en-Champagne.
Yesterday’s big loser: Rohan Dennis had a nightmare day yesterday, with the 29-year-old world time trial champion from Australia losing over eight minutes. In an interview with Velo News before this year’s Tour, he told them he didn’t have GC ambitions for this year’s race and would be chasing stage wins instead. It’s just as well.
“I haven’t done the preparation for three weeks, so I’m not going to bite off more than I can chew at a Grand Tour, let alone the Tour de France when I haven’t done the preparation,” he said.
Mitchelton Scott stage three diary: Here’s yesterday’s offering from the Aussie team. Warning: may contain the phrase “man titties”.
184km to go: There are noticeable crosswinds, which are always capable of splitting the peloton if they get too strong, so several of teams have made their way to the front of the peloton. Team Inios (nee Sky) are up there, as are Thibaut Pinot’s Groupama-FDJ. There’s also a a few riders from Nairo Quintan’s Movistar team and Adam Yates’s Mitchelton-Scott. The yellow jersey has also moved to the front of the bunch.
Today’s climbs: There are two Category 4 speed-bumps to negotiate in today’s largely flat stage, so the first rider over the top of each will get one point. Tim Wellens leads the King of the Mountains standings after his aggressive ride yesterday and is guaranteed to keep his polka-dot jersey for another day as long as he finishes today’s stage within the time limit.
Today’s intermediate sprint: Lerouville is the venue for today’s intermediate sprint, 66.4km from the finish line. Peter Sagan is currently in green, as is customary, having amassed 76 points. Michael Matthews is second with 59 points and Sonny Corlbrelli is third with 54.
196km to go: Our three man breakaway of Michael Schär (CCC), Yoann Offredo (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) has opened a gap of 2min 48sec on the bunch, which is of course being towed along by Tony Martin (Jumbo- Visma).
There is no sense of urgency whatsoever in either group, with both enjoying the sunshine and scenery as they head through the Champagne region. The vineyards on either side of the road will soon be replaced by barley.
The Maillot Jaune speaks: “I struggled to fall asleep last night,” said Julian Alaphillipe, in an interview with French TV ahead of today’s roll-out. “I displayed the yellow jersey on top of the television to make sure that I’d see it at wake-up. Last year I already got a lot of support from the public but this morning, about 150 people were cheering for me outside of my hotel. I’ll enjoy every kilometre I’ll ride with the yellow jersey. I’m overwhelmed and proud. It was an exploit yesterday but on my favourite terrain. I’m not a favourite for winning the Tour de France. Today, we’ll control the race especially because we want Elia Viviani to win in Nancy.”
208km to go: A very, very long day indeed. The breakaway is rolling along at a fairly sedate pace, apparently safe in the knowledge that nobody in the peloton can be bothered trying to chase and join them.
Your breakaway: Michael Schär (CCC), Yoann Offredo (Wanty–Groupe Gobert) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty–Groupe Gobert).
213.5km to go: They’re off and “racing” although there’s no discernible change in pace apart from that of the small group of just three riders who have shot off into the distance. This could be a very long day for them … and us.
The roll-out is underway: The peloton is on the move, led by the gentlemen in the picture below and rolling along behind the red Skoda containing race director Christian Prudhomme. He’ll emerge from the sunroof and give the signal to begin racing with a wave of his yellow flag in three kilometres time.
Stage three review …
Julian Alaphillipe’s late breakaway enabled him to take both the stage win and the yellow jersey. Jeremy Whittle was there to see it …
Stage 4: Reims to Nancy (213.5km)
From William Fotheringham’s stage by stage -guide: A second long day in a row, but this one will end in a bunch sprint unless it rains and there is some action over the final climb, 15km from the finish. It’s a typical first-week stage, largely main roads and the scenario should be classic: early break, late catch, scary sprint. There aren’t that many opportunities for the flat-road sprinters in this Tour, so again it will be Caleb Ewan, and André Greipel in the mix, although the hill close to the finish will favour all-rounders such as Elia Viviani.