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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

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Tour de France stage three team news

We have to start with Dimension Data's report:

Mark Cavendish stole the show during stage 3 of the Tour de France by powering to an incredible photo finish sprint victory over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). It would be the 28th Tour de France stage win of the Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka sprinters career, and his 2nd victory at this year’s edition of the race after his stage 1 triumph.

It was a long 223km haul from Granville to Angers, and when only Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo Vital Concept) tried his luck in the early break, it resulted in a rather pedestrian like stage. Fonseca was allowed a maximum lead of just over 9 minutes as the peloton knew they could bring the lone Frenchman back at will. Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) decided to join the lone escapee with 80km to go but being a flat stage, the writing was on the wall, it was going to be a sprint finish.

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were again looking to deliver Cavendish to prime position for the finale in Angers, after extensive research went into the final kilometers of the stage by our African Team. With 8km to go and the break caught, our African Team started putting its plan into action as Bernhard Eisel lined Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Mark Renshaw up in front of Mark Cavendish.

The young South African, Janse van Rensburg, was instrumental in determining the final result as he put in a huge turn from 6.5km to go until 2.5km to go. Boasson Hagen was then in control as the pelotot went under the kilometer to go banner, before Renshaw piloted Cavendish to prime position from where to launch his sprint. The Manxman came off the wheel of the German champion in the final 150m, as both riders lunged for the line. The finish-line photo showed that Cavendish had won by a mere tyres width over Greipel and Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) took 3rd place.

Stage 3 finish

Mark Cavendish just gets the stage win.

Another incredible win for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka and Mark Cavendish, who is now, with 28 stage wins, tie 2nd with Bernard Hinault for the most number of stage wins at the Tour de France ever. After today’s magnificent team effort, Cavendish moved into the lead in the Green Jersey points competition with 123 points and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) 2nd, on 116 points.

Mark Cavendish – Rider: "I am incredibly happy with this second win at the Tour de France. We planned it for a long time this morning, we had a long team meeting about how the finish would go and it went pretty much exactly how we planned. It’s good that the guys stayed calm and collected. It would have been easy for them to have pulled and then got out of the way with the hectic final, but they stayed patient. Edvald stayed patient, Mark stayed patient and then at the right minute I was able to get on Andre Greipel’s wheel. I knew he’d hit it early, actually he was stronger than I thought he’d be. Andre has guts, he rides like that. I actually didn’t beat him in the sprint, I beat him with the lunge. This is another great win for the team but more importantly, it raises the profile of Qhubeka yet again, and that is the reason we are here."

For Lotto-Soudal, the stage didn't quite bring the same joy. Here's their news:

The Tour left the French coast on the third day, with a stage from Granville to Angers. As expected the day ended with a bunch sprint, it was close but the photo finish showed Mark Cavendish was a tad faster than André Greipel.

A big part of the stage was ridden at a rather easy pace. Again, the first break was successful, this time it was a solo of Armindo Fonseca. In the peloton, that had the situation under control, riders were chatting. With ninety kilometres to go, over halfway, it was enough for Thomas Voeckler and he decided to join Fonseca at the front. Lotto Soudal did most of the chasing and the two leaders remained within reach. A bunch sprint was unavoidable. Jürgen Roelandts pulled the sprint for André Greipel and the German champion seemed to be winning, but Mark Cavendish beat him on the finish line.

Stage 3 finish

Cavendish and Greipel were close.

André Greipel: “This is such a pity. I lost with only a few millimetres difference, Cavendish was just a bit faster. It was a chaotic end of the stage. In the last six to seven kilometres it was difficult to stay together as a team. Anyway, Jürgen Roelandts managed to let me start the sprint in a good position. My gear was too big for the steep finish and that might have made me lose. Nonetheless, Cavendish showed again how strong he is, it would not be wise to underestimate him, this is his 28th stage win at the Tour after all. But with the team we proved we are capable of winning and tomorrow we’ll aim again for the stage win.”

Tinkoff sent me this update:

After a bittersweet victory for the team yesterday with Peter Sagan winning and taking the team's first yellow jersey while GC leader Alberto Contador lost time after another heavy fall, stage 3 was a much steadier affair. Leaving the northern coastal region behind – along with its punishing wind and rain – the Tour de France made its way south for the second longest stage. In spite of the efforts of a lone breakaway, the gruelling distance took its toll and the predicted bunch sprint to the line took place. After protecting his yellow jersey and doing his role as race leader proud, Peter contested the sprint and was unlucky not to add to his stage win tally, taking fourth in a hotly-contested finish in Angers.

After two days in Normandy, the Tour de France left the northern coast and headed inland. Starting in Granville, the peloton made its way nearly due south to the city of Angers, where the finish, in spite of a slight ramp to the line, was made for the sprinters. One of the longest stages of this year’s Tour, at 223.5km, the question was who would still have the legs to contest the sprint after a long day’s racing.

While there was only one categorised climb – the fourth category Côte de Villedieu-les-Poêles – a gentle 4.4%, 1.5km ascent, the rest of the stage – especially the 60km immediately following the climb of the day, was undulating, and was bound to sap the energy reserves of the riders.

The day saw an early breakaway, however only one rider went from the start of the stage. With such a long day ahead, a solo breakaway was going to have difficulty staying up the road for the full distance, yet after a short time, the gap was out to almost six minutes, extending that advantage to more than eleven minutes after only 40km of racing.

This would be the most the gap would amount to, as the yellow jersey holder, Peter Sagan, gently raised the pace in the peloton with the support of his Tinkoff teammates. While the lone breakaway rider was joined by another from 80km out, the peloton started closing the gap, quickly reducing their advantage from five minutes to around a minute with 30km remaining. After a fairly gentle first half of the stage, the pace went up to 45km/h for the second half as once again the sprint teams started to work to bring their rider into position.

The team’s approach today was two-pronged – to protect the yellow jersey of Peter Sagan, but also to ensure Alberto Contador was kept safe in the bunch to support his recovery and help him to heal, as Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, explained. “It was quite a steady stage today, tranquillo. We're lucky that today there were no crashes for us and we could go through the motions. That is firstly the main thing as yesterday was a big impact for Alberto and we knew that he would be hurting this morning. The plan was to defend the jersey but with one guy out the front that made they job fairly easy and we also had some help from the other sprint teams. So it was quite easy to control and close the gap so that was good for us.”

After such a long time out ahead, even having been joined by a second rider, the break was starting to fade. After riding alone for 200km, that hard effort was starting to show as the gap dropped first to 50” and then down to 20” with 15km remaining. While the peloton wouldn’t want to make the catch too soon, it was certain that the day wouldn’t be taken by the break, and with 8km to go, the catch was made and it was all on for the sprint finish.

As the remaining kilometres ticked by, the pace rose exponentially to furious levels. In spite of the ramp up to the finish, the fast men wanted to go for the win and their trains dominated the roads of Angers. Once again surfing the wheels of the other teams, the UCI World Champion kept his rivals in his sights as the peloton stretched out, but on the final bend he was caged in by the other teams and in spite of a strong sprint where he jumped several places, was just beaten to the line, taking fourth position. Keeping yellow after today’s result, the Slovakian rider will start his second day in the Maillot Jaune tomorrow.

While Peter was unlucky not to take the win, he was pleased with the way the race unfolded, and to have been in a position to contest the sprint after a long, hard day. “It was a long day, 220km - we did the first part very slow then the last 20km got very interesting. I'm very happy to not crash and hold the yellow jersey, which was my goal. For sure I have to try also for the points for the sprint. The finish was again crazy but that's sprinting. Everybody wanted to be at the front - but I'm here with yellow still in one piece so that's already nice.”

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan just after the stage finish

Today was the race’s second longest stage; tomorrow is the longest. The 237.5km route is both long and punishing with a parcours that from the 140km point rises steadily upwards, taking in a fourth category climb on the way. Cresting at 210km, it’s downhill to the finish in Limoges with just the slightest kick up to the finish. A breakaway is a certainty, but will they be able to stay out in front on such a long and demanding stage?

For De Jongh, the plan from today carries over into tomorrow. “Tomorrow it will be a case of doing the same again, looking after Alberto so he can continue to recover and then we will see what we can do with Peter for the sprint, but we take it day by day.”

Going into the longest day with the yellow jersey, Peter was keen to do the Maillot Jaune justice and keep it safe, while also giving the finish his best shot. “Tomorrow is another sprint so I'll try again and I will see day by day how long I can hold on to the jersey.”

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's release:

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to 10th in the third stage of the Tour de France today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter was unable to re-find his position in the team’s lead out in the final kilometre. Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) won his second stage.

Before the third stage of the Tour de France, Dylan Groenewegen said that it was going to be important to stay together with his team-mates in the final kilometres of the stage. He succeeded in that aim up until the final kilometre.

“I lost the men for a while,” Groenewegen explained. “Timo Roosen almost crashed, everyone braked at that point, accept me. I passed our train on the right side and lost them. I wanted to take my position afterwards, but Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) boxed me in.

“I’m in the top 10, but I’m not quite happy with a tenth place. At least, we are improving and we did a good job as a team today. In the end, you need a little bit of luck as well. We don’t have to be scared that were not good enough. We are and we want to show it another time in this Tour de France.”

Robert Wagner shared in that conviction. “It went very well, actually,” the German added. “We came in the right moment, Timo Roosen delivered a very strong job and when we passed Dylan with one kilometre to go. I counted on him to be in my slipstream. He wasn’t, unfortunately.

“We’re pushing with a lot of sprint lead-outs and rode towards the finish line at 70 kilometres an hour. You have to stay focussed at the same time, and that’s difficult at such a pace. You barely hear anything and are full of adrenaline. You need a lot of luck and I’m convinced that Dylan will get his chance in this Tour de France.”

“I’ve seen a lot of good things today,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman added. “A lot of things always happen in the bunch sprint, but I think that the team did a great job. Everyone fulfilled his tasks. There is one crucial moment when Timo had to make a manoeuvre and Dylan lost the lead-out. At that moment, Sep Vanmarcke and Robert wanted to pick him up, a fight for the right position started between Dylan and Kristoff, and Dylan didn’t come out well. That’s a pity, because Dylan delivered a strong sprint, but came from too far behind.”

And finally, here's BMC's stage 3 report:

4 July, 2016, Angers (FRA): Stage 3 of the Tour de France saw the peloton tackle one of the longest stages of this year's edition at 223.5 kilometers, which ended in a bunch sprint won by Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data).

The peloton waited for the final 50 kilomoters to increase their pace to catch a two-rider breakaway, reeling them in eight kilometers from the finish line.

The final ten kilometers was far from the relaxed pace the peloton enjoyed for most of the stage with the sprinters' teams engaging in a hectic battle to the line. Cavendish edged out Andre Greipel in a photo finish.

Tejay van Garderen gained a couple of places on the General Classification and now sits in 16th place.

Richie Porte: "It's [the stage] slow but then you know it's going to be more hectic in the final which it was in the last 60 kilometers. It was super fast and quite dangerous but it's another day ticked off. It's still six hours on the bike. It's not hard enough to be a race but you're still not recovering. Fingers crossed that it's a little bit faster tomorrow but each day is a day closer to the goal."

Greg Van Avermaet: "Today's stage is a different type of race, more for the sprinters. And when you only have one guy in the front it's a bit boring and no one really wants to chase. But then the final is pretty hectic as everyone still has fresh legs, so it's pretty hard to be up there. It's pretty risky so I'm happy that it's over and we're all safe and on the same time."

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "After two complicated days with the weather and narrow roads today was a day more for recovery but the last 30 kilometers today was tricky, very complicated and a stage where we really need to help the leaders. It was a long day with this breakaway and tomorrow we have a similar stage, so we'll be looking to keep our leaders, Richie and Tejay, safe."

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