This year’s Tour de France has attracted one of the strongest fields of top sprinters that we have seen at the race for several years now. Thus today’s course should catch their eye with great interest, as the 223.5km passage from Granville to Angers which forms Stage 3, has surely been circled as another opportunity for the fastest men on two wheels to take a victory. The day is casually rolling throughout, though the wind is likely to be a greater stress for the riders, but the finale is set to be contested upon an incline of 2.5% to the line; the favourites will need to negotiate a technical run in to get there first however.
Mark Cavendish took the first stage and the first yellow jersey of 2016’s Tour de France on Saturday, so has already proven that he is not a man to be underestimated amongst the battle royale of sprinters right now. Cavendish will no doubt have studied today’s final few kilometres and understand that he will need to be extremely alert to ensure he does not get distanced during the twisting ride to the finishing straight. Though his team cannot compete at the level of the bigger names here, his technical abilities have been honed through years of dominance and it would be no great surprise to see him ride a rival’s wheel before coming around and winning.
André Greipel has the best leadout train at this year’s Tour de France and is likely to be the favourite to win here after his teammates have stifled his rivals chances of hitting the home straight first. We have seen Greipel deliver the finishing blow after such hardwork from his supporting cast, and unless he loses the wheel of Greg Henderson as he did in Stage 1 again, the German powerhouse could prove impossible to beat.
Marcel Kittel is once again the fastest man in this race, but today’s uphill finish is likely to blunt his ultimate turn of speed. The Etixx team are certain to be the biggest threat to Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal leadout in the final kilometers and there is bound to be some ‘elbows out’ action as they duke it out to be first through the final bend. If Kittel does manage to exit first onto the finishing straight, then his faster turn of pace might be enough to establish a gap on the drag to the line before his rivals can begin bringing him back.
Peter Sagan could very well pick up his second victory in three days and do so in the yellow jersey as the race’s current leader. His skill at surfing the wheels solo amidst the maelstrom of the bunch is well documented and the uphill finish only improves his chances of winning here yet further still. Sagan will favour this technical and short sprint immensely in order to chalk up another win; certainly a danger to the clear favourites.
Bryan Coquard would be sold short with the title of being an outside here, but given the quality of the competition it is easy to appreciate why he might be flying under the radar somewhat here. The Frenchman has enjoyed an extremely successful year thus far and has won previously on this type of technical and short finish where a potent acceleration can beat those with a faster top speed. He will need to be on top form here to beat the likes of Sagan, Greipel and Kittel, but the motivation of racing near home might just be enough to swing it for him.
Michael Matthews looked on course to fight for the win yesterday, but just came up short as Julian Alaphilippe opened up his sprinter to take Peter Sagan with him. The Australian does appear to be in strong form however and this slight incline could be the ideal springboard up to the finish line to secure him a win.
1st Peter Sagan 2nd Bryan Coquard 3rd André Greipel