Sometimes the kilometres do little to separate the expectations of the day from the reality of it, in other words, if you expect Julian Alaphilippe to win, he is probably going to win. Putting yesterday to one side, Stage 3 is a 198km route from Nice to Sisteron featuring a total of four categorised climbs, though nothing in particular to strike fear into the hearts of the riders. Sprinters shall be eager to seize the day, and being honest, they will have had to endure a total nightmare for it not to result in a gallop.
The opening stage of this year’s Tour de France was far from ideal conditions to truly assess the form of the sprinters, but it was Sam Bennett who caught the eye, turning in a strong run to the line after a tumultuous day. Though he enjoyed a sprint relatively free of impinging, it did seem as if too many matches had been burned early on. If his immensely strong lead out train swings into action, rather than protect teammate Alaphilippe, then the Irishman is the favourite on paper to win Stage 3.
It was a difficult opening day for Giacomo Nizzolo, who then found himself boxed in with the finish line rapidly approaching, eventually missing out on the podium entirely. However, the feeling is that a good day for NTT Pro Cycling and an ideal run into Sisteron for Nizzolo could well result in victory for the National and European road race champion.
He was an unexpected winner on the opening day, but lightning can definitely strike twice when it comes to Alexander Kristoff, even if going it alone for the most part on Stage 3. The Norwegian shall relish the parcours and potential for crosswinds, if the weather chooses to bless the peloton with a dose of riding in the gutter. The rising nature of the finale, in combination with the distance and potential headwind, shall definitely play into his hands.
World Champion Mads Pedersen looks extremely strong right now and there is little reason to argue against his hopes of winning on Stage 3. He will find plenty of support from his teammates on the road to Sisteron, and though it is likely to prove less arduous than the opening day, Pedersen is bound to still be in the mix.
Elia Viviani will feel underestimated by many at this year’s Tour de France due to his recent transfer to Cofidis, a French outfit with a particular fondness for not winning at their domestic grand tour. The Italian looked indomitable at times during his tenure at Quick-Step, but shall be hoping that the door opens late on for him to showcase his innate talent.
It has not been a great time for Caleb Ewan, now finding himself without both Philippe Gilbert and John Degenkolb, firepower which he will have wanted in the final moments of today. However, he does suit the concluding moments of Stage 3 and should have the form to challenge for the podium at least if positioned well enough.
1st Giacomo Nizzolo 2nd Sam Bennett 3rd Elia Viviani