Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

We once again arrive at the processional stage into Paris, Chris Froome having joined the exclusive club of four time Tour de France winners, despite never truly appearing to be the strongest rider in contention for the yellow jersey. Stage 21 will be a chance to relax for the Team Sky captain and his fellow riders, the common sight of champagne flutes being passed around the group, as others share family messages to the cameramen who have stalked them since the departure in Düsseldorf. The stage itself is 103km from Montgeron to the iconic finale upon the Champs Élysées, featuring a total of eight laps around the capital, each proving more hectic than the last. Though many riders like to escape the bunch over the Parisian cobblestones, seldom do their efforts steal the win, this being a day for the sprinters to dominate. Having lost Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and Arnaud Démare during the race, it may well prove a harder to control race than previously anticipated.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

André Greipel has already been backed by his fellow sprinters to secure another victory upon the Champs Élysées, a consistent performer when it comes to this tricky stage, the German now appears to be the fastest man left at the race. Despite having lost a key component of his leadout train in the shape of Marcel Sieberg, the team still have enough in reserve to offer him a protected ride into the final decisive turn of this curtain call upon 2017’s Tour de France. Assuming he is placed into the ideal position from which to sprint from, then it is unlikely that anyone else will be able to match the speed of the ‘Gorilla’.

Nacer Bouhanni will do well to redeem his Tour de France by taking a surprise win on the final day, having had to endure a pretty torrid time throughout. Seemingly spending more time throwing punches then concentrating on the task at hand, the fiery Frenchman has spurned several opportunities at the race which looked ideal territory for him to win from. Morale is not great at Cofidis, so they could do with a win to say the least, yet it will take a lot of effort to muster something resembling a serious charge for Parisian glory today.

Alexander Kristoff is another rider who has recorded a consistent level of results on this familiar conclusion to Le Tour de France, though has been unfortunate to miss out when it comes to crossing the line first. Last week he may well have emerged as the new favourite to win, but a serious fall which catapulted him hard onto the tarmac has dented his chances. Having recorded one of the slowest times in yesterday’s time trial, it is difficult to gauge if he is really suffering badly or simply saving his efforts for a stage he still believes he can win. The technical demands, positional requirements and draining cobblestones are all typical features of a Kristoff victory, and if he has truly recovered, then expect him to be pushing for the win as ever.

Edvald Boasson Hagen finally took a well deserved stage win a couple of days ago, but will not be content with just that, as this has the potential to be another feather in the cap of the Norwegian at the end of 2017’s Tour de France. Now looking to be one of the freshest fast men still at the race, Team Dimension Data are likely to be a dominant force at the head of the peloton during the deciding laps around Paris, ensuring nobody dangerous gains too great a gap on the bunch. In terms of leadout, the Norwegian can expect to have the best on offer, though it is hard to say how hard he had to dig for his recent victory and whether they may have blunted his chances as a result.

Others expected to feature amongst the top ten on Stage 21 are Dylan GroenewegenBen SwiftMichael Matthews and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st André Greipel 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

Having dealt with the Alps for another year, the race begins to settle down to terrain resembling something flatter during the final days of 2017’s Tour de France. Starting in Embrun, the day gets off to a lumpy start with the Category 3 pairing of Col Lebraut (4.7 km, avg 5.8%) and Côte de Bréziers (2.3 km, avg 5.6%), though eventually settles into a manageable rhythm of gently rising and falling roads. Having continued pushing onwards through the intermediate sprint at Banon, a downhill section leads into the foot of the Category 3 Col du Pointu, lasting for 5.8km and possessing an average gradient of 4.1%. From here it is essentially a flat run into the finish at Salon-de-Provence to complete their 222.5km day in the saddle. However, those hoping to take the win in a sprint finish will need to negotiate a technically demanding finale, one with a couple of roundabouts and numerous tight bends.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 19 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews shall still be motivated to score points in the green jersey competition, even if only to hammer home the fact he has won it through great skill and not simply the abandonment of Marcel Kittel. The length of today’s stage suits him well, as does the terrain, but it is the flat and technical finale which looks set to cause trouble for the Australian sprinter. Though his last victory came about after having to sail through a couple of tight bends before the finish line, this appears to be a more demanding finale and one which is unlikely to see a rider like Edvald Boasson Hagen make the same mistake twice. Regardless, his form is fantastic at this point of the race and it feels like there is not a challenge Team Sunweb cannot rise to achieve right now.

André Greipel would be surprised if he left this year’s Tour de France without a stage victory, especially given the number of favourable days and the departures of Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare and Marcel Kittel. Today however does not look ideal for the powerful German sprinter, a rider notorious for becoming lost amongst the maelstrom of a tricky finish such as this. A fan of long power based sprints, Greipel will not be afforded such a luxury on Stage 19, though must not be ruled out given his pedigree at this level. His leadout train is diminished, making life harder still, but this could be an ideal test run of how to adapt ahead of a more desirable victory on the Champs Élysées.

Alexander Kristoff survived a nasty spill during Stage 17, crashing as a result of striking a rut in the road while descending one handed in order eat, sending him sailing through the air and crashing to the ground. Having gained several abrasions and “a slightly dislocated shoulder”, there were suggestions he would not be able to finish yesterday’s ascent of the Col d’Izoard, but the tough Norwegian proved this was simply not the case. A fully fit Kristoff would normally be favourite for this type of finish, so his recent injuries shall certainly prove even more frustrating for him on a day which plays to his strengths. The final kilometres could erupt into a head to head battle for the line as tired leadout trains begin to fall apart, giving him the chance to pounce and gain a reward for his steely determination to survive.

Edvald Boasson Hagen probably still thinks about how he should have taken the final bends of Stage 16, as a neater line would surely have sent him sailing past Michael Matthews in the final moments. Still on the hunt for a win at this year’s Tour de France, his Team Dimension Data squad have worked hard to produce competitive performances in the absence of Mark Cavendish, often finding themselves within touching distance of a breakthrough. He potentially sees himself possessing the best leadout train now present at the race, which is more than capable of launching the obviously strong Boasson Hagen onwards to a belated win. If there was going to be one stage for everything to finally click into place, for both team and rider, then Stage 19 is surely the occasion for it to happen.

Nacer Bouhanni has proven to be a great disappointment at Le Tour de France this year and does not realistically look like obtaining his first stage win at his native grand tour anytime soon. He does favour these twisting conclusions to the day however and still has a reasonably strong outfit of riders in place to guide him through the final kilometres as best as possible. His greatest weapon is his acceleration, rather than his top speed or power, making this short finishing straight ideal for his skills to step into the spotlight upon. Likely to be hiding on the wheel of bigger names in the last moments of the stage, Bouhanni’s best tactic will be to burst forth from behind the frontrunner with a perfectly executed burst of pace.

John Degenkolb held issues with the way in which Michael Matthews sprinted on Stage 16, though few professionals or pundits suggested that the German was correct to believe himself hindered by the Australian’s late manoeuvre. This hectic charge to the finishing line does not play to his strengths at all unfortunately, yet there is no denying that on paper he is now one of the fastest riders remaining. His second place finish behind Matthews showed that he can cope with a few late turns and does not deserve to be ruled out entirely because of previous form on similar finishes. The final week of a grand tour is always difficult to anticipate, but it would be a surprise to not see Degenkolb amongst the first five riders home.

Others to consider are Dylan GroenewegenSonny ColbrelliGreg Van Avermaet and Ben Swift.

 

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Michael Matthews

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

The first stage back after a rest day always generates a degree of trepidation for the riders, as some return feeling fresher after a day free of the rigours of racing, while others sense their form begin to go off the boil. Signalling the return to the saddle for the peloton is an 165km trip from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-Sur-Isère, offering little in the way of easing the riders back into the swing of things with its immediate uphill start. The opening rise forms the Category 3 Côte de Boussoulet, a 4.5km long ascent which averages a hard to ignore 6.3% gradient throughout its slopes. From its summit the road continues to roll for around another 40km, eventually tackling the relatively short Col du Rouvey and its subsequent fast descent. After dropping into the valley, the road does not feature a great deal of topographical challenges, though crosswinds could play a pivotal role in deciding the composition of any leading group late in the day. Whoever does reach the final kilometre first will face a very technically demanding run into the finishing line itself, with tight turns and roundabouts packed in to make things even more stressful. It may even prove tempting for some sprinters to chance their luck in the day’s breakaway in order to avoid such a hectic conclusion to Stage 16.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Alexander Kristoff is a master at measuring his efforts when the crosswinds begin scything apart the peloton, even going as far as to say he enjoys their destructive nature and the familiarity it brings having spent much time cycling along the Norwegian coastline. His main goal will be to survive the opening climb within touching distance of his main rivals for Stage 16, after which if successful, there will be a great chance for him to collect a Tour de France victory in 2017. With the winds potentially turning this into an arduous return to racing, combined with a technical finale, Kristoff should be able to emerge as a major contender for stage honours here.

Michael Matthews and his team will appreciate how crucial today could prove in the battle for the green jersey, having already secured a brilliant stage win in the absence of Marcel Kittel before the rest day. Stage 16 is another chance to turn the screw on the dominant German sprinter, likely aiming to make racing hard from the very start and hoping to drop Kittel as soon as possible. Though not renowned for his prowess in crosswinds, his teammates do offer plenty of experience in surviving the challenges it throws their way, so Matthews is likely to be in safe hands. A harder day will blunt the top end speed of his faster rivals, while the late turns and road furniture could derail a few leadout trains too, but he will need to be in the leading group before he can worry about victory. Matthews will be contesting this on an almost flat finish, so everything will need to fall perfectly into place if he is to stand a chance of winning and cutting the lead of Marcel Kittel upon the maillot vert.

Greg Van Avermaet could prove to have eyes upon joining the day’s breakaway if able to muster the sort of form we have previously seen from the classics specialist at Le Tour de France. He knows that life will be hard if a bunch kick ends up deciding the day, especially given the lack of incline, but the Belgian has a great chance of being the fastest rider present if he smuggles himself aboard a successful move. Unlikely to fear life in the crosswinds, Avermaet will know how to look after himself as best as possible and even identify the riders who are most likely to contribute towards forming a breakaway which will survive a day out front.

John Degenkolb looks to be on the up once again and Stage 16 does provide an opportunity which suits him more ideally than those which have already been sent his way. A powerful rider, Degenkolb is capable of producing the efforts required to make the cut if echelons form during the day; his immense strength a huge asset over his lighter weight sprinting rivals. Much like his countryman Marcel Kittel, his greatest challenge will be hauling himself up the opening climb of the day and ensuring he has enough left in reserve to battle it out in the final kilometres. He lacks team support to help him navigate the technical run into the finish, but a hard race could thin the ranks enough to give Degenkolb a better chance at victory.

Edvald Boasson Hagen shall certainly want to see his current form put to good use and is another rider who could potentially join the breakaway if he does not fancy his chances in a larger sprint at the end of the day. He can certainly climb well enough on his day to make the key moves, has the strength to manage life in the crosswinds and is often one of the freshest at the end of a tough race. Team Dimension Data have been working hard to produce a good result since the departure of Mark Cavendish, so should view Stage 16 as an opportunity to finally see their determination secure themselves a taste of victory once again.

Nacer Bouhanni has proven incredibly tough to gauge during this year’s Tour de France, though if he is returning to top form, then this will be the day to demonstrate so. With its anticipated nature and technical finale, Bouhanni has the tenacity required to ensure he finds himself stuck to the right wheel throughout Stage 16. Another fast finisher who lacks a convincing team support on days such as these, the Frenchman will no doubt see his chances of winning improve if the number of riders able to contest the outcome is greatly reduced by a hard race.

Other names to consider for both sprint and breakaway are Ben SwiftSonny ColbrelliStephen CummingsMarcel KittelDylan GroenewegenAndré Greipel and Davide Cimolai.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Greg Van Avermaet

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

A victory of great panache by Warren Barguil secured a back to back correct prediction for Spokenforks yesterday, tightening his grip upon the polka dot jersey and managing to take France’s first Bastille Day win at Le Tour since 2005. Today’s 181.5km course from Blagnac to Rodez will be a tougher affair to predict than yesterday, rolling terrain lending itself well to the ambitions of the breakaway, though an uphill finish to the day will have caught the eyes of several punchier sprinters and their teams. The first of two Category 3 ascents, Côte du viaduc du Viaur (2.3km, avg. 7%) is followed relatively quickly by the Côte de Centrès (2.3km, avg. 7%), neither of which are likely to cause much of an issue for breakaway or bunch alike. Though uncategorised by the race manual, a following rise is then apparent en route to Bonnecombe, which could potentially prove a useful launchpad as the break begins to fracture late on. The road starts to drop back down to Rodez, while the tension ratchets up ahead of the decisive climb of Côte de Saint-Pierre, which lasts just 570m and averages a tough 9.6%. Expectations are that an elite sprint finish will crown the day’s winner, though this is the Tour de France and life rarely goes to plan.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

Greg Van Avermaet has not shown his face a great deal at this year’s race, no doubt hoping to keep himself out of trouble and in good condition ahead of today’s finish, having previously won in Rodez at the Tour de France a couple of years ago. There will be a greater amount of pressure upon the Belgium to perform now BMC’s general classification hopes have left with Richie Porte in the back of an ambulance, but also a greater degree of team support as a result. With stage wins now the team’s main agenda, everyone will be fully aware of how ideal today’s finale is for Van Avermaet and they will do their utmost to control the race especially for him.

Michael Matthews should be motivated on a day which could help him massively in the green jersey competition, as the finish will be his greatest chance of taking a victory with Marcel Kittel firmly out of the picture. His team are on a high as of yesterday’s Bastille Day victory with Warren Barguil and will be hoping to continue their success with another strong showing on Stage 14. His climbing prowess has repeatedly allowed him to showcase how much stronger he is going uphill than many of his rivals, placing him in good stead for the tests expected here. A hard day and a hard ridden finish will favour Matthews, one of the most durable riders outside of the general classification big names, possessing a brilliant uphill sprinting talent to see it off emphatically.

Philippe Gilbert fits the bill well of a potential winner for Stage 14, having the endurance required to follow the rolling attacks and sprint convincingly over the Côte de Saint-Pierre in order to distance his opposition. His greatest strength will be the support, specifically positionally speaking, of his teammates as they guide him through the concluding half of this stage. The competition will be fierce for the win today, though Gilbert has the grit to suffer the punches and emerge sharpest when it matters most.

Diego Ulissi has carved out a talent for this style of finale, so should be looking upon this with eager eyes and serious conviction to be amongst the frontrunners on the Côte de Saint-Pierre. The Italian is not at his best right now, yet should be able to contest this outcome at least, given it being towards the lower end of his toughest career victories. UAE Team Emirates have focused plenty of effort in placing Louis Meintjes well in pursuit of the white jersey, though shall be eager to take a potential stage win by switching their support to the celebrated Italian for the day.

Sonny Colbrelli will no doubt have circled this as a day to aim for since the route was first released, but would surely have liked to be sat before it in stronger condition than currently seen to be riding in. Despite this fact, Colbrelli has done well at major races when somewhat below par by simply riding smarter than his rivals, maintaining freshness for the last push to the line. With limited team support, he may end up becoming swamped by the stronger teams around him late on, so might actually prefer a tougher selection process for the finale.

John Degenkolb does have form for producing brilliantly strong efforts upon late rises to the line, yet is likely to be further down the pecking order in Rodez as a result of lacking form and weaker team support. The German has not been able to produce the level of performance previously seen by him at Le Tour de France, but can expect to edge closer to victory now the race is getting tougher for the more lightweight sprinters. Powerful enough to grind a huge gear over such a short climb, this is well within his capabilities on paper, though has not shown enough up until now to suggest he will take the win.

Daniel Martin has survived his collision with Richie Porte relatively well, though yesterday’s post-race walk to the team bus did showcase just how much pain and bruising the Irishman has suffered as a result of his misfortune. Surprisingly strong yesterday, his teammates have rallied round him to accelerate his recovery as best as possible when riding a grand tour and he definitely looks dangerous enough to challenge for stage honours if the race lends itself to the maillot jaune group. This short and sharp conclusion to the day is ideal for Martin to attack upon, but it is not necessarily likely he will be in a position to do precisely that. If however the battle for the yellow jersey swallows up the day’s smaller moves, then Martin is the most likely to win from such an outcome.

Tony GallopinJan BakelantsEdvald Boasson HagenBen Swift and Alberto Bettiol could all cause an upset from either a breakaway or simply bursting forth from a bunch sprint when least expected.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Philippe Gilbert

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

A return to days in the saddle which stretch beyond the double century marker, Stage 11 makes its way from Eymet to the seemingly ever present Tour de France town of Pau. Totalling 203.5km from start to finish, there is very little in the way of elevation gain to worry about, with the vast majority of the day’s racing being contested upon flat roads. However, there is one recognised climb in the shape of the Category 4 Côte d’Aire-sur-l’Adour, which will be tackled after 145km of riding. The outcome should be another opportunity to witness a bunch kick, but with Marcel Kittel’s dominance only increasing, he may find allies wishing to chase down the day’s break alongside him dwindling; the escapees could cause a stir perhaps.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel has repeatedly turned in such ruthless performances at this year’s Tour de France, that it now seems futile to analyse his performance beyond the fact that nobody else seems near his level right now. Having surfed the wheels in the final kilometres with only a single leadout man to help him during yesterday, Kittel calmly found a route to the head of affairs and then proceeded to bury the competition with ease once again. If he finds rival teams willing to help control the day’s breakaway and eventually reel them in, then it looks like another victory is on the cards for the current green jersey holder.

Nacer Bouhanni and his Cofidis team did perform well on Stage 10, though it soon became apparent that the Frenchman is still unable to begin eating into Marcel Kittel’s lead once the sprinting kicks off at full speed. Though today’s finale contains a few roundabouts, it should prove less technically demanding than the previous day’s run to the finish, likely to make Bouhanni’s chances of winning smaller once again.

André Greipel saw the brilliant work of his Lotto-Soudal leadout train amount to nothing more than an unexpectedly poor 11th place finish on Stage 10. Having ridden hard in the final kilometres to shield their captain from the wind and convincingly marshall the front of the peloton, Greipel was unable to produce an effort capable of challenging Marcel Kittel as previously seen. As stated before, the longer the race goes on the better Lotto-Soudal’s chances will be of nabbing a stage win off Kittel, especially once the attritional nature sets in.

Dan McLay finally timed his sprint earlier than previously seen at this race, though admitted himself that starting so much earlier than his rivals was only ever going to result in him dying before the line. Regardless, the performance will have provided a degree of confidence to the British sprinter and he will now have greater insight to time his attack perfectly on the next attempt.

Alexander Kristoff has seen his leadout team work well so far, but they will have to work wonders if they are to catapult the Norwegian beyond the blistering acceleration of Marcel Kittel. This longer distance will favour Kristoff, though it is not gruelling enough to really bring his grittiest talents into play en route to Pau. If they can lean upon Quick – Step to commit an even greater effort to the chase, then their extra energy might be able to put Alexander Kristoff in a favourable position heading into this relatively short 600m finishing straight.

Other sprinters likely to contest the day’s outcome are Edvald Boasson HagenRudiger SeligDylan Groenewegen and John Degenkolb.

Outcome:

1st Marcel Kittel 2nd André Greipel 3rd Dan McLay

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

The sprinters shall once agin return to centre stage after the rest day, taking up the spotlight on the road from Périgueux to Bergerac, hoping to battle it out at top speed for the honours some 178km later in the day. With little to concern the fast men and their leadout trains in regards to gradients, only a couple of Category 4 ascents punctuate the day’s racing en route to Bergerac; the Côte de Domme and Côte du Buisson-de-Cadouin. With little to fret over during these ascents, the focus shall remain upon the final kilometres intended to set the day up for a brilliant exhibition of speed and skill. The finale could play into the hands of a strong leadout as a result of late road furniture, though the run to the line should see a high speed contest crown the day’s winner, there are two late 90 degree bends to negotiate before the finishing straight.


Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Marcel Kittel has appeared imperious during Le Tour de France up until now, often managing to secure stage honours despite a less than ideal leadout by his teammates. He has recently suffered the loss of a key man in the shape of Matteo Trentin, though the depth of talent is so great at Quick-Step, it does suggest that Kittel shall still be able to perform at his best regardless. He has survived the gruelling mountain stages well in the last couple of days and will be eager to return to winning ways on Stage 10 in pursuit of the green jersey.

André Greipel might not be the dominant force he once was, but there is a general sense that he shall leave 2017’s Tour de France with at least once victory to his name. Often only coming to the fore once the attritional nature of the race has begun to take its toll, the German great should start to see his chances of a victory improve as a result of the recent barrage of ascents. His leadout train has been one of the best so far, and now with the absence of Arnaud Démare and reduced firepower of Marcel Kittel, his hopes of taking a win will  have improve dramatically.

Dylan Groenewegen is seeking to take his place at the top table of sprinting during this year’s race, yet has not quite found himself pushing the established names close for a win. Despite the Dutchman’s immense physical prowess, he has still been left short by his teammates, often leaving him with too much work to do during the final kilometre of a stage. Regardless, the talent which he has is strong enough to succeed, so he will be hoping that the attritional nature of the race begins to bring stronger riders closer to his level during the second week.

Alexander Kristoff should be in the mix for the sprints during the race this year, though this opportunity might appear too early for the Norwegian to truly land a killer blow. Often relishing in the gruelling nature of a grand tour, Kristoff has previously performed well in the latter stages of major races, though has not truly showed enough to suggest this shall be the case in 2017. He is a canny rider despite this absence of form and it would be reckless to rule him out of contention when considering his talent for measuring his efforts perfectly on the way to victory.

Nacer Bouhanni should have a stage victory at his home grand tour by now, yet things have not managed to play out as intended for the passionate French cyclist. He is often unable to realistically match the big name sprinters, but now the fatigue is beginning to take its toll and others see teammates vanish from the race, Bouhanni should thrive in these more chaotic battles for the win. His acceleration is blistering to say the least, so on a technical and short stretch into the finish at Bergerac, the fiery Cofidis captain will fancy his chances.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has turned in a great shift for Team Dimension Data so far in the wake of Mark Cavendish’s forced retirement from the race during the opening week of racing. Though a rider who prefers tougher and more gruelling affairs, the skills of his leadout train has demonstrated their ability to launch the Norwegian hero into contention during this year’s race.

Outcome:

1st Nacer Bouhanni 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Gripel

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

Though this is earmarked as another day for a bunch sprint to decide the outcome, Stage 3’s 212.5km journey from Verviers to Longwy offers a far greater number of rolling roads than yesterday and finishes with an uphill battle to the line at Côte des Religieuses. Rather than simply seeing the fastest riders in the race lay claim to stage honours, we can expect the puncheurs and those fond of classics style finales to also show their faces during the final moments. There shall be a heated battled for position as the peloton turns onto the final climb of Côte des Religieuses, opening with an incline of 8.2%, meaning there is a chance of getting stuck behind fatigued riders sliding out the back. At 1.6km in length, it manages to reach a maximum gradient of 11%, though the last 500m are considerably easier at 3% – 4%.

Le Tour de France 2017 Stage 3 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Matthews has established himself as a consistent performer upon these difficult uphill stage finishes in recent years and even won a similar challenge earlier this season at Tour de Suisse. He climbs far better than a typical sprinter and has the ability to still produce a blistering acceleration after having hauled himself up a late climb such as today’s. Support from teammate Nikias Arndt could prove decisive, as the opportunity to conserve any ounce of energy for the deciding sprint will be a great advantage for the Australian.

Peter Sagan could open his account early at this year’s race with a stage win in Longwy and will be considered the man to beat by fans and riders alike. Though he has always been quick in a kick to the line, it is these attritional conclusions which he has improved upon immensely and now finds himself a true specialist at winning upon. Sagan is brilliant at positioning himself without the guidance of others, though may finally have support in the closing moments of a stage in the shape of Jay McCarthy. Regardless, the reigning world champion will not worry if isolated and shall be confident of finding the gap required to surge forth in order to take the win.

Greg Van Avermaet is the thorn in the side of Peter Sagan on days like these, as the Belgian has risen to become one of the few riders who can consistently put the Slovakian to the sword in a head to head contest. His form might not be sparkling right now, and he does have eyes on stages later in the race as well, but his talent for uphill sprints makes him a real contender despite this. If the weather makes it a more attritional day, then Avermaet’s chances will improve further still; as the closer Stage 3 gets to becoming a Belgian classic, the more likely it is that he will take the stage.

John Degenkolb surprisingly missed out on a top ten placing on yesterday’s stage, but could be saving his efforts specifically to challenge for the win atop Côte des Religieuses. He recently finished behind Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan at the Tour de Suisse on a similar finale, suggesting that his form could be better than expected at Le Tour de France. Degenkolb can produce huge amounts of power to get over these inclines, though could come unstuck if the sprint is ignited from further out than expected, leaving him with nothing else to call upon once the inclines soften towards the line.

Phillipe Gilbert is capable of producing a potent display of aggressive riding on Stage 3’s final climb, arriving at Le Tour off the back of one of his most successful Spring campaigns for sometime. The former world champion will be able to utilise his dominance upon Amstel Gold’s Cauberg to help gauge his efforts today and can lean upon an extremely talented group of teammates to set him up for grand tour glory.

Sonny Colbrelli seems one of the most difficult riders to gauge form of, often producing eye catching results out of thin air at major races, then seemingly unable to reproduce it on days tailored to his abilities. The Italian rider should be interested in this finish, though much like John Degenkolb, could discover that it leaves him short of the pace required in the last 500m to secure victory.

Other names who have the potential to steal the show are Diego Ulissi, Michael AlbasiniZdeněk ŠtybarEdvald Boasson Hagen and Arthur Vichot.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Greg Van Avermaet