Stage 3 – This Sprint Finish Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

After two brutal days to open the Tour, Stage 3 looks - on paper - to be a normal bunch sprint. But the Brittany weather might change that.

By Whit Yost |

Stage 3 – Lorient to Pontivy – 183km – Monday, June 28

The 2021 Tour de France remains in Brittany for Stage 3, with a 183km ride from Lorient to Pontivy that should end with the first bunch sprint of the 2021 Tour. The day begins with a southerly ride down the coast, then heads inland where the narrow, winding roads (and road furniture) that we’ve grown accustomed to over the first two stages return. There are only two Category 4 climbs (the Côte de Cadoudal and the Côte de Pluméliau), but the final two-thirds of the stage are filled with ramps and rollers that could make Stage 3 as leg-breaking as the previous two.

But the day should end differently, with a field sprint expected in Pontivy. The finish is not for the faint of heart: the race descends down into Pontivy then takes two hard right-hand turns as the race heads over a bridge at about 2.5km to-go; an even tighter left-hander follows about 1,000m later. From there it’s a long, straight drag to the finish line, aside from a roundabout at about 700m to-go.

The run-in will be nervous as teams will want to be at the front as the race bombs down into Pontivy—before those tricky turns. The sprinters’ teams will need to time their lead-outs just right; they should see the finish line early, which could cause some to start their sprints too soon. Teams with GC contenders will be in the mix as well, hoping to keep their captains at the front and out of harm’s way.

Unfortunately, the weather report doesn’t look good, with showers forecast throughout the day. This could produce a slower stage as teams ride cautiously so as to avoid more crashes. Perhaps the breakaway gets an even longer leash—at least until the sprinters’ teams try and take advantage of one of only a few chances they’ll have in this year’s Tour.

And if it’s raining hard enough, we wouldn’t be surprised if the commissaires decide to record General Classification times before the race descends into Pontivy, allowing the sprinters to do their thing while the Tour’s overall contenders breathe a big sigh of relief behind them.

Assuming he stays out of trouble, Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) should have no trouble holding onto the yellow jersey. And if things break apart on the wet run-in to the finish, the Dutchman could even extend his lead.

Riders to Watch

This should be a day for the Tour’s field sprinters, men like Australia’s Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), France’s Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ), Slovakia’s Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe), Belgium’s Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) and our sentimental favourite, Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step).

How To Watch

You can tune-in late for this one as the main action should go down in the final 10km. The weather could make this a slow stage, so check-in to see how the riders are progressing, and don’t be surprised if the stage finishes later than usual.

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