A rather uneventful Stage 3 saw the spotlight shine on the breakaway’s battle for points while the peloton hustled and bustled all the way to Longwy, before an extremely explosive finish.
The day’s break again formed at kilometre zero. Thomas de Gendt and Frederik Backaert attacked immediately. It took until kilometre 13 for the break to settle down into the 6 riders though. Instead of De Gendt, Adam Hansen was Lotto Soudal’s representative in the break with Backaert staying up there. Nils Politt of Katusha and Romain Hardy of Fortuneo Vital Concept followed Hansen. Nathan Brown replaced team mate Taylor Phinney for Cannondale in the break. Romain Sicard spent the opening kilometres yo-yoing but made it across eventually.
The break was able to contest 4 of the 5 KoMs of the day before the peloton caught them. Nathan Brown took a point on the Cote de Sart to make it 3 from 3 for Cannondale. Crossing over into Luxembourg, Nils Politt outsprinted the leading Frederik Backaert to pip him at the post on the Cote de Wiltz. On the Cote d’Eschdorf, Nathan Brown went solo and dropped the rest of the break over the top to take the points and the polkadot jersey.
Back in the peloton, there were a few tumbles. Thomas Boudat hurt his wrist in a crash early on but finished the stage, while Olivier Le Gac went back to the medical car multiple times to check out his knee from a crash in the rain yesterday. As the group of 6 rejoined on the descent off the Cote d’Eschdorf, AG2R GC Leader Romain Bardet had a crash, but Cyril Gautier dropped back and powered him back into the safety of the peloton.
As the peloton closed in on the break, there was a slight tumble at the back of the peloton which saw a counter attack from Thomas De Gendt, Lilian Calmejane and Pierre-Luc Perichon to bridge to the front. However, the tired riders up front fell off as the fresh riders rejoined, and soon after it was just Calmejane going solo off the front with 20km to go. Calmejane swept the singular point on the Cote de la Villers-la-Montagne and took most combative for the day before the peloton eventually caught him just before the climb into Longwy.
The sprint into Longwy was hardly conventional. Marcus Burghardt led the peloton up the opening slopes of the Cote des Religieuses, but pulled off with 1800m to go leaving Greg van Avermaet to power the peloton up. The pace was brought back down with GVA on the front, and the favourites moved to the front. After the first of the two hairpins, Richie Porte went on the attack after being pulled up by GVA. He gapped Contador, but a fast approaching Sagan absorbed him just after the second hairpin.
With 300m to go, Sagan started his sprint but accidentally unclipped his pedal, giving Greg van Avermaet and Dan Martin a headstart on the sprint. The Belgian and Irishman were no match for Sagan’s brute power, and while a fast finishing Matthews almost pipped Sagan on the line, the World Champion and 5-time Green Jersey winner took his first stage on a quest to get a record 6th Green jersey at the Tour de France.
Tomorrow’s stage into Vittel is extremely flat with only 1 KoM. Peter Sagan will be hopeful of making it a repeat of today’s stage, but the uphill sprint into Vittel could favour the smaller sprinters like Cavendish. Whatever happens, it’ll be an interesting finish as the riders finally spend a day in France.