Although his late attack was snuffed out before the finish line, Richie Porte (BMC Racing) made a clear statement of intent when he briefly rode away from the Tour de France peloton on the uphill finish to Longwy. After a disappointing opening time trial, it was a performance that Porte perhaps needed with the first genuine mountain top finish just two days away.
Stage 3 was won by Peter Sagan, who would not be denied, even after pulling a foot from one of his pedals in the final sprint. Porte finished 14th but on the tougher slopes of the final ascent he rode away from Alberto Contador, who had tried to match the Australia.
"It wasn't premeditated at all. The guys put me in a fantastic position in the final. I felt good. Then with around 500 meters to go, I knew that it was a little too far out. I think it's good for the team. They were really strong today and it was a shame that we couldn't finish it off," Porte said at the finish.
"For the last 40 kilometres, it was one hell of a fight. It was quite a dangerous and tricky final. It was nice to get through that one unscathed. All of the guys chipped in today."
With only a few glimpses of the GC contenders and their form in the race so far, the sight of Porte riding away from Contador quickly became one of the talking points of the stage. The Spaniard insisted that he sat up, realising that Porte's move would be covered.
"I'm not sure if I rode him off my wheel," Porte said.
"It was a long way off from the finish. It was good for the confidence to have a bit of a crack though."
BMC Racing's ambitions for the stage were two-fold – protect Porte's GC hopes and help deliver Greg Van Avermaet to the line in the hope that he could win the sprint. The Belgian was forced to settle for fourth but BMC's directeur sportif, Fabio Baldato, expressed his satisfaction in the day's events.
"We wanted to try with Greg and keep Richie out of trouble. The team did a good job to keep both guys out of trouble. Richie was there to help Greg and to not lose time. We know the final 500m was flat but he tried. Why not?"
"When he saw that he opened the gap to Contador he tried to go to the finish but then Sagan came back. Sagan was the strongest. I didn't see it but it's a good sign. After tomorrow we have different climb so we'll see.”
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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