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Etoile de Bessèges stage 3 - Live race coverage

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Bonjour and welcome to the Cyclinngews live coverage of stage 3 of the Etoile de Besseges.

As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height, the riders are ready to roll out of Besseges for the 155km stage.

There are some early climbs and so some riders have been warming up on the rollers.   

Pete Cossins is at the Etoile des Besseges for Cyclingnews and took this photo of the peloton. 

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Alpecin-Fenix where one of the team doing a warm-up. 

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It's cloudy and there's a risk of rain in the Gard department of France, near Avignon and Nimes. But it is a pleasant 15C.   

The riders faced 1.5km of neutralised riding but the flag has now dropped. 

Race on!

Five riders immediately attacked to get a gap before the first climb but they have been closed down.

The GPM Côte de Portes comes after 28km but an non-categorised climb before that is making everyone suffer.

This was the roll out of the stage.

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Here we go! 

Vincenzo Nibali (Trek) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis) have attacked on the climb.


Michał Kwiatkowski of Ineos was unfortunate to puncture on the climb but is chasing to get back in to the peloton.

Ben Hermans (Israel) has joined Nibali and Perez. 

The trio have been pulled back on the descent.  

The Côte de Portes is just 8km away. It climbs 7.1km but is gradual at 4%. 

We have more attacks and more big names on the move. 

This time Egan Bernal of Ineos is aggressive. He is joined by Nibali and three others. 

Tim Wellens (Lotto) and Greg van Avermaet (AG2R) are in the front group. 

Alberto Bettiol (EF) is also there but the peloton reacts and splits under the high speed.

The front group crosses the summit of the Côte de Portes, with Alexi Gougeard of AG2R taking maximum points...

Bernal is also up there in third place.   

There are 50 or so riders in the front group, with Trek-Segafredo especially aggressive. 

The riders are on another non-categorised climb and the speed remains high. 

This video shows how fast the racing is on the early climbs. 

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We have five new attackers: 

Alexys Brunel (Groupama), Tim Wellens (Lotto), Owain Doull (Ineos), Bauke Mollema (Trek), Alberto Bettiol (EF). 

These early races are about finding form and building team spirit. 

Ineos Grenadiers have revealed their Grand Tour plans this week and in this special feature from Daniel Benson, we look at who of a 12-rider long list should form the eight-rider team for this year's Tour de France.

Click below to read the feature.

Evaluating Ineos Grenadiers' 12-man Tour de France long list

Grenadiers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite the series of climbs the average speed for the first hour was a fast 40.9km/h. 

The riders will soon hit another climb.

After a fast 53km of racing, it's time for the Côte des Brousses. 

Bernal attacks again! 

The peloton is split into 3 groups, with some sprinters in the third group. 

That is exactly what Trek and Ineos where trying to do. 

This is one of the first photographs from the race.

The early attacks on stage 3

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The attacks have left a group of 50 riders around five minutes off the back.

Bernal and Brunel have been caught over the top of the Côte des Brousses but the bagarre continues.

This will be a real race all the way to the finish in Besseges.

Stage 1 winner Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) could only manage fifth on stage 2, behind Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation) and ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (Arkea-Samsic) but retained his overall lead. 

Click below to read our full report from stage 2 and to see our photo gallery.

Etoile de Bessèges: Dupont wins crash-marred stage 2

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Arrival Timothy Dupont Belgium and Team Bingoal WB Pierre Barbier of France and Team DELKO Giacomo Nizzolo of Italy and Team Qhubeka ASSOS Rudy Barbier of France and Team Israel StartUp Nation Christophe Laporte of France and Team Cofidis Solutions Credits Leader Jersey during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette Sprint EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Kwiatkowski was first over the top of the Côte des Brousses and 11 riders edged away.

There are a dozen or so riders behinds them, with the first chase group at 1:00. Bouhanni is in there but the likes of Nizzolo and Barbier are in group 3 at 5:00. 

85Km to go

The roads has flattened but the race is still fast. 

The front group has reformed and so we have 17 riders together. 

They include Bernal and Kwiatkowski of Ineos, Theuns of Trek, Philippe Gilbert, Tim Wellens of Lotto and Greg van Avermaet of AG2R.   

Britain's Jake Stewart of Groupama is also there, as is Bryan Coquard of B&B Hotels and Mads Schmidt of Israel Start-Up Nation.

The 17 are working well together and pushed out their lead to 2:10. 

Trek, who have Pedersen and Nibali behind, are leading the chase. They are clearly riding for Pedersen's hopes in the sprint.

EF and Cofidis are helping with the chase.  

The riders will soon climb the Côte de Tharaux, the final categorised climb of the stage before a 70km pursuit match on the rolling roads to the finish in Besseges.

Egan Bernal takes his turn on the front of the 17-rider attack. 

He said he is still working on his back problems but looks good today after making several attacks. 

He confirmed  that he will ride the Giro d'Italia as he returns to the Grand Tours but could also ride the Tour de France. 

“I think it’s the best decision,” Bernal told Cyclingnews just prior to the start of the second stage of the Étoile de Bessèges in Saint-Génies-de-Malgoirès.

Speaking less than 24 hours after Ineos boss Dave Brailsford revealed that Bernal is set to lead Ineos Grenadiers at the Giro, while Geraint Thomas, Richard Carapaz and Tao Geoghegan Hart will head the British team’s attack at the Tour, the Colombian added: “I’ve wanted to race the Giro since I turned professional in 2016. Even in the year when I won the Tour de France in 2019, I was supposed to be racing the Giro but events beforehand meant that it didn’t work out.

Click below to read the full Bernal story.

Bernal: Targeting the Giro d'Italia is the best decision for me

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers Geraint Thomas of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Salvatore Puccio of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wellens leads the attack over the top of the Côte de Tharaux.

The chasers are 2:00 behind them. 

70km to go

This is a shot from earlier, when Bernal made tow attacks on two different climbs. 

Egan Bernal goes on the attack at the Etoile des Besseges

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The third group, now dubbed the gruppetto, is at 8:40. It includes Nizzolo and Barbier. 

Nizzolo contested the two sprint finishes, finishing fourth and third but was slowed with a knee injury in January.

The break of 17 are riding smoothly together, going through and off on the front. 

This is the view from inside the break and inside the Israel team car. 

Mads Wurtz is there for Israel. "We have to be smart, eh" says DS Eric van Lancker.

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50km to go

Cofidis and EF continue to lead the chase but are struggling to bring the gap down. 

It remains at 2:00 with 50km to go.

Also in the 17-rider attack are Nils Politt (Bora), Michael Gogl (Qhubeka) and Ed Theuns (Trek). 

There is a short climb just 7km from the finish and so we can expect some attacks in the final kilometres.

More interesting stats from Fuoriclasse.

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40km to go

Cofidis and EF are doing all they can to lead the chase but it seems a lost cause. 

Christophe Laporte looks set to lose his red leader's jersey.

The riders in the attack are no-doubt already thinking about their strategy for the finish and the rest of the race. 

Saturday's stage is very hilly and ends with a kick-up to Saint Siffret, while Sunday's final stage is an 11km TT around Ales.  

Jempy is giving it big licks on the front but the gap is not falling.

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Alpecin and Total are also helping with the chase but I fear it is too little and too late.  

Belgian champion Tim Merlier rode the cyclo-cross World Championships on Sunday and is now working on the front for Alpecin. 

Respect.

25km to go

Tim Merlier has lined out the peloton but has only pulled back eight seconds. 

The gap to the 17 remains at 1:50. 

Rigoberto Uran is now working on the front of the break. 

EF, like Cofidis, don't want this break to hold onto a big gap. 

20km to go

The rolling roads and high speed is starting to hurt some riders in the break. 


Marti Marquez (Equipo Kern Pharma) is at the back, as is Wellens.

in the chase group several teams are blocking for their riders up in the attack. 

The gap is down to 1:45 but there's a sense the peloton will sit up sooner or later and throw in the towel. 

The 17-rider lead group hits a narrow climb now. It should start to reveal who is strongest in the attack.

Indeed it is Kwiatkowski upping the pace on the front.

He kicks again, trying to hurt the sprinters in the group.

15km to go

The climb ends and the group comes back together on the descent.

Crash!  

Kwiatkowski went wide on a curve. He did not crash but has lost contact. 

It seems there was some oil on the road.

Tim Wellens has edged clear on the descent. 

The others are trying to chase him but Gilbert is sitting on them. This is a fascinating tactical finale.

10km to go

Wellens leads by 15 seconds.

He also has young Italian Stefano Oldani in the attack to help control the chase. 

Advantage Lotto Soudal.

Bernal does a long pull to chase Wellens. 

Kwiato is back on but Wellens is gaining time, tucked low over his bars

Wellens leads by 20 seconds as he nears Besseges. 

He faces a final lap of the town.

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Wellens passes through the finish and takes a 3-second time bonus. 

That could be important for the GC. 

Wellens is only 12 seconds from the race lead in the current GC. With the time bonus he is at 9 seconds.

Just 3.5km to go for Wellens.

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Bernal and Kwiato are leading the chase but Wellens is extending his lead. It is up to 40 seconds.

Odd Christian Eiking attacks alone but surely nobody can stop Wellens now.  

Wellens wins! 

The Belgian made a clever solo attack and time trialed to victory. 

Ed Theuns (Trek) wins the battle for second place but Wellens beat them all today with his move. 

It was close in the sprint but Theuns got it.  

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This is the top ten for the stage:

1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 3:28:02
2 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:37
3 Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-up Nation
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal
6 Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM
7 Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
8 Nils Politt (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Michael Gogl (Aut) Team Qhubeka Assos
10 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers

Here's Tim Wellens enjoying his victory. 

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Arrival Tim Wellens of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal Celebration during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Wellens is a solo breakaway expert. But today Gilbert and Oldani also played a big role.

They let the gap go on the descent and then hampered the chase, giving Wellens every possible help so he could blast solo to the finish.

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Wellens solo attack and the 17-rider attack has shaken up the overall GC. 

This is how it looks after stage 3.


1 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal 10:17:38
2 Edward Theuns (Bel) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:44
3 Mads Würtz Schmidt (Den) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:46
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:48
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:49
6 Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ 0:00:50
7 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën Team 0:00:50
8 Michael Gogl (Aut) Team Qhubeka Assos 0:00:50
9 Cyril Barthe (Fra) B&B Hotels p/b KTM 0:00:50
10 Clément Carisey (Fra) Delko 0:00:50.  

Wellens leads Theuns by a significant 44 seconds.  

however he and Lotto Soudal will have to defend the red leader's jersey during's Saturday's hilly stage and then in Sunday's  11km time trial.

Lotto Soudal are naturally happy to take their first win of the 2021 season.

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To see more great photos from today's entertaining stage and to read our full report and see the full results, click below. 


Etoile de Bessèges: Wellens solos to victory on stage 3

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Tim Wellens of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges Breakaway EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

That photo captured the moment Wellens attacked and Kwiatkowski almost crashed due to oil on the road.

Here's another shot of Wellens during his solo attack.

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Tim Wellens of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges Breakaway EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ed Theuns gave a perfect round-up of his race and the stage.

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The UCI's decision to ban the so-called 'super-tuck' position during races  has sparked debate amongst the riders at the Etoile de Besseges. 

This was the original story we posted on Thursday.

UCI aims to stamp out 'super tuck' descending as part of broad safety measures 

Matej Mohoric was one of the first riders to use the 'super tuck' position

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While welcoming the UCI's attempts to improve rider safety within races, Michal Kwiatkowski is against the ban on the "super-tuck" position that the UCI said it will start to enforce in WorldTour events from 1 April. 

"That's just a way of putting responsibility for crashes on the riders," the Ineos Grenadiers rider said in Bessèges prior to the start of the third stage of the Étoile de Bessèges.

"There are lots of other things they could do first in terms of improving road safety, barriers. But riding on the top tube? Sorry, but I don't agree with that because at the end of the day we are professional racers.

Click below to read his full reaction.

Kwiatkowski against UCI's ban on super-tuck

Michal Kwiatkowski behind a mask

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The UCI also announced a series of decision about safety matters and, in contrast, allowed an increase in the number of teams in the three Grand Tours in 2021. 

This year’s Giro d’ItaliaTour de France and Vuelta a España will therefore have an increased field of 23 teams and 184 riders after the UCI approved the presence of an extra wild card team in a one-off measure due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economics of the sport. 

The size of the Grand Tour pelotons had been reduced to 22 teams of eight riders each in recent years in an attempt to reduce the risk of crashes and to improve rider safety. 

The 19 WorldTour teams are all automatically invited to the Grand Tours, with Alpecin-Fenix also assured of a place after topping the ProTeam rankings in 2020. 

Allowing 23 teams in 2021 will also avoid some difficult decisions for the three Grand Tour organisers. 

Tour de France organisers quickly confirmed all three French ProTeams - Total-Direct ÉnergieTeam Arkéa-Samsic and B & B Hôtels p/b KTM - would ride the 108th edition, which starts in Brest, close to the headquarters of the three teams.    

Clock below to read the full story.

2021 Grand Tour peloton increased to 23 teams

LA CALMETTE FRANCE FEBRUARY 04 Egan Arley Bernal Gomez of Colombia and Team INEOS Grenadiers Geraint Thomas of United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers Salvatore Puccio of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 2 a 154km stage from SaintGenis to La Calmette EDB2020 on February 04 2021 in La Calmette France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

There probably won’t be another event on the calendar this season where the organiser can say that they turned down requests to race from the likes of Movistar, AstanaDeceuninck-QuickStep and UAE Team Emirates. However the Etoile de Bessges can and did.

That one fact says much about the change in status that the French race has undergone in recent weeks, as Covid-related fears and restrictions led to a flurry of race cancellations. 

Blessed with just three WorldTour teams on its start-list as recently as 2018, it has a full quota of 11 this week and could have welcomed most of the rest.

That this small but well-established five-day race has benefited in this way is partly down to circumstances, but also to the tenacity of its organising team, led by Claudine Allègre-Fangille. She stepped into the role when her father and Étoile de Bessèges founder Roland Fangille fell ill last year. He died in November having contracted the coronavirus, and his daughter was determined for the event to go ahead in his memory.

“We’ve had to cope with all kinds of hurdles,” she says in between welcoming VIPs and directing race traffic at the stage two start in Saint-Génies-de-Malgoirès. “The key thing that we’ve had to contend with is making sure that the teams can remain within a secure sanitary bubble when they’re on the race.

Today the Etoile de Besseges remembered race founder Roland Fangille, who recently passed away due to COVID-19. 

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Pete Cossins is at the Etoile de Besseges for Cyclingnews and wrote this story for us about the race organisers and the special 2021 edition of the race.

Today they were rewarded with some great racing. 

Shining Star: Étoile de Bessèges in the spotlight

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Podium Tim Wellens of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal celebrates during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges Trophy Mask Covid Safety Measures EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

For the full report, results and photo gallery of stage 3 and Wellen's solo win, click below.

Etoile de Bessèges: Wellens solos to victory on stage 3

BESSGES FRANCE FEBRUARY 05 Tim Wellens of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal Cyril Barthe of France and Team BB Hotels pb KTM during the 51st toile de Bessges Tour du Gard 2021 Stage 3 a 1548km stage from Bessges to Bessges Feeding Breakaway EDB2020 on February 05 2021 in Bessges France Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Join us during the weekend for full live coverage of stage 4 and stage 5 to see if Wellens can defend his overall race lead. 

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