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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.

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

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

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. 

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.

Here we go! 


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. 

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...

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

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

We have five new attackers: 

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

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

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

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

This is one of the first photographs from the race.

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.

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. 

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

85Km to go

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

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

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. 

Click below to read the full Bernal story.

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

70km to go

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

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. 

50km to go

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

More interesting stats from Fuoriclasse.

40km to go

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

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

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. 

25km to go

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

20km to go

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

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

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

15km to go

Crash!  

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

Tim Wellens has edged clear on the descent. 

10km to go

Bernal does a long pull to chase Wellens. 

Wellens leads by 20 seconds as he nears Besseges. 

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

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.

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.  

This is the top ten for the stage:

Here's Tim Wellens enjoying his victory. 

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

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

Wellens leads Theuns by a significant 44 seconds.  

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

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

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.

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

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. 

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. 

Click below to read his full reaction.

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. 

Clock below to read the full story.

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.

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

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.

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

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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