Stage 3: Cholet (TTT)
Cholet is the nightmare of the modern history of the Tour de France. The mayor Gilles Bourdouleix is Christian Prudhomme's brother in law. He wants the race to come to town every 10 years, but that's where the Festina affair became serious in 1998 with the arrest of sport director Bruno Roussel and doctor Eric Rijkaert.
The individual time trial in 2008 was won by Stefan Schumacher, who was eventually disqualified for doping. It's also where Riccardo Ricco returned a positive sample. Stage 3 is a 35.5km team time trial this time around. Cholet being in a basin, it starts with a hill at 4 to 5 per cent.
The villages of La Romagne and La Séguinière on the way back aren't flat either, but it's a mostly rolling course on which specialists Team Sky and BMC Racing can be at their ease. It's a decisive stage. Some climbers might never be able to make it up for the time lost in the former French capital of the handkerchief.
Matt White says: This a difficult course. It’s not super technical but it’s the sort of profile where you need to keep your concentration all of the time. There’s some tight bits through the town and a lot of roundabouts, the course is quite undulating and depending on wind conditions side winds and very fast at times. You’re going to see some decent gaps, and I’d say around two minutes will be lost by some of the GC teams. There might even be some teams that lose closer to three minutes. When it comes to stages like this your strategy is entirely dictated by the squad that you have. You don’t get too many opportunities to do a TTT in a season, so there’s probably been five or six this year, and a lot of the specialist teams will be at the Tour with a line-up that’s already done at least two or three TTTs together. The problem comes in knowing your weakest riders. If you’ve got a big disparity then it can be really dangerous. We’ve come here with five of our Worlds TTT squad, and it’s similar with BMC, and Team Sky who I see as the clear favourites.
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