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Tour de France 2019: Stage 3

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Good morning. Into France we go. The Brussels Grand Départ is over, and stage 3 takes us from Binche over the border and down to Epernay, in the heart of the Champagne region. It's pretty flat and straight forward until we reach Reims, beyond which we have a string of short-but-steep climbs, plus an uphill finish on double-digit gradients. 

This is the scene in Binche. The riders are signing on and going through their pre-race rituals. The roll-out is coming up at 12.10 local time (just over 20 minutes), and the race proper will get underway around 12.20. 

Here's what the riders are facing today

The climbs will make for a selective race, and the narrow, twisting nature of the country roads past Reims will only add to that. There was talk of wind being a potential factor but it seems it's an almost direct tailwind, and not too strong. 

This Tour is all about Jumbo-Visma so far, and the crowds and media outside their bus today reflects that. Mike Teunissen is in the yellow jersey, winning the opening stage and then extending his lead thanks to Jumbo's convincing win in yesterday's team time trial. You can also see Wout Van Aert, who's now in the white jersey for best young rider. Both could in fact be in the mix today...

Before we get underway, now's the time to catch up on yesterday's action. Full report, results, photos in the link below. 

The riders are rolling and are currently making their way through the neutralised zone. 

Here was the start line, with Alaphilippe in blue there ushered forward to join the maillots distinctifs.

Peter Sagan, already in green, is another of the big favourites today. 

We're off!

You know it's a good day for a break when you see Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) at the front. It's fluid, though, and small groups are coming and going. 

De Gendt comes through to push on again. Jumbo-Visma have sent Tony Martin up to police things, and the German is sitting on the Belgian's wheel with the rest of the bunch strung out behind. 

De Gendt eases up and it bunches up again. Martin sticks to the wheel even as they move back down the peloton. Maybe this is a man-marking job. Total Direct Energie look keen and kick off the next wave. 

And this one looks like it it's going clear. There are five riders, including Tim Wellens...

Here's our breakaway

205km remaining from 215km

So, the four wildcard teams are present and correct. Plus an interesting one in Wellens, a top-level rider who is well suited to punchy terrain. His presence will keep the other teams in the peloton well on their toes. 

200km remaining from 215km

The five escapees aren't being allowed much leeway at all. The gap is still below 2:30, with Astana and then Ineos amassing behind Tony Martin. 

Katusha had a good ride yesterday but they might not even be here next year. Alpecin are pulling out as secondary sponsor and the team's general manager isn't sure if they'll continue into 2020. Daniel Benson has the full story at the link below. 

The gap to the break nudges out to 3:05. Still Tony Martin, mouth now open in that characteristic manner, leads the peloton ahead of Astana and Ineos. 

Here's what Peter Sagan had to say this morning

Another big contender for today is Alejandro Valverde, five-time winner of La Flèche Wallonne. He could also be a contender for the overall title, says Greg LeMond. Valverde has said he's not riding for GC but is visibly lighter than ever... 

We also grabbed a word with 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas this morning. 

167km remaining from 215km

Stéphane Rossetto is wearing a red dossard (race number). That's because he was deemed the 'most combative' rider on the previous road stage, having been away solo in the second half of the opening stage. He can keep that dossard today - it typically goes to the last rider standing from the day's break. 

157km remaining from 215km

The kilometres are passing quickly, thanks to that tailwind. The average speed so far is almost 47km/h, putting us well up on the fastest predicted time schedule. 

Speaking ahead of the stage, Wellens said his team would be working "100 per cent" for Caleb Ewan, who he predicted would be able to cope with the climbs and even go for victory on the steep finish. Wellens' presence in the break does give their rivals something to worry about but means he might not be able to play a big role in the finale. 

"It's a nice area – I love to drink Champagne – and it's a good finish for me."

143km remaining from 215km

Race leader Teunissen drops back to his team car for an adjustment to his saddle. It looks like his mechanic has just whipped his live data tracker off with a pair of pliers. 

133km remaining from 215km

129km remaining from 215km

 The pace has been upped in the peloton as there's a slight breeze and teams don't want to be caught out. 

Richeze has been down on the ground and he's sporting blood on one of his knees. He's near the front of the peloton, so the damage looks minimal. 

113km remaining from 215km

Ourselin takes the bonus sprint. He's making his Tour de France debut and is probably the least established rider in the break.

Simon Yates, who lost time yesterday, rides at the back of the bunch as the peloton wind things up for the intermediate sprint.

Viviani and then Sagan, Colbrelli and Matthews.

Meanwhile, Astana's Jakob Fuglsang has dropped back to the medical car for some advice and assistance. He fell on stage 1 and needed stitches for a cut he sustained.

Here's the breakdown of the points at the intermediate sprint

Into your tech? Well, Josh Evans has a bumper round-up of all the gear in use in yesterday's TTT.

93km remaining from 215km

Here's Michael Woods (EF Education First), who is very much at home on steep climbs.

Asgreen leads the peloton with almost the whole Jumbo team behind him, and almost his whole QuickStep team behind them. The gap continues to fall - 2:20 now as we head towards the key portion of today's stage. 

We grabbed a word with Elia Viviani this morning (proof is in the photo). He confirms he's in talks with Cofidis for next year, but says he could still stay at QuickStep. Either way, he feels he 'deserves' a 'big contract'. Stephen Farrand and Barry Ryan have the story in the link below. 

Teunissen is back in the cars after a mechanical issue. He makes his way back up without the need for teammates. Dan Martin was in a similar situation but they're both back in comfortably. 

Here's Wellens on the front of the break.

63km remaining from 215km

Small crash in the bunch as the road narrows into a left-hand bend. It's towards the back of the peloton and only a couple of riders go down. The CCC duo of Paddy Bevin and Simon Geschke were involved, along with Ben King (Dimension Data). They're all back up and running. 

Michael Matthews (Sunweb) was caught up in that crash, it seems. He's being paced back by Nicolas Roche. 

Matthews, along with Bevin, gets back on, just as a couple of riders crash on the right-hand side. It's a soft landing into the grass verge. 

Jumbo-Visma have taken this Tour by storm - could they make it three-from-three? In Mike Teunissen and Wout Van Aert, they have two options today. Here's Van Aert...

52km remaining from 215km

Wellens attacks!

5km away from the first of the four climbs, the Belgian - the highest-calibre rider in this break - takes flight, and he's quickly and cleanly away. 

Wellens could ride himself into the polka-dot jersey here. He could even snatch the stage victory, but that looks a really tall order with the gap to the peloton at 2:15. 

Mechanical for Romain Bardet, who has three AG2R teammates to help him back to the bunch. Puncture, too, for Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin). 

44km remaining from 215km

Wellens is moving. The gap to the peloton has moved out to 2:35. It was 1:40 not so long ago. 

Zakarin makes it back now, too. 

Wellens already has 45 seconds on his former breakaway companions as he hits the first climb - Côte de Nanteuil-la-Forêt (1.1km at 6.8%)

42km remaining from 215km

Rossetto, Offredo, Delaplace, and Ourselin crest the climb one minute in arrears now. 

The peloton hits the climb now and the battle for position intensifies. UAE and Lotto Soudal both prominent. 

Wellens takes on a fast descent now and gets into full aero tuck on a long straight section. 

33km remaining from 215km

Wellens is a couple of kilometres away from the foot of the Côte d’Hautvillers (900m at 10.5%). A short descent will then lead him straight into the Côte de Champillon.

Amund Grondahl Jansen hits the front for Jumbo-Visma and raises the pace. It's strung out at the back of the bunch, with plenty fighting to hang in. 

Wellens' four former breakaway companions are about to be caught by the peloton. 

Wellens hits the Côte d’Hautvillers. He remains in the saddle for now but the head is bobbing all over the place. 

Ourselin, Delaplace, Rossetto, and Offredo tip a nod to each other and call it a day, settling back into the bunch. 

QuickStep take it up on the Côte d’Hautvillers!

The fierce injection of pace has seen the gap to Wellens come down to 1:40.

29km remaining from 215km

Alaphilippe sits second wheel as QuickStep turn it up on the steep gradients. 

Omar Fraile (Astana) accelerates. 

Nairo Quintana is up at the front, and it looks like he comes through to pip Fraile for the remaining KOM point. Odd. 

Caleb Ewan dropped

27km remaining from 215km

Wellens hits the third climb

Bora take it up in the bunch now as they approach the climb. 

Wellens reaches the summit but he's losing time, all the time. 1:14 now. 

Teunissen is towards the very rear of the peloton, which has already been reduced. 

Bora lead the bunch up but Fraile accelerates through again. 

The peloton is well stretched out as they reach the top, 1:09 behind Wellens. Teunissen has managed to hang on. 

Astana take it up as the road tilts downhill once again. Ineos are getting organised near the front, too. 

Wellens hits 70km/h as he flies down this smooth descent. He has around 7km to the foot of the final categorised climb. 

The next climb is the Côte de Mutigny, which averages 12% over 900 metres. It's worth pointing out that this is the first hilltop sprint bonus - a new initiative for this year's Tour in which bonus seconds for GC are positioned at the top of certain climbs. There are bonuses of 8 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds for the first three. Just Wellens out front, so we could see the overall contenders trying to nip through to grab the remaining seconds...

19km remaining from 215km

Astana continue their charge at the head of affairs. 

Bora come through again now with Marcus Burghardt. Max Schachmann is up there behind him. Peter Sagan still in the mix. 

Wellens hits the Côte de Mutigny. He leads by 56 seconds as he springs out of the saddle, the gradients immediately biting. 

QuickStep take over now as the peloton negotiate the narrow roads on the approach. 

Dries Devenyns really turns it up for QuickStep. Big increase in pace. 

Alaphilippe looks comfortable a couple of places back. Fraile accelerates once again!

Fraile eases up, leaving Alaphilippe on the front now that Devenyns is done. That causes a brief lull but Lutsenko is taking it up again now. 

Alaphilippe shadows Lutsenko. 

Zakarin in trouble with Simon Yates.

16km remaining from 215km

Alaphilippe attacks!

Huge attack from the Frenchman, who was everyone's favourite for today's stage. He soars past Wellens just beyond the summit. 

Wellens takes maximum points and the KOM jersey but his day his done. He has a mechanical and climbs off his bike. 

Teunissen is dropped. 

Alaphilippe is away. 15km to go alone...

Jumbo-Visma take it up in what is now a heavily reduced bunch. Teunissen is slipping out of yellow but Wout Van Aert is still there and is set to inherit it. Alaphilippe would need to put 31 seconds into him. 

Alaphilippe hits 80km/h as he flies downhill. The country roads are narrow and twisting and this will only aid his cause and disrupt a bunch chase. 

11km remaining from 215km

Alaphilippe grits his teeth, giving it everything. The finishing kick suits him down to the ground but he has made the bold decision to go long, and go it alone. 

10km remaining from 215km

That move with Landa, Schachmann, Woods, and Lutsenko comes to nothing. They're caught by the reduced bunch. 

Teunissen is well dropped, 1:20 behind the lone leader. 

Race radio says 50 seconds between Alaphilippe and the bunch. If correct, it's well in his hands. 

Jumbo-Visma are on the back foot and lead the chase. Sunweb also have a man near the front for Matthews. 

8km remaining from 215km

Ineos hit the front in the bunch behind. 

Alaphilippe is heading for the stage win and heading into the yellow jersey. If he wins the stage, he'll get 10 bonus seconds, to add to the five he picked up over the top of the last climb, meaning he'd only need to finish 6 seconds clear of the bunch. 

Alaphilippe sees 10 seconds cut from his lead. 40 seconds now as CCC contribute to the chase. 

Alaphilippe springs out of the saddle. 5.5km to go and here's what the final 5km look like. 

Alaphilippe is on the Côte du Mont Bernon. It's not a categorised climb but is still significant. This is make or break for him. 

Ineos are chasing hard here and the gap falls to 35 seconds...

EF now come through. They're hungry to bring Alaphilippe back. 

EF now come through. They're hungry to bring Alaphilippe back. 

Alaphilippe looks to be fading but as I write that he springs out of the saddle, swaying from side to side, producing a big acceleration.  

3km remaining from 215km

Alaphilippe gets into full aero tuck and doesn't even come up to steer. He's back in the saddle as he comes into town but he's going all-in, taking all the risky lines. 

This is where it plays into his favour. The peloton will go no faster than him down here. 

2km remaining from 215km

The Frenchman hits the cobbles and the road tilts uphill again towards the flamme rouge. 

1km remaining from 215km

The final 350 metres, remember, are wickedly steep. 

Alaphilippe comes into the barriers and the crowds of fans. Here we go. Into the final 400m.

He takes the final left-hander and springs out of the saddle once more. The gradients bite hard at 10%

He does not falter and is getting ready to celebrate here...

He punches the air harder than it's ever been punched before.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) wins stage 3 of the Tour de France

Here comes the bunch. Van Avermaet leads them up the final ramp, but it's Matthews who comes through at the last to take second place, ahead of Jasper Stuyven.

The bunch finished 25 seconds back, meaning Alaphilippe is in yellow. 

Two stage wins and the polka-dots last year, an unbelievable string of success in 2019... the Julian Alaphilippe fairytale continues.

Van Avermaet held on for fourth, with Sagan fifth. 

Top 10

Teunissen trudges across the line, almost five minutes back. 

Zakarin, by the way, never regained contact and finished 3:52 down. That seems to be his GC bid over already. 

"Third is good result. It means that I'm good. Then again, nobody will talk about it in a few days," says Stuyven.

General Classification after stage 3

Here's our report page, where you can find the write-up, the results, the photos etc. 

The winner speaks

Kasper Asgreen crashed heavily towards the end. He finished the stage but we'll see how banged up he is. He's been remarkable this season and is an important workhorse for QuickStep. 

Here's a quick word from Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere

Full results are in, and it's confirmed that there was a time gap given for that small split in the bunch at the line. That means Pinot, Benoot and Bernal, who were on the right side of it, have gained five seconds on Thomas and the rest of the GC contenders. 

We've grabbed a shot of Asgreen's bike. Wow...

We can hear from Thomas now

Julian Alaphilippe pulls on the famous maillot jaune, the first Frenchman to do so since Tony Gallopin in 2014. 

Wellens ended up finishing nearly 10 minutes down on Alaphilippe, but has the polka-dots as a consolation prize.

Our live blog is just one way to follow the Tour. Want to know how you can watch live television coverage, for free? We have all the details in the link below. 

Sagan keeps the green jersey

And Van Aert keeps the white jersey, reportedly telling Alaphilippe he was "too strong today"

Want to see Julian Alaphilippe finishing it off? We have a video of the final kilometre in our report page

Sagan is back in Tour de France green jersey in quest for record seventh title

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