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Tour de France stage 3 - Live coverage


Good morning and welcome to the Cyclingnews live race centre for stage 3 of the Tour de France. We've had an action-packed Grand Départ, with the rain-soaked chaos on Saturday and a breathless Julian Alaphilippe exhibition on Sunday, but it's time to leave Nice behind. Today's stage takes us 198km north west, to Sisteron. It's an undulating day in the saddle but a bunch sprint would seem to be the most likely outcome. 

The pre-stage podium ceremony is well underway, and it's CCC who are being presented to the abyss at the moment. The riders will roll out at 12:10 local time, with the race proper getting underway around 10 minutes after that.

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Before we get going, why not catch up on yesterday's action? We have an in-depth write-up and photo gallery, plus all the results and standings at the link below. 

Tour de France: Julian Alaphilippe wins stage 2

It certainly hasn't been the gentlest of introductions to a Tour de France, and while many expect a sprint at the end of the day, this is far from one of those flat opening-week processions. 

The opening half of the stage looks like a proper slog, with the Col du Pilon and Col de la Faye coming together and the road continuing to rise thereafter. The Col des Lègues will put the sprinters in more trouble again, but what swings this back in their favour are the 70 or so lightly downhill kilometres ahead of the run-in to Sisteron. It should be enough ground for some organised teams to bring about a bunch gallop, but it will again be one contested with fatigued legs.

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Recommended reading today is Barry Ryan's feature on Marc Hirschi. Everyone knows about Alaphilippe, everyone knew he was going to attack on that climb, and everyone knew he was going to win. What many people didn't know is Hirschi would be one of the two able to follow, and what many people don't know is much about the Swiss 22-year-old at all - including Adam Yates, going by his post-race interview. Anyway, Barry recently interviewed Hirschi at length and has the following story for us. 

Marc Hirschi introduces himself at Tour de France

The riders are gathering on the start line. Alaphilippe, of course, is in the yellow jersey. Stage 1 winner Alexander Kristoff, who handed it over yesterday, is now in green, while Hirschi is the best young rider in white and Benoit Cosnefroy is in the polka-dot jersey after another random attack took him to the top of the mountains classification yesterday. 

We're off! 

The riders are on the move, tucked behind the race director's car as they head through the short opening neutralised section. 

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Christian Prudhomme rises through the sunroof and is about to wave us underway

The flag is waved and here come the attacks. Total Direct Energie and Cofidis on the move. 

Oliver Naesen jumps across. 

It looks like Naesen's trying to help out polka-dot jersey wearer Cosnefroy, his AG2R teammate. And now the peloton locks up. It's a four-rider breakaway. 

That's it. The break has formed in the first kilometre. Joining Cosnefroy and Naesen are Anthony Perez (Cofidis) and Jérôme Cousin (Total Direct Energie). Perez is second in the KOM standings, tied on points with Cosnefroy, so this looks like a battle for the polka-dots on the three cat-3 climbs we have on the menu. No one else looked keen, so the peloton seems accepting of a bunch sprint in Sisteron. 

Naesen sits up and drifts back to the bunch. He wasn't really interested in that small break and will save his legs for another day. It appeared his role was to simply make sure Cosnefroy didn't miss it - not that it was a hard break to make it into. 

189km to go

That leaves us with a three-rider breakaway (Cosnefroy, Perez, Cousin), followed nearly three minutes later by a peloton where the race leader's Deceuninck-QuickStep are now setting the tempo. 

It's a good scenario for QuickStep. They haven't had to raise their heart rates so far in the first act of their defence of the maillot jaune, and with a break of just three riders, they shouldn't have to sweat too much in keeping this under to control to ensure a bunch sprint for their fast man Sam Bennett. 

Bennett was in a great position on the Promenade des Anglais on the opening day, but let another rider onto the wheel of his lead-out man and that disrupted his rhythm. The Irishman is such a talented rider but he doesn't half put pressure on himself, and every win feels like catharsis with him. 

More on Bennett and his sprint rivals from four-time green jersey winner Sean Kelly, who we spoke to at the weekend.  

Sean Kelly on this year's Tour de France sprinters and the battle for green

Here was Alaphilippe at the stage start. Like last year, he's gone for black shorts and yellow bar tape.

Julian Alaphilippe

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This might be a relatively unthreatening break but Deceuninck-QuickStep aren't giving them much rope. The gap has stabilised at 2:25. 

The break pass through Vence, where a somewhat concerning number of fans are lining the roads. The COVID-19 headlines have made way for the opening-day drama and Alaphilippe's exploits, but this remains a precarious Tour. A reminder that two positive cases in one team bubble will see the whole team expelled from the race. Here's the latest on that situation

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Yellow chain too for our race leader

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It's Remi Cavagna leading the bunch for QuickStep as they take on a downhill section. Before long, the road will tilt uphill for the best part of 40km.

The gap is holding at 2:10 as Cosnefroy, Cousin, and Perez grind their way uphill. The first categorised climb is the Col du Pilon (8.4km at 5.1%) and it officially starts in just a few kilometres' time. 

This is Cosnefroy's third day on the attack at this year's Tour, out of three stages. The first was a somewhat doomed solo mission on the flat run-in to Nice, the second a mid-stage bridge to the break, which was slightly suprising given he might have chosen to wait and play his hand in the finale. Still, he ended up with the polka-dots. 

The 24-year-old is a rising star and has happy hunting ground at this Tour but has taken a scattergun approach so far. It's just hard to suppress his attacking instinct, which has contributed to comparisons with a certain Julian Alaphilippe. We fuelled those comparisons when we interviewed him in December, finding a young rider full of energy and ambition. 

The next Julian Alaphilippe? Benoît Cosnefroy makes his mark

And here's a shot of Cosnefroy in the break a few moments ago. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

151km to go

The breakaway trio start the Col du Pilon with a lead of 1:45. 

Weather alert. It has started raining and the riders are calling for their capes. 

This won't be a welcome sight after the tribulations of the opening day, when the rain turned the roads into what pretty much every rider described as an ice rink. The reason seemed to be the fact it hadn't rained for so long, and the downpour brought all the oil from motor vehicles to the surface, meaning riders were hitting the deck descending at a snail's pace. Hopefully those rains will have cleaned the roads and we won't have the same kind of slippery surface skim here. 

The peloton moved to neutralise much of that opening stage, in what was a welcome piece of collective action in the absence of anything meaningful from the UCI or CPA. Here's one of the peloton's leading voices, Luke Rowe, on how it unfolded, including a bit of a telling off for Astana, who seemed to push on more than the others, resulting in their leader Miguel Angel Lopez careering into a road sign.

Luke Rowe: Astana made themselves look pretty stupid

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Showers were predicted but this is more than a shower. It's a downpour, with large raindrops slapping onto the tarmac. 

Lotto Soudal have sent a rider to the front on the climb. The gap is now 1:25 to the three leaders, who are 3km from the top.

2000 metres from the top of the Col du Pilon and the games between Cosnefroy and Perez begin. Cousin threatens with an acceleration but it's back together now. 

It's a long day in the saddle for a relatively slim potential haul. This climb and the other two cat-3 climbs offer 2 points for the first rider and 1 point for second. Coupled with the cat-4 climb later, there are a maximum of seven points on offer today. In the KOM standings, it's currently 18-18 between Cosnefroy and Perez.

Here we go. Into the final 500m of the climb. Cousin leads, Cosnefroy sticks religiously to Perez's wheel.

Perez opens up, Cosnefroy immediately springs into action!

Perez gets it. Cosnefroy struggles to get around and now goes behind in the virtual KOM standings. 

142km to go

The peloton crests the Col du Pilon with a deficit of 1:50 to the three leaders. 

After a short descent, we're climbing again. It's the Col de Faye, another cat-3 climb that averages 4.8% over 5.3km. 

We've got some pre-stage thoughts from the 2019 champion Egan Bernal. 

"It’s one of those stages that maybe doesn’t seem so hard but you have to be alert," he says. "These stages are always the ones where something happens – crashes, that type of thing. We have to be switched on, more than anything.

As for how he's going after the first two stages: "Good, good, good. It’s only the start of the Tour. There is a long, long way to go, and we’ll see how it goes from here."

Here's how the scrap for the KOM points played out. 

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The peloton had come back to 1:30 but the pace has been knocked off on this second climb. 2:15 as it stands. 

Into the final kilometre of the Col de la Faye and this time it's Cosnefroy on the front, switching up his tactics. 

Cosnefroy slows as he looks over his shoulder to keep tabs on Perez. Cousin's just minding his own business at the back. 

Cousin goes to the front to lift this snail's pace, and now the banner comes into view...

Perez goes for it and Cosnefroy has to respond again, but he can't...

A convincing win there for Perez, as Cosnefroy has to sit up in the final metres and watch Perez surge clear. On paper, you'd normally back Cosnefroy in an explosive uphill sprint but Perez is clearly the stronger of the two out there today and now has a two-point lead in the virtual KOM standings. 

132km to go

The peloton crest the Col de la Faye with a deficit of two minutes. 

The road dips down now for a couple of kilometres but then it's back into an uphill drag for the best part of 15km, taking us to the highest point of the stage. From there, it's an undulating 30km to the third cat-3 climb of the day - the Col de Lègues. And from there it's mostly downhill to the finish.

The breakaway trio are looking at each other, soft-pedalling, seemingly wondering how much to commit to this. The gap is still slim at 2:05 and the peloton are taking it so easy behind. 

Cousin goes solo. A slightly bizarre set of circumstances sees Cosnefroy give his compatriot a push to help him launch up the road. Cousin clearly wants to make the most of this break but the other two couldn't muster the commitment he was after. 

So Cousin is ploughing a lone furrow on the road to Sisteron, where he has history...

Cast your minds back to the 2018 Paris-Nice, and one of the most glorious examples of shithousery in recent memory. Cousin was away with Nils Politt in the finale of stage 5, and simply refused to do a turn. The big German grew increasingly exasperated but continued to ride, towing Cousin to the line, where he completed the mug-off. Some weren't happy with the tactics but that's racing, and Cousin twisted the knife in his post-race interview when he explained how he'd just dispatched 'the Kathusa rider'. 

"I played with his balls a little. That's the way I won. I'm so generous in my efforts all year and I was beaten in similar circumstances so many times before that I decided to maneuver differently for once and see if it worked. I didn't steal this."

Here's our report from that day, if you're interested.

Even less of a threat now for the peloton, who let the gap drift out to 3 minutes as Cosnefroy and Perez are welcomed back. This has turned into something of an active rest day, even if the undulating parcours and the rain will nevertheless contribute to the overall fatigue. 

To prove how chilled it's been. We're some 20 minutes behind even the slowest predicted time schedule. The average speed so far has been 32.7km/h.

120km to go

The peloton continue to lend Cousin more rope, as the gap stretches out beyond the four-minute mark. 

There are plenty of hills to come on this mid-part of the stage. The next classified climb is 35 kilometers away, however.

That's the Cat-3 Col les Lèques (6.9km at 5.4 per cent), while the Cat-4 Col de l'Orme (2.7km at 5 per cent) lies a further 35km away.

After the farcical opening stage of the Tour, which saw countless riders crash on slick roads in the pouring rain before a rider-organised neutralisation, a group of 30 riders have organised to take more control of their own safety.

The group has formed a chat with their union, the CPA, and looks to be replacing any one 'patron' of the peloton.

Riders unite at Tour de France to take more control of race safety (opens in new tab)

111km to go

Deceuninck-QuickStep are still in control at the head of the peloton, with five men up there. Tim Declercq leads the way, if you hadn't already guessed.

Cousin's lead has come down a little in recent kilometres. It's now 3:45.

It's down to 3:15 now. They're definitely speeding up behind. There's no real incentive to catch anytime soon though.

The rain is falling on the peloton again now. It's a miserable day out there.

We're seeing more châteaus than attacks today. It's a very quiet one.

100km to go

We're past the halfway point now. 98km down and 100km to go.

Cousin is carefully picking his way down this wet descent. He's 2:45 up on the peloton now.

Marc Hirschi introduces himself at Tour de France (opens in new tab)

Meet the man Fabian Cancellara compares to Kylian Mbappé, Marc Hirschi, who took second on stage 2 after following Julian Alaphilippe's winning attack.

Over on Eurosport, they're talking about their experiences of eating boar.

"I've never had good boar in France."

Quality fare, this.

Over on ITV Chris Boardman is talking about the unexplored opportunities of hydraulic brake fluid. Take me back to the boar chat!

90km to go

Cousin is coming to the bottom of the downhill that leads to the foot of the Col des Lègues. He has a lead of 2:30 now. 

Cousin begins the climb. It's 6.9km at 5.4%. 

The rain has eased and the sun is even poking out. 


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Today we have a story on Michal Kwiatkowski, with some interesting comments on the role of Richard Carapaz, the late addition to the Ineos Grenadiers roster. The absence of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas seemed to leave Egan Bernal as the sole leader but Richard Carapaz could be a really dangerous option, potentially racing in a different way and giving Jumbo-Visma a real headache.

Kwiatkowski: Riding for Bernal doesn't mean we won't play Carapaz card at Tour de France

The peloton have knocked it off on this climb, not that it has ever really been 'on' today. Anyway, Cousin's lead stretches out to 3:50. 

80km to go

Cousin drags himself over the top of the Col des Lègues and does so with a lead of 3:40. He's the hero of the day and is heading for the red dossard of the 'most combative' rider today, that's for sure. 

Ooh, a bit of action... The bunch comes to the top of the climb and Cosnefroy attacks, with an actual lead-out. Perez was on the wheel but had to uncl