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Tour de la Provence stage 3 – Live race coverage

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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage from stage 3 of the Tour de la Provence. 

It's the Queen stage of the race with the peloton set to tackle the Mont Ventoux. There had been some concerns that recent snow might be a problem but that non-story was put to bed by the organisers and we're set to race up one of the most iconic climbs in the sport... well at least up to the ski station at Chalet Reynard.

To bring you up to speed the sun is out, everyone is in arm warmers and we're rolling through the neutralized zone. There are two third cat climbs before the final ascent but the race should see a break go clear in the opening kilometers before the GC teams really take over.

Here are the results from yesterday's stage and the current GC. There are some standout names to watch when it comes to the finish and the overall standings, with a couple of dozen riders within about 20 seconds of the overall lead. Ballerini won the opening two stages but that run will end today and we'll see a new winner and new race leader.

Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep 4:21:49
2Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
3Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
4Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
5Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
6Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
7Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers
8Stefano Oldani (Ita) Lotto Soudal
9Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
10Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo

General classification after stage 2
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Davide Ballerini (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep 9:04:52
2Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech 0:00:16
3Gianni Moscon (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:19
4Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:20
5Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain Victorious
6Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech
7Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:25
8Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:26
9Aurélien Paret Peintre (Fra) AG2R Citroën Team
10Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
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A chilly 6 degrees at the start this morning but reports are that Tim Wellens, who won Besseges earlier this month didn't start. He's come down sick but Lotto-Soudal have yet to make a formal announcement. 

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5km into the stage and we've seen a few attacks fly off the front but so the peloton have reacted to each move. 

That pattern remains consistent in the early stages with a wave of attacks before the peloton bring everything back together again. 

12km into the stage and the bunch is still intact. 

Away from the race, the big news is that former Team Sky and BC doctor, Richard Freeman is facing charges from UKAD for two alleged anti-doping violations. This is while the GMC look into Freeman in another case. Story is here. If found guilty Freeman could face up to a four-year ban from UKAD. He would be the second doctor employed by Dave Brailsford to have a ban. In 2015 Geert Leinders was banned for life over doping violations. Those violations were related to his time before being on Team Sky's books. 

It's only early February but the usual suspects are the ones to watch. Astana-Premier Tech are going to be keeping an eye on two familiar faces as they look to set up Lutsenko and Vlasov.

“Last year Lutsenko and Vlasov did a very nice race here, our rivals already know what to expect from them, we are among the favourites. But, of course, there are many big stars here, for example, Egan Bernal or Julian Alaphilippe. It is our first race in 2021 season and the main goal is to feel the race and to see our level, to evaluate the work had been done during the winter. So, of course, we are going to try something tomorrow with Alexey and Aleksandr, but we have to see how the race will go on," said their  DS Fofonov. 

That story is right here.

130km to go and finally a group of six riders has gone clear. They have over one minute on the peloton and this looks like the break of the day. Names to come...

Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie, Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93, Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko, Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal, Jerome Cousin (Fra) Total Direct Energie and Nicola Bagioli (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM are the riders in the break.

And the six leaders have stretched their advantage to 1'30 over the chasing peloton. 

Florian Vermeersch is the highest placed rider on GC, 3'06 down on Ballerini's current lead. Neither are really threats to the jersey though given the climb we're facing today.

122km to go and Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie, Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93, Alessandro Fedeli (Ita) Delko, Florian Vermeersch (Bel) Lotto Soudal, Jerome Cousin (Fra) Total Direct Energie and Nicola Bagioli (Ita) B&B Hotels p/b KTM have a lead of 3'05 over the peloton. That's almost enough to make Vermeersch the leader on the road.

The lead creeps up to 3'15 but in all honestly the leaders would need at least double that to stand a chance on the final climb. 

48km into the stage and with the gap holding at 3'23 it's Trek and Astana Premier Tech who are on the front and setting the pace.

As reported earlier today, Trek Segafredo have options for today with both Mollema and Ciccone in their ranks. It's early in the season and the Italian is coming back from a tough 2020 but both rides are worth watching today. Here's our story on their chances.

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Into the final 96km and we've just crested the first 3rd cat ascent of the col de Lauris. Fedeli was first over the summit and  the peloton are at 2'35 as Astana and Trek continue to lead the pack.

84km to go and the leaders have 3'15 on the peloton. Overcast skies now though with the temperature not able to break 10 degrees. Back in the bunch and it's QuickStep who are on the front and setting the pace. 

Alaphilippe is back in the bunch and sitting just on Ballerini's rear wheel as the peloton lines out as we hit the second, third cat, climb of the day.

Bernal is near the front and has his Ineos team around him. He's said that he's riding for Sosa today but Dunbar and De Plus are also in the team. They've got options, that's for sure.

Here's a Tweet.

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Kasper Asgreen (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep has been on the front for some time. He crashed yesterday but isn't show any real affects as he takes a few more seconds off the break's advantage. The gap is at 2'58.

Asgreen and Stybar pick up lunch for themselves and their teammates. 

The road narrows on the descent and the break push their advantage out to 3'20 with 78km to go thanks to the peloton easing through the feedzone.

First rider from Ineos to move towards the front is Ben Swift, who sits in second place behind a rider from Trek. 74km to go.

Swift now takes over and hits the front for Ineos as we continue to wind towards the foot of Mont Ventoux. 

The British national champ looks back down the peloton as he lines everyone out on a small incline. 3'03 to the leaders with 65km to go.

Another feed and Ineos refuel with Egan Bernal on domestique duty for his teammates. That's another indication that he could be working for Sosa today. Here's our profile page on the former Androni rider.

A number of riders have dropped back to team cars to take off extra layers as the pace continues to rise and we head into the final 60km of the stage. 

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Ballerini moves up to talk to Stybar and the pair share a few words before settling back into their pace-setting duties. 3'15 now with 57km to go. The bunch are in complete control.

Another unclassified climb for the break, as the continue to hold their gap at over three minutes. They've even managed to find a few more seconds with the gap at 3'22.

Asgreen is back on the front for Alaphilippe and he's even put on another layer as the race starts to climb. There's even fog on the road as we get a glimpse of the break. 

The gap has crept out to 3'48 with 50km to go but it's the bunch who hold all the cards at this point. The gap would need to be about 6-7 minutes in order to even threaten the race. 

It's been a long day for the break and already a few gaps have started to appear. 

The bunch has started to split on a descent with 41km to go. Nothing major but each of these gaps will become harder and harder to close as we head towards the final climb of the day.

Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93 has lost contact with the break and it's going to be a real struggle as at the front of the bunch it's Stybar who continues to put the hammer down. A minute has been shaved off the break's advantage already with the gap at 2'51 with 38km to go.

Trek are back on the front, after Stybar's descent from the last climb, and we're closing in on the final climb. The gap is at 2'46 with 32km to go.

Swift also reappears for Ineos but Bahrain, Lotto Soudal and Bora are all moving up. Meanwhile Ballerini is drifting down the middle of the pack. He should be fine until we reach the final climb though. 31km to go.

25km to go, so about 15 km until we hit the climb. The break have 2'15 over the peloton. 

Bora look threatening. They've moved up a number of riders and they have some real firepower for the final ascent as well. They've not done any work on the front but they do look organised. 22km to go.

Lutsenko has been moved up as well by his Astana teammates. The race is on and the gap is down 1'56.

Lots of road furniture for the bunch as we head through a small town. That will help the break as the bunch are forced to ease up slightly with the gap holding at 1'57 with 20km to go.

Louis Louvet (Fra) St Michel-Auber 93 did make it back to the leading group, so we're back up to six riders as Asgreen continues to lead the peloton. 19km to go.

Just under 10km to go now until we hit the slopes of Mont Ventoux. It's so hard to predict what will happen due to the nature of the early season form and we've not seen most of these riders since last season, which finished about a week ago. 1'59 for the break, so they'll be caught on the lower slopes. 

Bernal is here for a fight. He's been back to the car, taken off his jacket, and is being paced back by his teammates. When you're climbing Mont Ventoux you want to make a statement, so lets see what the former Tour winner can do.

15km to go in the stage and the gap is still sitting at just under two minutes. 

The road actually starts to climb from this point onwards, with 14km to go but we're not on the official ascent yet. This will still hurt though. 

13.5km to go and Damien Gaudin (Fra) Total Direct Energie has attacked. He just powers clear as the gap drops to 1'35.

Gaudin has been caught but we're down to five riders left in the break.

The bunch is about to split as the intensity increases. 12km to go.

Bernal is on the right and is moving up, even though he's lost his teammates. A few seconds later and Bernal is near the front as Swift takes control. 

Gaudin has sat up and we've just got three riders left from the break with 11km to go. The gap is at 55 seconds and is coming down rapidly. 

What's left of the break continues to attack each other and Cousin has been distanced. Just two riders left up the road at this point with 11.1km to go.

Vermeersch and Bagioli are all that's left at the front as with 10km to go Astana hit the front and light things up. 

That's Fraile who is driving the peloton along as we close in on the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux.

We're now on the lower slopes of the climb but it's still Astana who are setting the pace. Fraile is done though. 

This is Izagirre doing all the damage and already half the bunch has been dropped. 

De Plus has taken over but that's because with 8.9km to go as Astana send a rider up the road. Fabro has counted for Bora as Ineos lead the peloton.

Dunbar is on the front for Ineos at the moment but we've still got a long way to go. 

Bagioli has gone alone with 8.4km to go but Tejada is closing. The Astana rider is only 20 seconds off the race lead and he's about to move into first place on the road.   Fabro is still chasing. 

Still Dunbar on the front but the gap between Tejada and the peloton is at about 15 seconds with 8km to go.

Tejada and Fabro lead and have linked up but it's the Astana rider ding most of the work. Finally the Bora rider takes a turn but the gap is less than 10 seconds as Dunbar continues to chase. Gripping stuff.

The leaders have been caught but they've cracked Dunbar, who also slips back and Rodriguez takes over for Bernal/Sosa.

Five riders from Ineos but they're concerned with Lutsenko as we race through the fog and continue to climb. 7.2km to go.

We're down to about 30 riders, but no sign of the World champion at this point. 

Rodriguez swings off and De plus takes over. Actually Bernal has called Rodriguez back, Bernal wants more from him. Alaphilippe is here, Lutsenko and Herrada but the race leader has long gone.

Aru has been dropped too with 6.4km to go.

Rodriguez climbs with this dropped shoulder, but he looks so comfortable as De Plus is dropped. 

Teuns is about to be dropped. That's a surprise.

Mollema, O'Connor and Ciccone are all there. 

Lutsenko has gone! He's sat up and given Vlasov the nod. That's a huge surprise as Ineos continue to lead.

Ineos are just grinding everyone down on this climb. 

Bernal is third wheel and still has two men left, with Alaphilippe on his wheel. Teuns is done and Barguil is struggling too.

Haig is there still but we're down to about 15 riders and they're all lined out due to the speed of Ineos. 

Bernal looks really good, really good as O'Connor is dropped and Barguil and now Sosa attacks with 4.7km to go and he's clear.

Will Trek chase? They have the numbers.

No it's QuickStep who chase for Alaphilippe as Sosa goes alone. He's got a good gap with 4.3km to go. 

There's still a long way to go but this attack could decide the stage. Mollema and Ciccone aren't willing or able to show their hand just yet and Alphilippe keeps looking around. 

Poels is still there and Haig is fighting back with 3.8km to go.

Sosa has about 20 seconds or so and he doesn't look like he's going to be caught. Not at this point.

This gap is going to be so hard to close and it only getting bigger with 3.5km to go. But Vlasov has attacked!

Alaphilippe goes right over the top and he takes Bernal with him. 3.3km to go.

Bernal just sits on his wheel and Alaphilippe can't ask for any help and he knows it. 3km to go and Poels is bringing back a group.

Sosa still leads though as Alaphilippe goes again and Bernal latches on once more with groups all over the road. 

Vlasov has cracked a bit as we see Sosa hold a 20 second lead with 2.4km to go.

Poels makes it three chasers. 

The world champion is closing the gap and he wants help from Poels. He gets it and Bernal is on the radio again. He's bossing this stage. 2.1km to go.

20 seconds for Sosa as Poels leads the chase. 

Sosa is on to take the stage and the lead. He started the day 3 seconds down on Alaphilippe. 21 seconds now to the Ineos rider. 

1,500m to go and Alaphilippe moves up again but he's not able to take any time at all. 

Bernal will look to jump. And he does go with 1.1km to go.

Poels has been dropped. 

Bernal then moves back to behind the Frenchman. 20 seconds is the gap with 900m to go.

Sosa, just 23, is heading for the win. 

Bernal is just waiting for the sprint now but the GC is in the balance. 500m to go.

Can Sosa take the lead and the stage as Alaphilippe stamps on the pedals again. 

Ivan Sosa wins on Mont Ventoux and takes stage 3 of the Tour de la Provence. 

Bernal was second and Alaphilippe third. I think that means Sosa takes the GC lead. Poels was fourth. 

Then we've got a gaggle of riders who finish about 55 seconds down.

Aru just crosses the line a couple of minutes down. We'll have results shortly. 

So with those bonus seconds, Sosa lads by 19 seconds from Bernal on GC and the world champion is seconds further back. 

1 Ivan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 4:08:14
2 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:15
3 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:18
4 Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:29
5 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis 0:00:48
6 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
8 Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
9 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
10 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe

General classification after stage 3

1 Ivan Ramiro Sosa Cuervo (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 13:13:16
2 Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:19
3 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:21
4 Wout Poels (Ned) Bahrain Victorious 0:00:39
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:57
6 Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:58
7 Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
8 Mauri Vansevenant (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep
9 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
10 Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech

And here's our report and results from the stage.

An important win for Sosa there but also a statement performance from Bernal, who looked comfortable throughout the final climb and could have won. 

Thanks for joining us today. We'll be back with more tomorrow and the final stage of the Tour de la Provence.

Good bye.

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