Bonjour and welcome to the Cyclingnews live coverage of the stage 3 of the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.
As the Cyclingnews blimp takes height over the south of France, there are 50km left to race.
They are the decisive 50km of the stage and the race, with the Col de la Madone coming up very soon.
An attack has opened a 3:00 lead on the peloton.
Bruno Armirail, Rudy Molard et Valentin Madouas sont échappés avec 2'30 d'avance sur le peloton. #Tour0683 pic.twitter.com/UKuIKUEP07February 21, 2021
There are 11 riders in the break driven by Groupama.
This is a fascinating finale.
These are the riders up front:
Armirail, Brambilla, De la Cruz, El Fares, Geoghegan Hart, Madouas, Molard, Janssens Tusveld and Vuillermoz.
Israel Start-Up Nation is tryin g to keep them under control but they seem to lack the strength to set a fest enough pace.
The race is heading deep into the Alpes Maritimes. This is a terrible finale but should produce some great racing.
Yellow mission update: The pace set by our men - putting pressure on the breakaway ( 2 min gap ) - is taking a toll on many riders. #Tour0683 pic.twitter.com/kva0A6lK3IFebruary 21, 2021
In the break Groupama are driving the pace for Gaudu and Molard who are third and fourth in GC.
As the road turns under the highway, the Col de la Madone starts.
It is 11km long at an average of 6%. It will surely shake-up the race.
Woods has two ISN teammates leading the chase and also has Dan Martin to help him. However he faces a real battle to retain his race lead.
The high pace is spitting riders out of the attack and the Woods chase group.
The gap remains at 2:30. Groupama have taken on the race and seem to be rewarded.
Geoghegan Hart ups the pace with a surge but Groupama quickly take back control.
The chasers are only 2:15 behind but the group is suffering.
The Col de la Madone is a stunning climb as it curves upwards.
Israel Start-Up Nation are slowly pulling the attack back but it remains 2:00. It will soon be up to Dan Martin to ride on the front for Woods.
We can expect more attacks from Geoghegan Hart and others in the attack.
Armirail is doing a huge job for Groupama. Gaudu is perhaps being held back for the GC battle, with Molard up in the attack.
Dangerous riders in the attack also include Gianluca Brambilla (Trek) and Gorka Izagirre (Astana).
30km to go
There are still 5km of the Madone to climb. It is creating a huge selection.
Dan Martin is leading the chase for Woods. The Canadian is differing but tucked on his new teammates' wheel.
The Col de la Madone has become a high-speed pursuit match.
Behind them are Mollema, Sivakov, Gaudu, Quintana and O'Connor.
Martin's pace is bringing down the gap. It is 1:30 now.
There are only six riders in the attack and three are from Groupama.
Amirail is done and so Madouas takes over and attacks.
Brambilla also gives it a nudge, Geoghagen Hart is suffering and Izagirre is dropped.
Brambilla is stomping on the pedals.
Madouas is with Brambilla. While behind there are other attacks.
They are attacking each other in the Woods group. The Canadian is still there as Mollema loses a few metres.
25km to go
Woods kicks after realising Mollema is suffering.
Woods is on his own.
At the summit of the Col de la Madone Woods is only 1:00 down on Brambilla and Madouas.
He leads the two by 13 in the GC and so needs to pull back more time on them on the fast descent and dash to the finish.
The descent twists down the side of the mountain exactly as it climbed.
The descent ends with 13km to go and then there are two shorter climbs that are perfect for final attacks.
This is the kind of road from today's stage.
Brambilla and Madouas lead by 12 seconds as Geoghagan Hart and the others are chasing hard, with the Woods group at 1:00.
The Woods group has reformed but now lacks some conviction. Mollema won't chase because he has Brambilla up front.
Quintana is not helping and Woods is alone.
The gap is up to 1:10 now.
Sivakov was in the Woods group but suffered a puncture.
The break will soon hit the Col du Pelletier, followed by the Col de Nice.
12km to go
Only Woods is chasing behind, the rest are sat on his wheel.
For now it is advantage Brambilla and Madouas. They are both at 13 seconds and so will also fight for the GC.
Geoghegan Hart, Izagirre and Molard seem cooked. They've slipped to 16 seconds.
Behind Woods attacks alone as the others seem to have ran out of energy. However it could all be too little too late for the Canadian. However he is going down with a fight.
Brambilla attacks Madouas! He's clear.
Fuglsang, Gaudu and Quintana join Woods.
But Brambilla is riding towards victory.
The Italian has endured two quiet seasons but seems back to his aggressive best.
10km to go
Brambilla was smart in joining the Gropama- driven attack. He rightly sat on the wheels and then made the decisive selection over the top of the Madone.
Molard, Madouas and Geoghegan Hart are chasing Brambilla but they are 30 seconds behind.
The Woods group is at 1:00.
Brambilla is on the Col de Nice. The 2km climb is the last obstacle between him and victory.
Brambilla turns left onto the main road. He is just 8km from the finish in Blausasc.
Brambilla cheekily goes into a super tuck aero position. He risks a penalty if he does that after April 1.
Madouas slips out on a hairpin. That slows the chase even more.
The Woods group are closing the gap. They are 45 behind Brambilla but only 15 down on the chasers.
Molard is the lone chaser of Brambilla now.
3km to go.
GeoGhegan Hart tries to chase Brambilla alone.
Brambilla leads by just 28 seconds now. This is a thriller.
2km for Brambilla.
He needs to finish 13 seconds ahead of the chasers to win the GC.
Brambilla is clear and in the finish.
Brambilla wins the stage!
The GC will be close but he's won the GC too despite sitting up to celebrate at the finish.
The chasers finished just 13 seconds behind Brambilla but he should have sealed overall victory.
Wow! Simply wow.That was as exciting as it comes.Way to go @glbrambilla, way to go team! #Tour0683 pic.twitter.com/I3TEIWRnkLFebruary 21, 2021
Brambilla reveals he lives in Monaco and so knows the roads very well.
There are no time bonuses in France and so the exact time count for the GC.
This is the top ten for the stage.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||3:43:32|
|2||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:13|
|3||Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team|
|4||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|5||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|6||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:18|
|7||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ|
|8||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|9||Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|10||Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
The provisional results also confirm Brambilla as the overall race winner.
Woods finished 5 seconds behind, with Mollema third at 6 seconds.
Phew. What an intense day of racing and an intense finale in the south of France.
Here's the moment Brambilla celebrates his victory.
This is the final top ten on GC. It was close.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||12:51:00|
|2||Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation||0:00:05|
|3||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo||0:00:06|
|4||Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:09|
|5||David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:11|
|6||Ben O’Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën Team|
|7||Valentin Madouas (Fra) Groupama-FDJ||0:00:13|
|8||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:18|
|9||Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|10||Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:26|
Here's the moment Brambilla is crowned as overall winner.
#Tour0683 So good.What a race by @glbrambilla and... pic.twitter.com/SsJeBZe6x5February 21, 2021
To read our full stage report and see our growing photo gallery and results, click below.
Brambilla was tired but happy after is victory.
“It was a really hard and tough day,” he said the finish. “I managed to be in the first break. I was marked, but I played my cards well. Groupama did most of the job, they were really really strong.”
“I’ve lived here in Monaco for almost four years, and I know very well all the roads here,” revealing the secret to his victory.
Amid all the action and confusion of the finale, it also transpired that Brambilla was ignorant of what exactly was going on due to a problem with his radio.
“I had a problem with the radio, I was without a radio and didn’t know anything in the final. [Trek-Segafredo Director Sportif] Gregory Rast came with a car, and he told me: ‘You have to give everything, you have to drop everyone if you want to go for the stage and for the GC.’ I was thinking about the stage, not the GC. But everything came.”
Thanks for joining us for live coverage from the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.
Check out our full stage report and news from the race.
We'll be back with full live coverage of the UAE Tour TT on Monday and trough the week for the other stages of the first WorldTour race.
Next weekend things step up another level with the Opening weekend of racing in Belgium. The season is suddenly well and truly underway.
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