Take It From Carol: Tour de France Stage 3
We finally enter France.....
Today the Tour organizers continue their quest to make the first week of the race more interesting than the repetitive hours of flat road riding, marketing breakaways, and a field sprint finish. True, the first 170km is exactly that, but with 30km remaining the riders will encounter three Category 3 climbs (climbs are ranked according to certain guidelines and are rated from most difficult 1 to the least 4. There are climbs so nasty that they are considered “beyond category”—or hors categorie— such as the infamous Alpe d’Huez). A Category 3 climb will include at least a 6% gradient for 4 km or thereabouts with some shorter distances reaching a 10% gradient (there is even a kilometer at 12% with a 15% finish). Look, categorizing hills is REALLY subjective! This is France! In other words, the riders will notice these climbs, but not fret too much while the pure sprinters will drop off the back.
Planned at the end of the stage to obliterate the typical field sprint finish, Stage 3 will set up riders such as Peter Sagan (a sprinter who can climb) and all the riders gunning for the “King of the Mountains” race such as Greg Van Avermaet, Julian Alaphilippe, and Michael Matthews. My bet for the stage win with an uphill finish (or is it my hope because let’s face it, a 15% grade is a bit much even for his hybrid skills on a bike): Peter Sagan. (Yet another Sagan tangent: today’s profile also gives you an idea why Sagan dominates the Green jersey. His hybrid abilities enable him to claim all the sprint points within climbing stages whereas the pure sprinters can only get points offered on flat roads and field sprint finishes). Back to the race: today’s safe bet for the stage win: Alaphilippe or Van Avermaet.
But let’s talk a bit about how boring safe is......
Without giving away any spoilers (still not directly addressing the yellow jersey), the introduction of three early climbs with an uphill finish following a Team Time Trial may produce more than just a Sagan day, a race for Stage win glory, or a battle for the polka dot jersey (King of the Mountains). Some huge chunks of time were lost yesterday by men battling for the General Classification (yellow jersey). Time that in today’s cycling is typically insurmountable. The last 15km offers up some time point bonuses: the first to cross the top gains 8 seconds, next gains 5 seconds and the third rider to summit, 3 seconds. In the last few years, the Tour has become less of a race for the Yellow Jersey and more of a defensive, play it safe, and protect your position on the podium kinda event. Bleh. Hopefully, the organizers strategy ignites the GC’s contenders inner fire! Today would be absolutely goosebump producing is we finally see “throw caution to the wind” racing in the last 15km. How fantastic would it be to see constant attacks and counter attacks in Day 3 of the Tour? After yesterday, these men need to RACE not just hold position!!!
Ok all of this may not be likely.....but enough with boring, professional strategy! Glory cannot be built on comfortable and safe. Let’s race!!!!!