By David Hunter
Stage 3 Recap
We had a surprisingly small break of 3, which included Kadri(as predicted). They got a maximum lead of 7:30, before FDJ and Trek worked to bring them back. The baking hot sun started to melt the road and this led to a crash. Sadly for Nizzolo, he had to abandon the race. With the break back in the bunch, it looked like we would roll towards the finish. Jens Voigt had other ideas! He instigated a break of 8, after FDJ were caught napping. It was the team of Katusha that brought this break back. As we reached the final kilometre, the big favourite, Arnaud Demare, was left in a poor position by his team. It was Orica and Daryl Impey that led into the final corner. He launched Jens Keukeleire, but he didn’t have the power to hold off the quicker sprinters. Nikias Arndt was supposed to be leading out Van Rensburg, but he just continued on and powered to a close win over Boeckmans of Lotto. Just what FDJ were thinking, I have no idea!
Stage 4 Montelimar – Gap 169.5km
A day that quite a few riders have marked a cross against, in the road book!
A long, uphill day awaits the riders. We have 2 categorised climbs, and it’s the Col de Manse that the riders will find interesting. It’s 9.6km long at 5.2% and quite a challenge. Rui Costa won in Gap in the 2013 Tour de France, leaving his breakaway colleagues behind on the Col de Manse. In the break that day was Gallopin, Voeckler, Kadri and Navardauskas. Can they last the distance this time?
It seems fairly certain a lot of riders will try to get in the break. On these days, it can take a long time for the break to form and stay away. I expect something similar to happen in this stage. It is difficult to see any team that will ride all day to try and ensure a sprint finish. With a tricky descent into Gap, Team Sky will want to say goodbye to the bonus seconds. The riders with the fastest sprint, of the climbers, are Gerrans and Kwiatkowski. I don’t see either team with the stomach to chase all day long. That tells me the break will stay away.
Now the tricky bit, picking riders for the break!
I would be very surprised not to see Reza and Damaseau there. AG2R went into the race with 2 contenders for the GC, but both Peraud and Bardet have disappointed. They want something from the race and I expect to see Alexis Gougeard make the break. Other good climbers lying more than 6 minutes down on GC are: Visconti, Bakelants, Caruso, Mate, Velits, Denifl, Spilak, Vichot, Golas, Stybar, Meier, Navardauskas, Taaramae and Cunego. I have discounted Intxausti and Szmyd as they both crashed today.
Quite a few of these riders have the extra bonus of a quick sprint, so it will be very interesting to see which of them make the break. Of course, if a rider close on GC makes the break, then Sky will have to ride hard and bring them back.
In predicting the stage you have to take into consideration, current form and riders who have targeted this particular stage. The best breakaway rider of those mentioned is Giovani Visconti. He took 2 stages in the 2013 Giro, but crashed hard in the 2014 Tour Down Under. He has slowly got back to fitness and is now looking to build form for the Tour. Movistar have taken nothing from the race and this is a good chance to change this.
FDJ disappointed in stage 3 and Vichot has a chance to rectify this. The French national champion, winning a stage in the Dauphine would be very special. He already won a similar stage in Paris-Nice, this year. Can he do it again? That day Gautier was 3rd, Caruso 4th and Gallopin crashed when ready to pounce.
Back in the peloton, we will hopefully see some attacks on the descent into Gap. Froome looks unstoppable uphill but his bike handling skills are not the best. The other riders need to test him out and put some doubts in his head before the Tour.
Do some of the teams think their sprinters will make it over the climb?
Hard one to call but I’m going for a breakaway win for Visconti.
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