Étape of the Day – A four-way sprint in Poitiers

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Thank goodness long flat stages at the Tour have trimmed down the kilometres over the years. 200-kilometre stages are always long transfers to get across France but thankfully there’s none of that in the last two editions. 167.5 km from Châtelaillon-Plage to Poitiers with one hill outside the town of Niort is hardly exciting but today was all about the final sprint.

Focusing on the positives, Caleb Ewan has his second stage win now his fifth at the Tour and ninth at all three Grand Tours. The Aussie will want more and he’ll hope to make it over the mountains to Paris. Lotto Soudal will be satisfied and the team could even give it a go with Thomas De Gendt in a breakaway come the Alps and Stage 14 into Lyon could be the perfect day for the Belgian.

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The sprint in Poitiers was messy, chaotic and there was no structure. Deceeuninck Quick-Step perhaps got it slightly wrong today with Sam Bennett isolated, Bob Jungels went off the front on the false flat but they’ll be quietly pleased that Bennett has increased his lead in the green jersey. Why? Because the big talking point is the disqualification of Peter Sagan.

Sprints are always nervous to watch and cycling fans all over the world know from the past how dangerous they can be. The sprinters trying to find their lines, following the wheels of rivals and looking for that small gap on the road to make it to the line – we wonder how they all stay upright!

On this occasion, Peter Sagan tried to find a gap on the right because there was nowhere else, he could go to get past Wout Van Aert. The only thing you can’t do is use your head to barge yourself through! The incident could have possibly caused a crash, it could have been worse.

Sagan was rightly disqualified to last place, disappointing to see as second place today was his best finish at this Tour. He’ll finish last today and he’ll lose out on earning points in the green jersey competition. If anything goes wrong and Sam Bennett doesn’t get over the Alps to come then surely his hold of the maillot vert is going to be untouchable.

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For the first time in eight years Peter Sagan’s dominance of the green jersey is coming to an end. This is the first Tour where Sagan is not getting his way – no stage wins yet and his green jersey under threat. Cycling loves Peter Sagan without him the attraction of our sport wouldn’t be great. At the moment he’s not winning but not for the first time. Remember 2015 when he had a similar Tour where he came close to wins, took green but that was all. Sagan is a three times world champion don’t forget, he’s world class but the shine might be disappearing.

Away from the sprint we must say chapeau to Mathieu Ladagnous for being brave and going into a one-man break. There was a small incident in the neutralised rollout with Ilnur Zakarin and Alexey Lutsenko falling on a roundabout but nothing serious just unfortunate to see. Finally, there was one non-starter in UAE’s Davide Formolo which is a shame because he’s been in good form going into the Tour. The Italian leaves the race after crashing yesterday – a little blow for Tadej Pogačar.

The GC doesn’t change. Primož Roglič is in yellow, Egan Bernal stays in second and Guillaume Martin in third.

Tomorrow the Tour moves back towards the Massif Central. The puncheurs and the GC contenders will fancy the finish as there are some serious climbs before the run in to Sarran. A breakaway might also take the stage to the bunch too.

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Étape of the Day – A sensational sprint in Sisteron

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There is never a dull day at the Tour de France. A three-man breakaway fighting for the early King of the Mountain spotlight, a solo rider out on his own, a peloton bringing it back and the sprinters teams positioning themselves on the road to deliver their fast man.

After two tough stages around Nice, Stage 3 left the Côte d’Azur with a 198 km route to the “Gateway of Provence” Sisteron. Even on a stage suited to the sprinters today wasn’t all flat with four categorised climbs and a headwind on arrival to the finish.

We’ll tell future generations of cycling fans what happened on Monday 31st August 2020 – the day when Caleb Ewan won perhaps the most messy and chaotic sprint in a headwind in the most insane way possible!

In the final kilometre it was looking very good for Cees Bol as Team Sunweb formed a decent train before they suddenly disappeared. Three-times world champion Peter Sagan was in the mix, European road champion Giacomo Nizzolo was there too and Deceunick-Quick Step’s Sam Bennett almost reached the line.

After winning three stages last year, this latest victory for Caleb Ewan is without doubt his best career win to date. Coming from far back finding a gap just beside Peter Sagan and edging Sam Bennett to win the stage – it was as if we were watching a young Mark Cavendish taking his first collection of stage wins back in 2008. The way Caleb Ewan darted from nowhere to sprint with raw speed and his low aero position – it was Cav-esque!

A rotten start to this year’s Tour de France for Lotto Soudal after losing John Degenkolb and Philippe Gilbert, now a victory that will be very sweet indeed.

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With this year’s edition seeing a feast full of climbs it isn’t entirely a sprinter-friendly Tour de France. More opportunities will come providing the race isn’t stopped but for Sam Bennett he’ll be left wondering how he didn’t win today. It’s a question of when not if the Irishman will take his first stage win at the Tour de France.

His debut season at Deceuninck-Quick Step the pressure will be on for him to deliver but perhaps patience is a good thing at this point. It is absolutely clear that Sam Bennett and Caleb Ewan are the best pair of sprinters you’ll find in the world right now, both similar and both riders will have a stage in the bank by the time the Tour hopefully reaches Paris.

Cast your mind back to last year and you’ll remember that Caleb Ewan had to wait until Stage 11 in Toulouse to secure his first stage win at the Tour – Sam Bennett might have to do the same but it will come sooner rather than later.

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Elsewhere we saw an all-French club fighting for the early polka-dot jersey – nobody else invited to the party just yet! Taking the maillot à pois during the opening stages is always a bonus for your team sponsors and in the break, AG2R’s Benoit Cosnefroy, Jérôme Cousin for Total Direct Énergie and Anthony Perez for Cofidis were our escapees for today.

Cosnefroy and Perez then found themselves back in the peloton as Cousin went solo. A winner in Sisteron at Paris-Nice, Jérôme Cousin thoroughly deserves the combative award for Stage 3 and we wish a speedy recovery to Anthony Perez, who abandoned with a fractured left collarbone after crashing into his own team car. An unfortunate way to leave the race and we hope to see him back racing as soon as possible. Benoit Cosnefroy remains in the polka-dot jersey.

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Another day in yellow for Julian Alaphilippe but will he still be in yellow after tomorrow’s first summit finish?

Stage 4 to Orcières-Merlette isn’t likely to see a Luis Ocaña style attack as he did in 1971 to put almost nine minutes into Eddy Merckx and take the yellow jersey. Instead it could be a tale of two races – one for the stage and one for the general classification.

35 riders are 17 seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe in the GC so tomorrow we will see a sorting out of who’s in form and who’s not after three days of crashes and climbing in the south of France. The jersey could change shoulders and Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates could be our new leader if he’s up for the fight. The first GC battle is on the way so who ends up in the breakaway tomorrow could be interesting.

The first summit finish at this year’s Tour one day after a phenomenal sprint victory for Caleb Ewan in Sisteron – there’s never a dull day at the Tour de France.

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