Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 3; Granville – Angers. Cavendish by an inch!
After a gruesomely boring stage where one man – albeit latterly assisted by Tommy V – held off the pack for 200 K it was another day of joy for Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish; just too quick for Greipel, Coquard and Sagan on a slightly uphill finish into Angers.
Kittel looked to be well placed at the red kite but got it wrong on the final right hander to finish well out of it.
Greipel reckoned maybe he was one cog too high in the finish on 54 x 11 – Cavendish’s choice of gear was just fine though.
There’s little left to say about Cav; the man is special – if only he didn’t have the bairn on the podium with him...
Fortuneo-Vetal Concept's bearded Armindo Fonseca hails from Rennes and felt it was his responsibility to scoot off up the road to uphold Regional honour as the race headed into Brittany.
His maximum lead of 11 minutes was reached at just 25 K into the rolling 223 K between Granville and Angers – from there on it began to slip back slowly, with the peloton not exactly burning the tar up.
Fonseca was happy with the exposure, the peloton was happy to have him out there as a marker...
As a matter of interest, the longest ever Tour breakaway was 253 K by Albert Bourlon in 1947; in recent times prologue specialist Thierry Marie’s 234 K in 1991 is the longest – the biggest winning margin for a solo break was Jose-Luis Viejo’s 22:50 in 1976.
Long straight roads rolling past hedgerows and through forests, lots of fans roadside, the peloton chatting and eating – reminds me of those pictures of Tours of my youth.
What’s happened to the full-on madness we know and love?
‘Chute victimes’ Messrs. Mørkøv, Bennett and Archbold won’t be complaining.
It’s at just before 50 miles to go that something actually happens – Tommy Voeckler (Direct Energie) bridges a five minute gap solo to give Fonseca some company – this is better, I nearly nodded off just then.
The peloton have decided they best react; 3:25 is the gap with 74 K to go, Etixx and Lotto on point now with Tinkoff not far away.
Voeckler’s move is almost certainly doomed but he’s honouring the race and the organisers will be happy, the peloton is currently some 30 minutes down on the slowest schedule.
The intermediate sprint comes at 52 K to go, Fonseca and Voeckler ride through it; behind, Kittel, Sagan, Cav, Greipel sprint half heartedly through – they have bigger fish to fry.
As 25 miles to go approaches the two escapees have but 30 seconds with Lotto and Etixx doing the – belated – work.
The roads roll, Tommy jerks out of the saddle, the peloton cruises, the organisers fret, the journalists have the piece written with just the winner to fill in – and think that for once all the restaurants will be open.
The peloton is playing their fish, letting the line slacken but we’re inside 20 miles and they’ll strike soon.
It’s status quo up at front of the bunch – Lotto with a little help from Etixx with Sky keeping Christopher out of trouble.
Tommy V. has gurned the gap back out to minute but that’ll melt like a frozen yoghurt in the sun – Fonseca was having a nice solo run through the leafy countryside ‘till Tommy arrived to spoil it all...
We’re glad he did!
Inside 20 K now but the stage should have finished five minutes ago.
The Lotto boys are asserting themselves with 15 K to go, the break has 20 seconds and is doomed – Fonseca has actually been doomed for 200 K.
Voeckler battles on – that TV time is worth a lot of money to the sponsor, 15 seconds now for the duo as we go under the 10 K banner.
It’s over for the duo; 8.2 K remains and it’ll light up now – please - Lotto Jumbo for Groenewegen, Etixx for Kittel, Dimension Data for Cav but it’s not fully ‘on’ and there’s a lot of switching and swerving – it looks dangerous.
Long straight roads but central reservations to make it dangerous; Direct Energie to the fore for Coquard at 3.6 K to go – that’s too early.
Kittel is well there, he has three Etixx there for him.
Cancellara for Theuns, Boasson-Hagen for Cav, 1800 metres to go and a crash has split the peloton.
Etixx on point, across the bridge, flame rouge, Renshaw is good for Cavendish; Greipel comes, but Cav is good, straight, true, strong.
Greipel thinks he has it but he was wrestling with the gear, Cavendish is not sure if he has it...
Sagan looks to be fourth, Coquard third but who’s won?
Edward Theuns (Trek) is fifth, again – a coming man for sure.
That’s win number 28 to draw level with Hinault – albeit 20 of The Badger’s wins were time trials; the best sprinter was Darrigade, way back on 22 wins.
Six to go to match Eddy's 34? – it’s possible...