64km to go: An email from Paul Griffin.
“As a race I’m finding it a little bit undercooked so far, like a hungover student’s full English. It got me wondering whether this is the flattest start to a Tour ever? There have been very few climbs, and none at the business end of stages. This perhaps accounts for the fact that, while it’s been a spectacular, er, spectacle, there’s no real narrative yet, apart from the understandable simmering antipathy between Groenewegen and Jakobsen. Plot twist please.”
I don’t have any precise stats to hand, but Denmark was very flat, and for all the enthusiasm of the fans, a little boring racing wise. The lack of wind didn’t help, either. A bit more NARRATIVE wouldn’t harm things, certainly. It’s at times like these that we really miss the presence of a home favourite to spice things up. A shame that Julian Alaphilippe, who strove to get fit after his horrendous accident at the Liège-Bastogne-Liège Classic in April, narrowly failed to get himself ready for the start this year.
66km to go: The peloton is less than 2min30secs away now, it’s going to be a certainly that the leaders, Perez and Cort, will be caught.
68km to go: That’s 500km completed in this year’s Tour. Around 2,800km to go! Cort takes the 10th KoM point after another short, sharp climb. He’s having quite the race, I wonder what will be left in the tank for tomorrow on the cobbles.
70km to go: Yet ANOTHER King of the Mountain point to Cort! That’s nine out of nine for this year’s race!
73km to go: Teams are jostling for position now at the head of the peloton. There are some, like Mads Pedersen of Trek–Segafredo, who want to use these small climbs to test the pure sprinters, and make sure the riders like Ewan and Groenewegen don’t have it too easy before the finish. They want to take something out of their legs. Pressure is starting to be applied.
75km to go: Two short sharp climbs for Perez and Cort, who now have a five-minute lead. The peloton are making a little descent, which should narrow the gap to the leaders even further.
84km to go: The lead for Perez and Cort is now at nearly seven minutes. The peloton are starting to gear up, with Lotto-Soudal trying to lead the response.
93km to go: Perez and Cort have reached the southern-most tip of the stage, and will now turn west into a light cross-wind before turning north into a headwind towards the coast and Calais.
98km to go: Back at the head of the race, Magnus Cort has taken yet another KoM point at Côte de Remilly-Wirquin. He has eight in total so far, and nobody else has won one! He’s the first person ever in the Tour to have won the first eight KoM points of a race!
Result of the intermediate sprint at Lumbres:
1. Anthony Perez, 20 pts
2. Magnus Cort, 17 pts
3. Fabio Jakobsen, 15 pts
4. Wout van Aert, 13 pts
5. Michael Morkov, 11 pts
6. Peter Sagan, 10 pts
7. Christophe Laporte, 9 pts
8. Caleb Ewan, 8 pts
9. Brent Van Moer, 7 pts
10. Florian Vermeersch, 6 pts
11. Daniel Oss, 5 pts
12. Tim Wellens, 4 pts
13. Nils Politt, 3 pts
14. Maciej Bodnar, 2 pts
15. Tadej Pogacar, 1 pt
Overall green jersey standings:
1. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), 120
2. Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), 105
3. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies), 64
4. Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco), 60
5. Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), 59
102km to go: Fabio Jakobsen is the best of the rest in the sprint, just ahead of Van Aert and Sagan. That means Van Aert has his lead cut to 15 points in the overall sprint standings, with Jakobsen in second place.
105km to go: There should be a scrap for the remaining sprint points as the peloton approach the sprint checkpoint. There are 13 remaining places up for grabs, although nobody has pulled away yet. Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan are all in the mix, though.
Perez and Cort do not even contest the sprint. Cort is just interested in KoM points, and quite happy for Perez to take the full 20 spring points.
110km to go: The wind is, unfortunately, not really playing a part. It’s around a 6km/hour wind, which isn’t causing any splits. We’ll get a small cross-wind as they riders turn in a few km, then largely a headwind as the riders approach the finish.
112km to go: A small (uncategorised) climb for Perez and Cort, who are fast approaching Lumbres. You can see where we are on the stage map here. The peloton, meanwhile, is gliding peacefully behind, 6min20secs back.
116km to go: Perez and Cort have increased their lead back to six minutes! What a strange start to this stage.
There are two birthdays in the peloton today, by the way. Alexander Kristoff turns 35, while former stage winner Philippe Gilbert turns 40, becoming the 15th man to ever ride the Tour in his 40s. A good fact from the Tour’s official website: 10 of the 15 have competed in the 21st century: Matteo Tosatto, Jens Voigt, Christopher Horner, Mathew Hayman, Haimar Zubeldia, Alejandro Valverde, Franco Pellizotti, Alessandro Petacchi, Viacheslav Ekimov and Iñigo Cuesta.
120km to go: Aaaaaaand, the peloton is back together.
125km to go: The peloton splits! Mathieu van der Poel and Pinot are briefly caught in the latter group, but make up the difference. About a 20 second gap at present.
130km to go: The peloton is now just 3min28secs behind. To recap, here’s Cort nailing that first sprint.
135km to go: Re Gary’s tweet below, I’d say the riders are relatively nervy today. The first cross-winds, the first cobbles after a big changeover day from Denmark, most of the these contenders will be trying to safely negotiate the hazards today, and leave the finish to the sprinters, most likely. It would be a high-risk strategy for someone like Thomas to use this stage as a platform for an attack. But then, if it’s not something that Pogacar and co are expecting, perhaps the reward could outweigh the risk.
137km to go: The peloton are into their own ascent on the cobbles, and they have closed the gap on the leaders to 4min45secs.
140km to go: Cort is assured of retaining the polka dot jersey after beating Perez to the summit of the first climb! It was Perez that actually went for it first, but a dodgy gear change, a dropped bottle and sprint technique (bum out of the saddle too early) allowed Cort to pass him on the narrow cobbled road.
141km to go: Cort and Perez hands and wrists chatter along as they ascend the first climb, with cobbles under their wheels. This is only a small stretch of cobbles, but will certainly be on all of the riders’ minds for tomorrow.
145km to go: The lead is such that Perez, who was 5min16secs down on Wout van Aert, at the start, is the virtual holder of the yellow jersey! That won’t last, though.
149km to go: About six kilometres to go until the riders reach Côte de Cassel and the first climb. The peloton is hurtling down a stretch of straight road, so very much in a holding pattern. Meanwhile, the two leaders, Cort and Perez, have increased their lead to six minutes and thirty seconds! Very early days, though.
159km to go: This stage has a bit of everything today. A few climbs, some cross-winds at play from the north-west as the riders come back towards the coast in the final 25km. There are even a few cobbles to help gear the riders up for tomorrow’s stage, which includes 11 stretches of treacherous cobbles in the final 80km. Wout van Aert, a remarkable winner of mountain, time trial and sprint stages last year, is the strongest all-rounder in the world and as holder of the yellow jersey, you’d expect him to be there or thereabouts come the finish today. I’d think Pogacar will probably keep his bonce down today and try and get through the next two stages unscathed.
167km to go: Magnus Cort, custodian of the polka dot jersey after passing all six category four climbs in Denmark in first position, leads out an early breakaway with Anthony Perez. The peloton lets them go, and quite quickly there is a two-minute gap, between the main field and our new leaders.
A rest day for all the riders yesterday. Pogacar used his time off to … rap.
The riders have rolled out from Dunkirk, with thousands of fans lining the coastal road, which heads east before darting south towards Côte de Cassel. It’s worth mentioning that there was a minute’s applause at the start line for the three victims in Sunday evening’s awful shooting in Copenhagen, which is of course where the Tour started this year.
Bienvenue! After the first three stages in Denmark, the Tour arrives in France at its most northern tip, from the port city of Dunkirk, winding inland and looping back to the coast, to Calais. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” a famous man once said.
From our stage-by-stage guide, here’s what today’s preview has to say.
Stage 4: Dunkirk-Calais, 171.5km
Relatively short, and with a series of short, sharp climbs inland from the Channel coast, this stage will be “nervous”, as the riders put it, although the pattern should be familiar, with an early break of riders from the smaller teams looking to scoop up points on the five ascents. However, the final 25km along exposed roads around Cap Gris Nez could split the field if the wind blows from the north-west.
Here’s how the GC standings fall, after Monday’s rest day, with the heavy favourite, Tadaj Pogacar, tucked nicely in third position.
- 1. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo-Visma) 9hrs 01mins 17secs
- 2. Yves Lampaert (Bel/Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) +7secs
- 3. Tadaj Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +14secs
- 4. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo) +18secs
- 5. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned/Alpecin-Fenix) +20secs
- 6. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) +22secs
- 7. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +23secs
- 8. Adam Yates (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +30secs
- 9. Stefan Kung (Swi/Groupama – FDJ Same time
- 10. Tom Pidcock (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +31secs
Wout van Aert holds the yellow jersey, after narrowly missing out on winning stages one, two and three. “It’s not funny any more,” Van Aert said on Sunday, after missing out to Dylan Groenewegen in the sprint.
An intriguing day awaits … join me!