STAGE 3: MARSEILLE – LA GRANDE-MOTTE
Monday, July 6
WHAT’S THE COURSE LIKE?
The race heads west out of Marseille, through the Bouches-du-Rhône, to the finish in La Grande-Motte. With just two fourth-category climbs, this route is considerably flatter than yesterday’s offering in the Var.
The last eighty kilometres are absolutely pan-flat, favouring a pursuit from the domestiques. More crashes can be expected, as first-week nervousness abounds.
If the wind blowing off the Camargue marshlands gets nasty, contenders and fast men alike will have to be vigilant for splits in the bunch.
The closing five kilometres are relatively straightforward, with a sweeping right-hand turn leading to the finishing straight.
There are intermediate sprints at La Fare-les-Oliviers (48.5km), Mouries (90.5km) and Arles (118.5km). However, it is still too early to expect the sprinters’ teams to be setting their sprinters up for the points on offer. Cavendish, for one, will be content to let a breakaway get up the road.
Stage three map and profile>>
Estimated finish time – 17.28 CEST at 44kph
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
A breakaway of three to eight riders escapes in the first hour. Saxo Bank ride tempo on the front, start to hesitate, and herein the problem begins. Yesterday, the maillot jaune’s team surprisingly tapped out a steady pace for over three hours, before Columbia-HTC took over. However, with an important TTT on the horizon, Saxo Bank are not going to be burning many matches giving Cav help today.
After Cavendish’s comfortable victory in Brignoles, the pressure is all the more on his rivals. Nevertheless, the onus to chase still rests with Columbia. With other goals for the Tour, can the teams of Boonen, Freire, Bennati et al be bothered to help Columbia out in shutting down a breakaway – especially if the Manxman is going to destroy the other fast men in a sprint?
MEN TO WATCH
Mark Cavendish – Neither Cav or Columbia got first-day jitters: it was hugs all round, as an expert lead-out led to an emphatic stage victory.
With the green jersey on his shoulders and the opening road stage under his belt, Cavendish now has an even greater psychological advantage over his rivals. However, Columbia will be hoping that, unlike yesterday, other teams will give them a hand in chasing down the day’s escape.
Tom Boonen – The Belgian champion and 2006 points jersey winner will be keen to make amends for yesterday, when he was forced to miss a right-hand corner after a Euskaltel rider went down right next to him. He will prefer a sprint where the pace is slowly ratcheted up.
Gerald Ciolek – His Milram team’s lead-out burnt out somewhat in the closing kilometres on yesterday’s stage, but they did at least show that they could be able foils for Columbia in the bunch sprints. After leaving Columbia this winter, feeling a lack of opportunities due to Cavendish’s imposing presence, Ciolek is eager to show that his sprinting pedigree is every bit as good as that of his former team-mate.
Tyler Farrar – A fine second-place yesterday, but it’s time to see some evidence to suggest that Farrar can be more than just Cavendish’s shadow. He is still lacking a big win on his palmarès. Will it come this week?
CW’S TIP TO WIN
Cavendish makes it two in a row.
WHO’S WEARING THE JERSEYS?
Yellow – Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
Green – Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC)
Polka-dot – Jussi Veikkanen (Française des Jeux)
White – Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)
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