Primoż Roglič loses more than a minute
It was hoped that Saturday would be the only day of this year’s Tour de France that would be marred by crashes, but stage three has inherited that title.
There were no mass crashes like stage one, but the small crashes that bookended the day were significant for who was involved.
The most prominent occurred with 10km to go, when a well-placed Primoż Roglič spectacularly fell from his bike, tumbling to the left of the road.
It was unclear from the television footage how the Slovenian fell, but in scenes familiar from March’s Paris-Nice, he held his shoulder in pain and sported cuts to his left leg, his bib shorts ripped and torn.
He initially took a few seconds before remounting his bike, perhaps debating whether or not he could continue, but the Vuelta a España champion soon hopped back on, aided by two team-mates.
One of the favourites for the race, however, was unable to make it back to the peloton and crossed the line 1-21 behind the race winner Tim Merlier.
It’s the second crash in three days for Roglič, and though he ended up gaining time on the opening day, this time he ceded 64 seconds to Richard Carapaz, the best-placed pre-race favourite.
It’s a big chunk of time to lose to his general classification rivals, and ahead of Wednesday’s time trial, Roglič is forced to play catch-up.
An hour after the race had finished and team officials briefed journalists that Roglič was suffering with pain in his tailbone, raising doubt over whether or not he could continue.
Geraint Thomas also crashes hard
The rain didn’t take long to arrive once stage three’s rhythm was set, and almost as soon as it did, the wet roads had its first casualties, including Geraint Thomas.
One of Ineos Grenadiers’ two remaining leaders, the Welshman is no stranger to hitting the ground, and at first it looked as if his race was over, clutching his right collarbone.
Fortunately he was able to remount and receive treatment from the car, with early reports suggesting that he had suffered a dislocated shoulder.
The Welshman, accompanied by three team-mates, re-joined the peloton within half-an-hour, and made it to the day’s finish in the same finishing group as Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), but he will be desperately hoping that the pain isn’t too severe that it impacts him in the coming days.
He will be most concerned with Wednesday’s time trial that requires a rigid, uncomfortable position on the bike, but he will also have one eye on the mountains that lay in wait.
And it doesn't stop there
Before Roglič had his fall, his team-mate and trusted helper Robert Gesink abandoned the race, the Dutchman caught up in the crash that also felled Thomas.
Gesink, who is a vital part of Roglič’s team, quit the race almost as soon as he fell, although it was initially not known what his injury was.
Jumbo-Visma had a horrid day with Steven Kruijswijk also receiving treatment, although the Dutch rider did finish the stage alongside Roglič.
Just minutes before Roglič hit the ground, Miguel Ángel López of Movistar was briefly on the floor, too, but the Colombian – who shipped a good chunk of time on stage one – was able to make it to the day's finish in the wheels of Roglič.
And then to wrap up the nightmarish day for the GC contenders, with just four kilometres between the peloton and the finish line, another crash wiped out one of the dark horses for the race, Jack Haig of Bahrain-Victorious.
The Australian has started the race well and had sights on a top-10 in the race, but he immediately looked unable to continue. Haig was unable to finish the stage due to his injuries, joining his compatriot Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) in leaving the race (see below).
The maxim is true: you can’t win the Tour de France in the first week, but you can certainly lose it.
So what does all that mean for the GC?
As much as several riders will be spending their evening on the massage table nursing their wounds, there will be some at the dinner table quietly smug with their day’s work and fortune.
Despite it being a sprint stage - yes, you did just read that: today was a sprint stage - there were sizeable time gaps between the GC groups, with Carapaz the biggest winner, finishing 26 seconds in front of Pogačar’s group that contained Thomas, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Rigoberto Uràn (EF Education-Nippo).
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), third in the 2020 Giro d’Italia, finished 12 seconds ahead of the group led home by Pogačar, meaning he leapfrogs the defending champion by a second in the overall classification.
Of the GC contenders, Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) has a 23-second advantage to Carapaz, who holds a nine-second lead to Pogačar. Roglič is 64 seconds off Carapaz.
Other notable riders to mention include Enric Mas of Movistar and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) who are both just a second shy of Pogačar. Keep an eye on Vincenzo NIbali, too: the Italian is here for stage wins but is only 24 seconds adrift of Carapaz.
Oh, and a bike rider won a bike race
Sorry, Tim Merlier, it’s not that you’re not important on the day you scored the biggest victory of your career, but it’s more that the GC riders occupied our attention.
In the drama that played out, there was a sprint finish, but stage three being stage three it wasn’t a bunch that contested it, rather the few riders who avoided yet another crash in the final 500m left to fight it out for the stage honours.
Mark Cavendish was not present when the sprint began, and as Caleb Ewan began to unleash his rapid turn of speed that he hoped would propel him to a sixth win in the race, he lost control of his bike and crashed into Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), the two riders falling to the ground.
By this point Merlier was out in front and he was able to sit up and celebrate his victory with plenty of time to spare, finishing ahead of his lead-out man Jasper Philipsen.
That’s two wins in as many days for second-tier Alpecin-Fenix, whose star rider Mathieu van der Poel will wear the yellow jersey once again tomorrow.
Sagan limped across the line just 56 seconds after, but Ewan did not, with reports suggesting that the Lotto-Soudal man has broken his collarbone.
Want more? Keep an eye out on Cycling Weekly throughout the evening as we bring you the latest updates from yet another crash-marred day.
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