Five talking points from stage three of the Tour de France

It wasn't an all-time great stage for the most part, but the finish of stage three of the 2016 Tour de France was one to remember

Did you have a good nap?

Peter Sagan on stage 3 of the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

Peter Sagan on stage 3 of the 2016 Tour de France (Watson)

At 223km long and virtually pan flat, stage three of this Tour de France never promised to be one for the ages, but the peloton made sure it was memorable for the wrong reasons.

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Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) took the bold move of going off in the breakaway on his own, as the route went near his hometown, and the other 197 riders did little to give him any company.

Indeed, with the peloton laughing and joking behind, rolling along at 33kph, Fonseca realised no-one really cared about catching him and eased off too.

It all resulted in an almost protest-like pace being put out for the best part of 150km, until Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) went up the road and joined Fonseca.

As he left the peloton, the elder statesman politely enquired whether anyone minded if he popped off the front and when no-one replied he just sped off.

There were murmurs of the slow riding being against the spirit of the Tour de France and that fines could be following, but it’d be virtually impossible to fine 196 riders for not giving a hoot about riding fast.

Another long stage follows on Tuesday and we could be in for a similar situation. But as some pointed out on Twitter, even if the peloton had been going quicker it would still have been a deathly boring stage until the final 10km.

Cav equals Hinault’s record

Mark Cavendish with his son Frey (Sunada)

Mark Cavendish with his son Frey (Sunada)

Mark Cavendish repeatedly played down the significance of win number 28, but the prolific Manxman must be pretty pleased to match the tally of the great Bernard Hinault.

With 28 wins, Hinault sits six below the even greater Eddy Merckx in the record books and now Cavendish joins that illustrious company with his narrow win in Angers.

Cavendish has been breathing down Hinault’s neck for some years, having sped to 20 stage wins in four years with HTC. Three more followed in 2012 with Team Sky and two more with the Quick-Step team in 2013 before his crash on stage one put him out of the 2014 race.

He moved to within two of Hinault with the win on stage seven last year and has now won two of the first three stages this year – somewhat against the odds – to continue legendary status in the race.

The key thing he’s shown so far is that he can beat the likes of Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel, which was the concern heading into the race, and there’s no reason why he can’t win a few more stages before the race is out.

Fonseca was unfairly robbed of the combativity prize

Thomas Voeckler and Amindo Fonseca escape on stage 3 of the 2016 Tour de France

Thomas Voeckler and Amindo Fonseca escape on stage 3 of the 2016 Tour de France

Apparently, launching a solo breakaway and sticking out for 200km mostly on your own isn’t enough to win you the combativity prize in the Tour de France these days.

Fonseca was nailed on to take the €2,000 prize and get himself a well deserved trip to the podium in Angers for his brave effort, but that was until Voeckler got in on the action.

Voeckler almost certainly didn’t care about the prize money or the red number the most aggressive rider gets to wear the following day, the veteran was simply trying to inject some life into the race.

But his move from the peloton to catch Fonseca five minutes up the road was deemed the most attacking move of the day by whoever judges the combativity prize, who must have been in a post-lunch slumber until that point.

Yes, Voeckler made an attack to liven up the peloton on a deathly boring stage, but a pensioner on a mobility scooter could have bridged the gap to Fonseca, who wasn’t moving particularly fast himself.

For the young riders from the lesser-known teams, the chance to get on television, win a bit of money for his team and wave to the crowd on the podium is what the Tour de France is all about.

Not today, though. The popular man won. That’ll keep the sponsors happy anyway.

Watch: Tour de France 2016 stage three highights

Kittel went missing

The big name absent from the final skirmish on stage three was Kittel, who, despite finishing seventh, wasn’t really in the frame for the win.

It was a strange finish from the German, whose team worked hard to get him into a good position for the final sprint. But as the peloton turned the final corner with 300m to go, Kittel found himself squeezed towards the middle of the pack and couldn’t work his way back to his rivals at the front.

Once you lose the wheel you’re following it’s virtually impossible to get it back in the heat of a final sprint and Kittel paid for what might have been a lapse in concentration, a nudge from another rider or sheer bad luck.

Kittel was the one to beat in the opening stages coming into the race, but has not managed to cross the line first on either of the bunch sprint stages. His time will come in this race, though. There’s no doubt about that.

Big name sprinters upstaged by younger riders

The sprint at the end of stage three of the 2016 Tour de France (Sunada)

The sprint at the end of stage three of the 2016 Tour de France (Sunada)

With the bevvy of top sprinters lining up at the Tour de France it was expected some of the fast men with smaller reputations would be fighting it out just to make it in the top 10.

But, in reality, some of the top sprinters have been struggling to beat the guys from the wildcard teams and the younger sprinters in the race.

Stage three saw Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb, winner of four Monuments between them, finish in 11th and 13th respectively, with Michael Matthews, another fast finisher, sandwiched between them.

Granted, the stage didn’t really suit sprinters like Kristoff and Degenkolb, who isn’t in top form as he recovers from injury, but we could expect them to fare slightly better than that.

In the final five kilometres it was the LottoNL-Jumbo team doing a lot of the work – their sprinter Dylan Groenewegen finished 10th – while Tour debutant Sondre Holst Enger came from nowhere to finish sixth.

Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie) was one of three sprinters from wildcard teams to get in the top nine, joined by Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) and Dan McLay (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).

Edward Theuns also enhanced his reputation with another fifth place in his first Tour de France, to go with the one from stage one.

Maybe it’s the year of the little guy?