The Tour de France peloton enjoyed a slow day through the countryside to Angers, France, where Mark Cavendish won stage three. Such was the pace, race leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) says he thought that the race was stopping for a coffee break.
Cavendish won his second stage in a fast finale ahead of German André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal). The 223.5-kilometre stage, however, lasted six hours and the riders rode at 37.26kph. In comparison, Cavendish won stage one at the end of a 188-kilometre stage where the peloton averaged 44.395.
"Today was a relaxed day for us, in the break there was just one rider, we went slow," Sagan said after accepting another yellow jersey. "I was thinking at one time that we'd take a coffee, like in old times. Afterwards there was no time. It was a long transfer, there was one bar, then the last 20 kilometres was a fast race.
"If the stage is shorter, it'd be faster. Tomorrow [the longest stage at 237.5km], will be longer!"
Armindo Fonseca (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) escaped and gained over 10 minutes. The peloton looked to be catching him, when Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) joined. Sagan said they slowed down even more because they did not want to risk catching the duo too far from the finish. Such a catch would cause unwanted action for the sprint teams like Etixx-Quick-Step and Lotto-Soudal.
"I certainly never had a day like that in the Tour de France yet, where it's really gone that easy with one guy in the break," Sky's Chris Froome said. "But with no real KOM points up for grabs and a 225km stage like that, there wasn't much motivation for guys to go in a break."
Highlights of stage three of the Tour de France
"It was certainly long," added team-mate Geraint Thomas, who is suffering from sore ribs due to a crash in stage one.
"The first bit was slow, obviously, with only one guy up the road and no wind and no stress in the peloton. Yeah, it was a slow day, but the last hour and half were chaotic.
"It is just the way it happens. You'd expect a few more guys to want to get up the road just for some exposure or something, but it didn't happen."
The peloton caught the lead duo with eight kilometres to race. Etixx and LottoNL-Jumbo pushed the pace high, Dimension Data came through and Mark Renshaw led out Cavendish to win number 28. The finish was fast, but the start was something new for Renshaw.
"I haven't raced a stage like that in the Tour before," Renshaw said. "That's like an old school stage from 10 years ago: start easy and go super fast. We don't see that very often these days. I'll take it when I can with a lot of hard days coming up."
The Tour de France continues south to Limoges on Tuesday, but with no promise of a faster stage. The riders must cover 237.5 mostly flat kilometres.
"Who knows what will happen tomorrow," added Froome. "I hope there will be a few more guys in the break so we can get the stage done quicker."
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