After a couple of painful stages, the Tour de France’s riders, and those of Groupama-FDJ in particular, needed a break. The third stage from Nice to Sisteron on Monday allowed them to enjoy one. Although there were 200 kilometers to cover, Thibaut Pinot and his teammates spent a very calm day in the bunch and the French climber could easily finish the stage in the same time as Caleb Ewan, a winner today. This quiet day was more than welcome in anticipation of stage 4, which will feature the first summit finish of this 2020 Tour.
“A peaceful day”, Stefan Küng
Everyone was hoping for a quieter stage to begin the week, and it looked like to be the case straight away when a four-man breakaway formed after just 200 meters. The quartet reduced to a trio five kilometers further when Oliver Naesen decided to drop out, and the trio eventually became a solo after 60 kilometers when Anthony Perez and Benoit Cosnefroy let Jerome Cousin go alone after having contested the first two KOM of the day. A former Paris-Nice stage winner in Sisteron, the Frenchman therefore continued on his way alone with 130 kilometers still remaining. The peloton obviously had no trouble handling a lone leader and didn’t even take any risk as they gave him a four-minute advantage at best. The stage then unfolded at a regular, rather moderate pace, and without any real danger to overcome. It wasn’t until the last fifty kilometers that the sprinters’ teams speeded up a little, bringing Cousin back with fifteen kilometers to go before setting up for the final sprint, which Caleb Ewan won on Monday.
“It was a really peaceful day, and it doesn’t happen often on the Tour,” said Stefan Küng. “After a special first day and a quite difficult stage yesterday, we were happy to enjoy a day like this one, which was almost resting. This kind of day allows you to recover well, and actually more mentally than physically, as we still did 5h30 of racing counting the neutral start. We took it easy all day and just moved up front towards the end to avoid potential crashes or splits. Overall, it was a good day.” His sporting director Thierry Bricaud did not say otherwise: “Let’s say it was a ‘nothing to report’ kind of day. Apart from the rain and a somewhat disturbing weather at the start, nothing happened. After the first two stages that we went through, it was a good day to sort things out a bit. It was also an important day to ’recover’. This may seem paradoxical on a 200-kilometer stage, but when you are less tense and stressed, it allows the body to recover better”.
“An overall hierarchy will surely be made”, Thierry Bricaud
Thibaut Pinot then finished with an anonymous 52nd place but within the time of the winner Caleb Ewan. The Frenchman is tonight seventeen seconds behind the yellow jersey Julian Alaphilippe on GC, just like thirty other riders. However, things could get cleared up tomorrow evening after the first Tour’s summit finish, in Orcières-Merlette (7 km at 6.7%). “It’s a nice climb, not very hard, but there could be some attacks on the second part of the climb. We will try to get over it well and have a good stage,” explained Rudy Molard, who knows the place. “We are still only at the start of the Tour, and above all, the after-effects of the crash are still fresh”, recalled Thierry. “We will see tomorrow how the bodies react to this kind of finale. An overall hierarchy will surely be made, but it seems that it is not a suitable terrain to create big gaps. I don’t think there will be any big offensives tomorrow, but you still need to have the legs to stay with the main favourites ».