Tour de France 2021 - Stage 3 as it happened: Chaos as Tim Merlier wins and Primoz Roglic loses time
Monday’s Stage 3 of the Tour de France will see the race travel 182.9km from Lorient to Pontivy, and represents an opportunity for the pure sprinters in the race. Follow the action live with Tom Owen. You can watch the Tour de France live and ad-free on the Eurosport app and Eurosport.co.uk. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.
Highlights: Van der Poel soars to emotional Stage 2 win to claim yellow
Gosh it's been a bad day for Jumbo-Visma. They lost Robert Gesink entirely this afternoon when he abandoned, while now Roglic tumbles from the GC top ten. He sits 20th at 1'35". Jack Haig, who was the Bahrain rider we mentioned was being seen to by medics, has not been listed as a finisher yet.
Geraint Thomas lost 26 seconds there, but finished in the same group as Tadej Pogacar. Richard Carapaz finished on the same time as the winners, just out of the top ten.
Nairo Quintana, Wilco Kelderman, Enric Mas, Jakob Fuglsang and Vincenzo Nibali all crossed 14 seconds down on Merlier in a separate group. I don't yet have a time gap to Roglic, but he's at least 1'06" down.
That was utter pandemonium
It looked as though Ewan's wheel slipped out, and in falling he took out Sagan. Cavendish has just crossed the line five minutes behind the winners.
Plenty of GC damage has been done there too, but for now here's the top ten.
Tim Merlier wins the stage!
BUt there was a horrible crash there involving Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan. The Aussie is down on the deck clutching his shoulder, while Sagan was able to get up and carry on. The crash happened within the final 300 metres.
It looks as though Cavendish missed that front group. Colbrellis is there though, as is Ballerini, Caleb Ewan and Tim Merlier. Sagan coming up strong!
3km to go – Another crash!
And this one looks nasty. One Bahrain Victorious rider is down and staying down, with medics in attendance. Pogacar was caught up in that too, meanwhile the front group of the race is just 25 riders strong! There's gaps and groups everywhere.
5km to go – Nightmare scenario for Roglic
They are regaining some time, but the group Roglic has to catch first is a bunch of dropped riders. They need to get through that group and up to the next which includes van der Poel, our leader, and all the other GC favourites. It does seem as though the sprint teams are easing up ever-so-slightly.
8km to go –And now Roglic hits the tarmac!
It took so long for him to get a bike replacement too. There were plenty of teammates with him, but the car was just agonisingly slow in getting to him. Team time trial time for the Slovenian and Jumbo Visma, he has over a minute to recoup!
10km to go – Madouas on the deck
Bad news for the young French hopeful, Valentin Madouas. He has crashed and hit the deck. It was just a small crash, hopefully nothing too serious.
Meanwhile, Chevalier is dropped from the break so it's just three men left battling to stay ahead for a few more kilometres.
15km to go – Wout the workhorse
Any notions that Wout van Aert might contend for the win today are ebbing away. The Belgian national champ is working 100% for his team, positioned right at the front of the peloton with 15km still to race. Bahrain are also doing a lot of work to keep their man Sonny Colbrelli right up there.
20km to go – The gap drips down
I think the peloton has got this under control now and they're just letting the leaders dangle. The pace is a little bit less aggressive now, and it's the general classification teams who are now pushing things on. Tao Geoghegan Hart leads the Ineos train, while Alejandro Valverde is shepherding the Movistar lineout. Slap bang in the middle of the pack, Wout van Aert is looking after Primoz Roglic.
30km to go – Laporte punctures
The Frenchman on Cofidis couldn't have picked much of a worse time, either, as the pace is really ratcheting up in its intensity. Lotto and Deceuninck are putting in the watts to try and close the gap to the breakaway, while there's also a little bit of cross-tailwind blowing now, which only serves to make everything faster and nervier. The breakaway must've really put the hammer down to be holding the peloton off like they are. The gap is still 1'31".
40km to go – It's business time
This race has really sharpened up in the last 10km or so. The teams of the key sprinters have come right up to the front of the race, with Lotto Soudal particularly prominent there with six of their riders present, including today's pre-stage favourite, Caleb Ewan. Deceuninck are also riding the front en masse, with Tractor Tim De Clercq pulling their train along. The gap to the break is now down to a pitiable 1'04".
50km to go – Where's 'Wizard Merlier'?
One rider notably absent from that intermediate sprint was this year's breakthrough sprinter, Tim Merlier. The Belgian has already bagged himself a stage win in the Giro d'Italia this season before withdrawing in somewhat controversial circumstances. Alpecin Fenix teammate Jasper Philipsen was involved in the intermediate sprint, by the way, but he's a little less suited to today's finale. Here's a reminder of Merlier's masterful, magical win in Italy.
Highlights: Merlier wins on debut after points confusion
60km to go – Intermediate sprint has been sprunt
And that was a nice little warmup for the sprint to come later, actually. We saw the breakaway mop up the maximum points from the intermediate, but there were enough left over to entice the likes of Cavendish, Colbrelli, Ewan and Sagan to all duke it out for the minor places. It was Ewan who proved to be the fastest, just edging out Mark Cavendish for fifth. Behind Cavendish it looked to be his teammate, Morkov, then Colbrelli, Arnaud Demare, and Peter Sagan scoring a handful of points for tenth.
70km to go – "He's the best in the world."
Mark Cavendish was interviewed this morning and while he was characteristically cagey in response to most of the questions, he did have the above to say on what he learned about his new leadout man, Michael Morkov, at the Belgium Tour recently. He's in good hands, then, for today's final sprint!
The four remaining riders up the road are Maxime Chevalier & Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Michael Schar (AG2R Citroen) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis).
80km to go – Ide sacks it off
A questionable move there from the young Bora-Hansgrohe rider, etiquette-wise. He has ditched the breakaway and gone back to the peloton – a little bit rich given none of the breakaway contested that point he just won. You want to see all riders in a break committed to the move, but I guess now the jersey is secure, Schelling can now give more value to the team as a domestique working to help Peter Sagan.
90km to go – A new king in town
And as we expected, Ide Schelling skips clear of the breakaway to take the single point on offer at the summit of our first classified climb. He now leads the virtual classification and owns the polka dot jersey by rights. Unless Mathieu van der Poel springs out from the peloton, overhauls the break and takes the point on our second and final climb, then the young German will wear the polka dots for another day tomorrow. He even has the presence of mind to tip a little wink at the cameras as he crosses the line. What a pro!
100km to go – Peaceful progress
After the Thomas crash, things have quieted right back down. We just saw a very brief mechanical for Michael Schar, but the rangy Swiss rider hops off his bike and fixes the issue, then a few moments later regains contact with the breakaway. That leading quintet have eked out their gap to 2'07" again. It's about 10km until the first of two king of the mountains climbs, where we should see Ide Schelling battling for another point, which would put him into the lead-proper of the maillot a pois. He wears the polka dots today, but isn't officially the leader after Mathieu van der Poel's exploits on the Cote du Mur de Bretagne secured him four points – equal to Schelling's tally.
110km to go – Small gap
We almost forgot about the breakaway amid all that drama with Thomas, but they're still up there plugging away. the time gap now is just 1'21".
Meanwhile, here's the video of Thomas' crash and Robert Gesink's withdrawal from the race.
‘Exactly what you don’t want’ – Thomas run over by bike in nasty crash
120km to go – And Thomas is safely back in the bunch
Well, that'll be a bit of a relief for the Ineos fans among you! The one-time winner of the Tour de France will not see his race ended by that crash. The scuttlebutt coming out of France is that the issue Thomas had was a shoulder dislocation, and that it was 'popped back in' by the Ineos team osteopath. Glad we didn't see that bit on the telly!
130km to go – Thomas at two-mins
Thomas has been joined by Luke Rowe and Dylan Van Baarle now and the trio are chugging back to the bunch. This is looking more optimistic now for Ineos, the gap is still around two minutes, but you would imagine they can bridge that back steadily over the next ten kilometres.
Let's hope that initial doomy prognosis brightens up.
140km to go – Crash for Geraint Thomas!
And the outlook is not good. He went down in a touch-of-wheels, hit the ground hard and was hit by other riders who went into the back of him.
The good news, however, is he is back on his bike and riding gingerly. No teammate with him just yet, but perhaps they'll come back to help now they know he actually can ride.
Robert Gesink was also involved in the incident and we've just heard he has been forced to abandon the race.
150km to go – Il pleut
And the rain begins to fall. We had expected there might be a little bit of rain today, but it's coming down hard at the moment. Will it hang around? The first two days of the Tour were forecasted to be worse than they turned out, hopefully it hasn't all stored up for today. The breakaway are continuing on in their short sleeves, no sign of a raincoat just yet.
If you missed yesterday's finale, by the way, it's one well worth reliving.
'We sat here today in awe' - Wiggins after Van der Poel's emotional Stage 2 win
160km – Tight leash for the break
The Tour so far this year has been notably different to the Giro in the way that the peloton has controlled the breakaway. In the Giro we saw plenty of wins for the attackers, with lots of riders bagging their maiden Grand Tour victory, and large time gaps between the peloton and the break. Not so today, however. The leaders have been given just 2'29" here, far from the sort of margin that would have them dreaming of an upset victory.
Part of that is because today's the first proper chance for the sprinters, and all their teammates are dedicated to ensuring there will be a sprint later on in Pontivy.
170km to go – The break has broke
And the leaders have made themselves a nice little gap, with the peloton more than happy to let them scoot off up the road. All the major GC teams are prominent at the front of the bunch, just sort of controlling matters.
Then the five names in the break are Ide Schelling, Maxime Chevalier & Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels p/b KTM) Michael Schar (AG2R Citroen) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis). They have 3'17" already.
182km to go – And we're off
Unsurprisingly, it's Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) kicking off the fight for the breakaway once again this morning. They've barely passed kilometre zero and he's already tearing it up, after getting up the road on both the first two stages.
If you missed it yesterday, here's Schelling giving it full beans in a battle for mountains points with Anthony Perez (Cofidis).
‘What a fight! What a character!’ - Schelling & Perez go shoulder-to-shoulder over Cote de Pordic
Far be it from me to disagree...
Seems like Caleb Ewan is the winner-elect for today.
Welcome to the live blog for Stage 3 of the Tour de France on what is expected to be a day that suits the pure sprinters.
After wins for Julian Alaphilippe and Mathieu van der Poel, the focus should shift to the fastmen today, who will battle it out today and tomorrow, ahead of Wednesday’s time trial, where Van der Poel expects to lose the yellow jersey. The very fact that the Dutchman is in yellow in the first place is a credit to his strength in character and supreme all-round force on a bike. Alaphilippe’s opening day victory was always going to take some beating – but Van der Poel somehow managed to do just that. What a duo.
The riders will be underway in about 20 minutes time, ready to undertake a 182.9km course between Lorient and Pontivy.
STAGE 2 RECAP – written by Felix Lowe
When Mathieu van der Poel attacked on the first of two deciding ascents of the Cote de Menehiez at Mur-de-Bretagne it looked like he had gone too early. But the Dutchman snared the bonus seconds over the summit which gave him a chance of taking the yellow jersey the second time round – and the 26-year-old Tour debutant delivered in style.
Countering an attack from Nairo Quintana inside the final kilometre, Alpecin-Fenix’s Van der Poel roared clear of his rivals to win Stage 2 with a gap of six seconds over a deluxe chasing trio of Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe).
The French race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) led a chasing group home a further two seconds back to take fifth place one day after his superb win in the opening stage at Landerneau. By missing out on the bonus seconds over both passages of the summit, the world champion conceded his yellow jersey to his Dutch rival. Alaphilippe will now start Monday’s third stage not in his rainbow bands but in the green jersey after he consolidated his lead in the points classification amid all the activity.
It was an emotional win for Van der Poel on the second day of his Tour de France career, the 26-year-old having stuttered to 20th place on Saturday’s opening stage while his Alpecin-Fenix team wore a special purple and amber kit paying homage to his late grandfather, the former cyclist Raymond Poulidor.
And on crossing the finish line after securing his first Tour stage win, Van der Poel pointed to the sky as he remembered the man called “PouPou” – who famously never wore the yellow jersey during his long and otherwise illustrious career.
“I have no words. I really don’t know what to say,” a stunned Van der Poel said after the stage. “I gambled a little bit. I went on the first climb because I knew I needed the bonus seconds if I wanted the jersey. It was my last chance to get it.”
'I have no words' - Van Der Poel in tears after epic Stage 2 win