The key events:
120km: Aaaaaaand, the peloton is back together.
125km: The peloton separates! Mathieu van der Poel and Pinot are briefly caught in this last group, but make up the difference. About 20 seconds apart at the moment.
130km to cover: The peloton is only 3min28secs behind. To recap, here’s Cort nailing that first sprint.
135km to cover: Regarding Gary’s tweet below, I would say that the riders are quite nervous today. The first crosswinds, the first cobbles after a big day of change from Denmark, most of these contenders will try to negotiate the dangers safely today, and leave the finish to the sprinters, most likely. It would be a high risk strategy for someone like Thomas to use this stage as a platform for an attack. But then, if that’s not something Pogacar and co expect, perhaps the reward could outweigh the risk.
137km to cover: The peloton is in its own climb on the cobbles, and it has closed the gap on the leaders to 4min45secs.
140km to cover: Cort is guaranteed to keep the polka dot jersey after beating Perez at the top of the first ascent! It was Perez who got into it first, but a dodgy shift, dropped bottle and sprinting technique (bum out of the saddle too soon) allowed Cort to pass him on the narrow cobbled road. .
141km to cover: Cort and Perez’s hands and wrists chatter as they ascend the first climb, with cobbles under their wheels. It’s only a small stretch of cobbles, but it will definitely be on every runner’s mind for tomorrow.
145km to cover: The lead is such that Perez, who was 5min16secs behind Wout van Aert at the start, is the virtual holder of the yellow jersey! It won’t last, however.
149km to cover: About six kilometers to go until the riders reach the Côte de Cassel and the first climb. The peloton descends a stretch of straight road, so very waiting. Meanwhile, the two leaders, Cort and Perez, increased their lead to six minutes and thirty seconds! Very early, however.
159km to cover: This stage has a bit of everything today. Some climbs, some crosswinds in play from the northwest as the riders return to the coast in the final 25km. There are even some cobblestones to help riders prepare for tomorrow’s stage, which includes 11 treacherous cobblestone sections in the final 80 kilometres. Wout van Aert, a remarkable winner of mountain, time trial and sprint stages last year, is the strongest all-rounder in the world and as the holder of the yellow jersey one would expect that whether he is there or about to finish today. I think Pogacar will probably keep the momentum going today and try to get through the next two stages unscathed.
167km to cover: Magnus Cort, keeper of the polka dot jersey after climbing all six category four climbs in Denmark in first position, leads an early breakaway with Anthony Perez. The peloton let them go, and fairly quickly there was a two-minute gap between the main peloton and our new leaders.
A rest day for all runners yesterday. Pogacar took advantage of his free time to… rap.
The runners left Dunkirk, with thousands of fans along the coastal road, which heads east before heading south towards the Côte de Cassel. It should be mentioned that there was a minute’s applause at the start line for the three victims of Sunday night’s horrific shooting in Copenhagen, which is of course the starting point of the Tour this year.
Welcome ! After the first three stages in Denmark, the Tour arrives in France at its northernmost end, from the port city of Dunkirk, winding inland and back towards the coast, all the way to Calais. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” a famous man once said.
From our step-by-step guide, here’s what today’s preview has to say.
Stage 4: Dunkirk-Calais, 171.5km
Relatively short, and with a series of short, steep climbs inland from the Channel coast, this stage will be “nervous”, as the riders say, although the pattern should be familiar, with an early breakaway small team riders looking to pick up points on all five climbs. However, the last 25 kilometers along exposed roads around Cap Gris Nez could split the field if the wind blows from the northwest.
Here’s how the GC standings fall, after Monday’s rest day, with heavy favorite Tadaj Pogacar firmly in third place.
- 1. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo-Visma) 9:01:17 a.m.
- 2. Yves Lampaert (Bel/Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) +7secs
- 3. Tadaj Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +14secs
- 4. Mads Pedersen (Den/Trek-Segafredo) +18secs
- 5. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned/Alpecin-Fenix) +20secs
- 6. Jonas Vingeard (Den/Jumbo-Visma) +22secs
- 7. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +23secs
- 8. Adam Yates (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +30 seconds
- 9. Stefan Kung (Swi/Groupama – FDJ Same time
- 10. Tom Pidcock (GB/Ineos Grenadiers) +31sec
Wout van Aert holds the yellow jersey, having narrowly missed stage one, two and three wins. “It’s not funny anymore,” Van Aert said on Sunday, after missing Dylan Groenewegen in the sprint.
An intriguing day awaits you… join me!