Starting on Monday from Lorient, the Tour de France crossed Morbihan region for a 187-kilometer long stage 3 towards Pontivy, in the far west of France. Apart from a couple of 4th category climbs, the parcours had everything to favor the first bunch sprint of this 108th edition of the Grande Boucle.
This explains why the battle for the breakaway was short-lived, with five men quickly getting the green light from the pack. Within the peloton, the riders of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team were tasked with accompanying leaders Danny van Poppel and Louis Meintjes. In order to negotiate the sprint finish for the former, and to protect the latter from the obstacles of the day, namely rain and wind.
Despite the breakaway’s slim chances of going far, it held up for a long time against the peloton, gradually gaining in nervousness as the final race drew nearer. The fugitives were eventually caught at the entrance to Pontivy, leaving room for preparation for the massive sprint.
But 5 kilometers from the finish, a crash split the peloton, leaving 25 riders in the lead. While ideally surrounded by four teammates to approach the final, Danny van Poppel was slowed down by this incident. An incident that condemned the Dutchman’s chances of competing in the sprint, eventually won by Tim Merlier.
Hilaire Van der Schueren (sports director):
“Although we are disappointed that we could not challenge for victory because of a crash, we have to look at the positives: nobody in the team crashed and it is almost a miracle that our eight riders come out of this unscathed. Louis Meintjes did not lose time on the GC favorites either, many of whom crashed. Like today, it will be important in tomorrow’s stage to pay attention to the positioning as it will be a nervous finish again. “
Danny van Poppel :
“For my first sprint on the Tour de France, it was a particularly hectic finish. We had Loïc Vliegen, Boy van Poppel, Jonas Koch and myself, in addition to Jan Bakelants behind me, to approach the sprint. It was perfect, until the crash 5 kilometers from the finish cut us off. That’s the Tour. Fortunately, no one from the team was involved and we can try again tomorrow. “