160km to go
Very little change out on the road. In fact, nothing has changed.
Transfer news update: Matthews to quit Sunweb
Away from the Tour de France, it was announced late last night that Michael Matthews has been given the green light to leave Sunweb before the end of his contract which is due to expire in 2021.
Must admit, I was very surprised to see that Matthews who is in fine form right now, was not selected for this year’s Tour. I really thought he could do well on this course and could have, perhaps, challenged for the green jersey. Anyway, he’s off to a new team soon.
In a statement from Sunweb, Matthews said: “The team is very ambitious and increasingly want to work with a broader collective of riders deeper in the finales of classics and sprint races. Those tactics do not ideally fit with my ambitions and specific strengths to sprint for the wins. For that reason, I decided to ask permission to investigate opportunities to look for a different team and I appreciate that Team Sunweb was open for this.
“I always have been very happy with the team’s professional environment and the wealth of knowledge that they have. I hope that I can find a similar environment in my next team. Through the years we have achieved amazing things together which I am very proud of, these memories will stay in my mind forever and I am very thankful to the team for that.”
Meanwhile, Tiesj Benoot has extended with the team and will remain at Sunweb until the end of 2022.
170km to go
A fairly sedate start to today’s stage, the leading riders clocking an average speed of just 35.8km/h. The breakaway’s advantage on the peloton has dropped slightly to 2min 15sec.
Cosnefroy claims he does not train for the mountains
Benoît Cosnefroy, the current leader in the mountains classification who has taken the terrible decision to dress in white shorts today, told FranceTélévisions this morning that he doesn’t specifically train for the mountains, but is more than happy to carry the polka-dot jersey on his shoulders.
“I came to the Tour with the ambition of seizing opportunities,” Cosnefroy said. “My opportunity yesterday was to take the polka-dot jersey. I’m delighted to wear it. I’d like to keep it for several days. I’m aware of my abilities in the mountains. When the pure climbers will be racing at the front, I’ll have very few chances to score points against them.
“I don’t train specifically for the mountains. My work is mostly on explosive efforts. The polka dot jersey I got yesterday is not just a bonus but a sacred bonus!”
185km to go
Benoît Cosnefroy, Jérôme Cousin and Anthony Perez have increased their lead to almost three minutes, while back in the pack it’s that man Tim Declercq — aka The Tractor — who is pulling on the front for Deceuninck-Quick Step who are both protecting the leader’s yellow jersey and hoping to set up their sprinter Sam Bennett for the stage win.
And then there were three . . .
Oliver Naesen has sat up and appears to be under team instruction to drop back into the bunch. At 31 years-old Jérôme Cousin is the oldest rider in this three-man break, though he has just two wins on his palmarès. Cousin’s last win, by the way, was at the 2018 edition of Paris-Nice. But where did that stage finish? Sisteron, where today’s stage finishes.
The gang of four
The breakaway has formed and there was very little resistance from the peloton. Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Jérôme Cousin (Total Direct Énergie), Oliver Naesen (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) have already put over a minute into the bunch. Looks very much like a breakaway that will be scrapping over points in the mountains points with Cosnefroy and Perez, who started the day with 18 points apiece in that competition, both present. Cosnefroy has a team-mate alongside him, the former Belgian national champion Naesen.
And they’re off . .
. . . and two riders clip off the front.
Who does today’s stage suit best?
Following Sunday’s lumpy route, today should be one of the few days in this year’s race that will favour the sprinters. The smart money will be on Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) or Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step), though Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Elia Viviani (Cofidis) or Cees Bol (Sunweb) will also be hoping to get in the mix. Interestingly, all six remaining Lotto-Soudal riders finished way down the standings on Sunday — 157th, 158th, 160th, 171st and 172nd with Ewan dead last in 173rd spot — which may be a telltale sign of their intentions today. Were they all feeling rough following Saturday’s chastening opening stage, or more likely saving their legs for an assault on this stage?
As you can see, the final few kilometres are relatively flat, the road rising just 20 metres over 4km, with the final 1,000m rising in single digits.
Of course, a breakaway may also fancy a dig today but I just can’t see one going all the way to the line on this route, it’s just not hard enough.
So, what’s on the menu today?
Today’s stage is just under 200km in length and features four categorised climbs, though none of those are too difficult. The intermediate sprint in Digne-les-Bains comes 37.8km from the finishing line in Sisteron. Here’s a profile of the stage . . .
Here are the details of the four categorised climbs . . .
. . . and here’s what points are available in the mountains competition:
With today expected to suit the fastmen, the points classification competition is weighted in their favour. Here’s the full breakdown of what’s up for grabs in the race for the green jersey . . .
As it stands . . .
Those familiar with the race, or stage racing in general, will realise that there are a number of jerseys on offer at the race, here’s a very quick explainer for anybody that is new to the sport . . .
And here are the current leaders in the respective competitions . . .
But if you want some a little more information about the individual classifications, here you go:
Despite Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Anthony Perez (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) being on the same points in the mountains classification, it is the former that will wear the maillot à pois, or polka-dot jersey today after he finished highest in the standings on Sunday’s stage.
By the way, here’s a quick stage-by-stage guide of sorts . . .
So here we are, back on the road for another day of bicycle racing that we are going to call stage three at the 107th edition of the Tour de France. Before we have a brief look at the stage and consider who may win later on this afternoon, let’s have a quick recap of what happened on Sunday. First up, here’s the stage two verdict our correspondent Tom Cary:
The 28-year-old Deceuninck-Quick Step rider with the d’Artagnan goatee and the swashbuckling style to match was always the heavy favourite to win stage two of this year’s Tour. It might have been designed for him with its two big cols, to sap the legs of the pure sprinters, followed by two smaller kickers near the end. Perfect for him to launch a trademark attack.
But it is one thing being the favourite, and quite another to deliver in such stunning fashion, when the whole peloton knows what you are going to do and is watching you like a hawk.
Meanwhile, our colleagues at The Cycling Podcast published their second episode on Sunday night. While we are waiting for the stage top get under way, I’d suggest you tune in . . .
The Tour de France’s opening weekend in Nice sent the peloton into the hills. With so many riders having crashed on Saturday there were some bruised and tender bodies dreading a difficult day with four tricky climbs to tackle.
Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and François Thomazeau recap a day that went some way to restoring normality to this unique Tour de France.
Julian Alaphilippe, who held the race lead for a fortnight last year, is back in yellow on Sunday night after outsprinting young Swiss Tour debutant Marc Hirschi and Britain’s Adam Yates.
We review the stage, talk about why the result suited Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers down to the ground and wonder what this means for the rest of the Tour’s opening week.
We hear from our Tour diarists Sam Bewley, team-mate of Yates at Mitchelton-Scott, and from Michael Mørkøv, whose Deceuninck-Quick Step team now has the twin jobs of defending Alaphilippe’s yellow jersey and trying to set up Sam Bennett for the stage win in Sisteron on Monday.