Stage 3 of the Tour De France will see GC riders become wary of attacks from their competitors, whilst the punchers should fight out the end of the stage on the final rise to the Longwy Citadel.
The stage starts from the Belgium town of Verviers and immediately the riders will be climbing, as they start the first of five categorised climbs on the day’s route.
The category four climb of the Cote de Sart is upon the riders inside the first 15 kilometres of the stage, with the average gradient of the climb being a tad over five percent for three kilometres.
The riders then descend for 25 kilometres, before starting a long 25-kilometre gradual rise of around 300 metres in elevation before they come to the intermediate sprint in the town of Wincrange. I expect a relatively large breakaway of around 10 riders away, as this stage is perfect for the opportunists. There may not be many sprint points left on offer for Peter Sagan and co.
Just before the 100 kilometres to go point on the stagem the second categorised climb of the Cote de Wiltz is completed, with the climb averaging just under 5 percent for 3.1 kilometres. The climb has slopes of up to 7.5 percent.
A short descent ensues, before the hardest climb on the stage, the Cote d’Eschdorf is climbed. The climb is brutal, averaging 9.1 percent for 2.3 kilometres. This climb could be a launching pad for further attacks from the peleton.
The riders then get some respite for over 50 kilometres before the final 25 kilometres, which includes thwo categorised climbs.
The first of which is summitted inside the final 15 kilometres, with the category four climb of the Cote de Villers-la-Montagne hitting the riders first. The climb averages 5 percent for just over a kilometre.
Inside the final 10 kilometres, there is a steep descent into the bottom of the town of Longwy, where the fight for position will be treacherous. For some comparison, the final descent into the Cauberg at the Amstel Gold Race is of similar importance.
The final climb itself is the Cote des Religieuses which is 1.6 kilometres at an average gradient of 5.8 percent, however the climb ramps up to over 11 percent at just outside the kilometre to go banner.
Punchers including Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) will need to distance the likes of both Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) before the final sprint if they want to stand a chance of stage victory.
The current world champion, Sagan goes into the stage as the over whelming favourite, however, Matthews showed last year that when the stages are lumpy that he can outsprint Sagan at the end of the stage.
It will be an interesting stage, however, the GC riders should not be too troubled by the lumpy nature of the finale.