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Peter Sagan wins Tour de France Stage 3 despite unclipping with 200m to go

Sam Challis
3 Jul 2017

Slovak rider Sagan bests rivals on uphill finish despite being forced to restart his sprint

Stage 3 of the 2017 Tour de France was won by Peter Sagan after a tough uphill finish into Longwy thinned out the peloton after 212.5km of racing.

On a stage that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Spring Classics, such was its lumpy profile, Sagan bested his rivals after the last man from a day-long breakaway, Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), was brought back 10km from the finish.

He looked in imperious form and beat an all-star cast of rivals despite accidently unclipping 200m from the finish, which meant he had to restart his sprint. He then just rode away from a fading Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and won the stage.

Yellow jersey Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) had a welcome uneventful day in the saddle, his team almost ever-present on the front of the peloton to make sure he and GC favourite Chris Froome stayed out of trouble. Thomas finished 8th and Froome 9th.

The story of Stage 3 at the 2017 Tour de France

In contrast to the first two stages of this year’s Tour there was no rain to make riding conditions treacherous so the pace in Stage 3, over a route that meandered through three different countries, was consistently high.

Starting in Belgium, the peloton made its way down through Luxembourg and into France to contest a puncheurs' finale in the town of Longwy.

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) yesterday made history as the first rider to win a stage of the Tour de France on a disc-brake bike but today no discs were present in the peloton as it rode under almost interrupted blue skies.

After the flag dropped several riders immediately started attempting to force a break and after some failed attempts by Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), a group of six riders got free - Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Romain Hardy (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Nathan Brown (Canndonale-Drapac), Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) - and quickly opened up a gap of around 2 minutes.

The early kilometres were dominated by the presence of Team Sky lined up at the front of the peloton. Occasionally a token rider from Quick-Step Floors, Team Sunweb and Bora-Hansgrohe would appear to help keep the break on a 2-minute leash.

Those three teams count the puncheurs Gilbert, Matthews and Sagan in their respective ranks so were keen not to allow the break too much time on a course far better suited to the success of a break than the flat stage of yesterday.

Short, sharp climbs, more reminiscent of a Spring Classic race than a Grand Tour stage, came and went as the break settled at 2 minutes and for a long time the racing was steady.

With 100km of the stage ticked off there was action in the breakaway - Politt and Brown attacked off the front in search of KoM points up the Côte d’Eschdorf.

This saw the duo gain an additional minute over the pack, with the four remaining breakaway riders caught in no-man’s land between the leaders and the peloton.

Brown made a decisive move early up the 2.3km, 9.3% climb to take maximum points and the Polka Dot jersey off his Cannondale-Drapac teammate Taylor Phinney.

Jobs done both Brown and Politt drifted back to their original breakaway companions, whose advantage started to dwindle down to a solitary minute with 70km of the stage remaining.

This was thanks in large part to Bora-Hansgrohe’s Juraj Sagan, who worked on the front of the peloton on behalf of his cycling superstar brother Peter Sagan, for whom the Longwy finish seemed ideally suited.

At 60km to go, De Gendt finally got a move to stick off the front of the peloton, taking two riders with him in an attempt to bridge to the break.

A small crash in the peloton caused by a pinch point in the road didn’t affect any big names but helped the move, so in no time the breakaway became nine riders at a one-minute advantage over the peloton.

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), De Gendt, Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Hardy pushed on with 40km remaining, fracturing the break and stretching the lead out to 1:35, while Quick-Step, Bora, and Sunweb continued to share the work at the business end of the peloton to limit their advantage.

Calmejane fended off the main horde on his own for short while until the puncheur’s teams decided that enough was enough. They closed the gap and organised at the front, each in an effort to deliver their main men to the final in the best position.

With 3km left the road ramped up and all the notable one-day racers were present at the head of affairs - FDJ's Arnaud Demare, Trek-Segafredo's John Degenkolm, BMC's Greg van Avermaet among them - but Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan took the win seemingly at a canter despite unclipping his right foot 200m from the finish.

Tour de France 2017: Stage 3, Verviers – Longwy (212.5km), result

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 5:07:19
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at same time
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, st
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, st
5. Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac, at 0:02
6. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ, at same time 
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, st
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, st
9. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, st
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, st

Tour de France 2017: General classification top 10 after Stage 3

1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 10:00:31
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 0:12
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at same time
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 0:13
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 0:16
6. Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 0:25
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 0:30
8. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 0:32
9. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, same time
10. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb, at 0:34