Cycling: Tour “Classic” awaits…

Stage 3 of an already dramatic Tour de France runs through Belgium and is shaped in deference to the one-day “Classics” that shape the pre-Tour cycling calendar.

A long 212km through rolling Belgian terrain, it shapes at first like an ideal opportunity for a breakaway. However, there are number of Classics specialists in this field: Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Philipe Gilbert and even Ireland’s Dan Martin, to suggest that the various teams will seek to pull the race together before the defining final climb.

The last 1.6km forms a Category 3 ascent to the line in Longwy, so categorised not so much for length as steepness, particularly in the first 1km of that climb where it can reach 11% incline.

The bookies favour those Classic riders, and Sagan’s claims are obvious as he is capable both of beating the field or of manufacturing a breakaway. With the field together we fractionally prefer Van Avermaet and Martin at the odds.

However, the bookies may be missing a trick, as this is a race within a race, and whilst one-day Classics are a great guide, there is the added incentive here of overall standings, including time bonuses for the first few home.

The first real mountain test of the tour is still a number of days away, so it could be that a general classification contender may not mind flexing their legs on the final climb to potentially pinch a few seconds. Indeed, Chris Froome did something similar on the climb of the Mur de Bretagne a couple of years ago – a similar profile stage. He finished 7th that day with specialists Sagan, Martin and van Avermaet in front, but he took time off a few rivals and he may want to make a similar early statement today. At monster odds he is worth considering for the frame.

Alexis Vuillermoz (150/1) has pedigree from the “mur” stages of 2015 when the Tour last staged these types of days, but has less recent form in the book, so narrowly misses the betting slip on this occasion.

Recommendations: Stage 3 Tour de France:

Dan Martin, 0.5pts each way, 33/1 generally available 

Chris Froome, 0.5pts each way, 300/1 Bet365

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