Belgium’s Tim Merlier won the first bunch sprint of the Tour de France just like at the Giro d’Italia two months ago. It was a 1-2 with his team-mate Jasper Philipsen while Nacer Bouhanni rounded out the podium in a crash-marred finale that has also reshuffled the overall classification. However, Mathieu van der Poel retained the Maillot Jaune after having paved the way for his victorious team-mates.
Five riders in the lead
180 riders took the start of stage 3 in Lorient at 13.21. Jelle Wallays (Cofidis), Michael Schär (AG2R-Citroën), Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe), Maxime Chevalier and Cyril Barthe (B&B-KTM) rode away in the first kilometre of racing. They got a maximum advantage of 3’15’’ at km 13. A heavy crash happened at La Trinité-sur-Mer (km 37), forcing Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) to withdraw while Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) remained on the ground for a while with an injured shoulder. He made his way back to the pack with the help of his team-mates Luke Rowe, Dylan van Baarle and Jonathan Castroviejo as the race was at Auray (km 49). With 100km to go, Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) were leading the pack 2’ behind the leading five riders.
Ide Schelling back in the lead of the KOM competition
Schelling took the lead of the KOM classification as he soloed to the top of the iconic Cadoudal climb in Plumelec, after which he sat up to wait for the peloton. Wallays, Schär, Chevalier and Barthe remained at the front. Chevalier surrendered with 13km to go as the peloton was 40’’ behind. A crash occurred in the peloton 12km before the line. It split the peloton with riders like Lopez, Gaudu, Madouas and Cavendish being forced to chase behind.10km before the end, Roglic fell as well. His team was prompt to help him to come across but it was mission impossible. Another crash hampered Tadej Pogacar later on, as well as Arnaud Démare who was unable to contest the sprint.
A 1-2 for Alpecin-Fenix
Van der Poel powered to the finish line in the role of lead-out man for his two sprinters, Merlier and Philipsen who rode into the last kilometre in perfect position. Behind them, Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan went down in the last slight bend with 200 metres to go. Merlier preceded Philipsen on the line for a 1-2 for the Belgian squad that retained the Maillot Jaune with Van der Poel for the second day.