The Tour de France peloton reached France on Monday with 207-kilometer day between Binche and Épernay. A flat, fast (made faster by a tailwind) first half gave way to an undulating finale that was reminiscent of Amstel Gold Race.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – QuickStep) took the stage three victory and yellow race leader’s jersey off the back of a blistering attack up Côte de Mutigny, the final categorized climb on course. Mike Woods was the top finisher for EF Education First Pro Cycling in 20th place, reaching the finish line with the reduced bunch, alongside Rigoberto Uran and Tejay van Garderen.
The escape slipped away early with the five-rider move dominating the early action. The quintet gained a maximum advantage hovering near six minutes before several teams combined efforts to bring down the advantage. Tim Wellens, strongest in the breakaway, struck out solo 44-kilometers from the finish but was brought back during Alaphilippe’s stage-winning attack.
While the team’s primary objective remains its general classification ambitions, both Alberto Bettiol and Mike Woods were given the opportunity to chase a stage result. An untimely flat tire for Bettiol eliminated his chances. Woods gave chase when Alaphilippe attacked, picking up two bonus seconds at the second intermediate sprint while up the road, before ultimately finishing with the reduced bunch.
“Unfortunately when Alaphilippe attacked I hesitated a bit,” said Woods. “I was thinking about the final, wondering if it was foolish to pursue solo, thinking I wouldn’t have the legs for the final if we were caught. It was too much thinking and not enough doing.”
Comments from the team
Road captain Simon Clarke says:
“It’s wasn’t too much to juggle stage ambitions with overall ambitions today. With Bettiol out with a puncture, Woodsy raced for his own ambitions and the rest of us supported Rigo. Everything went to plan apart from Rigo losing a few seconds in the sprint. Those uphill finishes are always tricky. If you’re a couple positions back, it can be costly.”
Tour de France first-timer Mike Woods says:
“My standout moment today was watching Alaphilippe attack. He was flying. Watching his aggression, his cadence, his confidence, it was incredible. It’s a learning experience for me moving forward.”
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