The morning stage...well I think it has Loic Chetout written all over it but you never know.
Since I saw the route for l'Isard and saw the rolling morning split stage, I immediately thought Loic Chetout would win it. Not a shadow of doubt in my mind. After working until 11 pm last night, I got up later this morning and looked at the live ticker and saw Chetout's name in the breakaway. I didn't bother checking back until later because I knew he would win.
In any event, the stage was just a bit over 80 kilometers and within the first 10 kilometers the breakaway was established that would define the race. Loic Chetout (GSC Blagnac) got into the move with Emil Vinjebo (Denmark), yesterday's solo man Diego Ochoa (4-72 Colombia), Guillaume Thevenot (Vendee U), Florian Dumourier (CR4C Roanne) and Quentin Pacher, who was also in the early move yesterday. The group of 6 were able to get a gap of nearly 3 minutes while Thibault Nuns (Oceane U-Top 16) and Adrien Legros (Chambery CF) tried valiantly to get up to the breakaway. They got within 20 seconds before the duo blew up and slowly retreated back to the peloton.
No one was really pushing the pace too hard as the 6 up front were going to fight out the stage win while the peloton behind were conserving energy for the afternoon TTT. In the final 10 kilometers, the peloton woke up and the 3 minute gap was beginning to drop just so there were no GC surprises. Out front, Guillaume Thevenot attacked with Pacher with 5 km to go but was brought back fairly quickly. Thevenot was not done and attacked again and got a 5 second gap. Chetout was quick to bridge up to him and took Florian Dumourier with him. The trio worked well together and Dumourier led out the sprint with 200 meters to go but Chetout was too strong and came by with ease to take the win, his 6th of the year. 1 minute and 45 seconds back, Dane Frederik Plesner led the peloton over the line with Louis Vervaeke safely in to.
Lotto-Belisol definitely has the talent to consolidate the overall lead in the TTT while Vendee U and Itera could also do well.
Seriously, I need to just start putting some money down on U23 racing. I pick Loic Chetout's win and then I pick the podium for the TTT? Come on. I could be making tens of dollars off of this. Anyways the TTT is always a fun discipline that makes most want to puke their guts from their eyeballs. Thanks to their explosion on stage 2, Itera got to start in the middle of the field and laid down a strong time of 23'20", which was just a touch over 45.5 km/h. While most teams did not crack 24 minutes, the USA National team rolled in with a strong time of 23'54", which is great for a team that is made up of very young riders. 4-72 Colombia ceded a bit of time with a ride of 24'14" while Chambery limited their loses for Maxime Le Lavandier with a ride of 24' even. Vendee U put in a storming ride and the Bretagne-based team took the lead with a ride of 23'14", which pushed Lilian Calmejane up the overall standings. Even though Lotto-Belisol U23 was missing some of their stronger TTers, they still put in a good ride to slot in 3rd overall behind Itera with a time of 23'43".
On the overall side of things, Louis Vervaeke extended his lead over Maxime Le Lavandier to 1'22" while Tiesj Benoot is now tied with Lilian Calmejane in 3rd at 1'53". Bernando Suaza sits in 5th at 3'05 followed by Patrick Olesen (Denmark), Alexander Foliforov (Itera-Katusha), Jeff Perrin (USA National), Valentin Dufour (Vendee U) and Chetout, who lost time due to his GSC Blagnac team only having 3 riders for the TTT.
The race ends tomorrow with a big day in the Pyrenees featuring the Col de Port, Col d'Agnes and Col de la Core. If you want a review of the course in more detail, look at my preview for the race.