Tour de France chaos – Geraint Thomas loses time after heavy fall on another crash-marred Tour de France stage won by Tim Merlier – GETTY IMAGES / REUTERS.
Tour de France organizers ASO are facing a rising tide of anger, with riders reportedly considering some sort of formal protest on Tuesday after another day of carnage on the roads of Brittany.
After a spectator took out half the peloton with a cardboard sign on stage one – the police manhunt continues – plus a second mass pile-up, which took down Chris Froome among others, stage three from Lorient to Pontivy was again absolute bedlam.
Britain’s Geraint Thomas was among a host of big names to hit the deck, although the Welshman – who managed to get back on his bike and finish after the race doctor popped his dislocated shoulder back in – could hardly blame the Parcours for his crash. Thomas fell just 30km into the stage at a relatively quiet moment in proceedings.
It was unclear what caused him to go down, but it certainly caused ill-feeling with his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Luke Rowe fined 300CHF (£235) for abusing commissaries after they refused to let him draft behind team cars as they chased back on. Rowe is understood to have used some choice four-letter words. He later took to Twitter to say he had used some words he “should not have” but felt that the team should have been cut some slack given Thomas’s “mangled shoulder”.
Most of the anger within the peloton was reserved for the finish, however. A super-fast, technical finish, which riders flagged up beforehand as potentially dangerous, saw two big crashes inside the final 10km. As the roads got narrower, the pace got higher. The stress levels in the peloton went through the roof.
With the sprint teams wanting to deliver their sprinters to the finish, and the general classification teams trying to keep their leaders towards the front, at least until the 3km point at which GC times are taken, there were all the necessary ingredients for chaos and that was what we got.
Race favorite Primoz Roglic [Jumbo-Visma], who has looked in fine fettle in the first two days, was taken down inside the last 10km. While the Slovenian was able to remount, he lost over a minute in the general classification. He finished the day with a severe road rash and a bruised coccyx. A sizeable dent in his challenge. Jumbo-Visma’s day was made even worse by the fact that one of Roglic’s key domestics, Robert Gesink, was forced to abandon after being brought down in the earlier Thomas crash.
At least Roglic is still in the fight. The Australian leading for Bahrain-Victorious, Jack Haig, came down hard on a fast downhill section with 3.9km remaining and stayed down. His race is over. With each crash causing the race to bottleneck, there were chaotic scenes on the run-in.
Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates], last year’s winner, was involved in the third crash. He ended up coming home 29 seconds behind stage winner Tim Merlier [Alpecin-Fenix], along with Thomas – who did brilliantly in the end to lose only that much time – and most of his GC rivals.
Richard Carapaz [Ineos Grenadiers] was the contender who made it to the finish line with the front group, rising to third on GC. As a result, 31 seconds behind race leader Mathieu van der Poel [Alpecin-Fenix] but in ‘virtual’ yellow.
But even the finish threw up a curveball. As Merlier opened up his sprint for victory, veering right around a bend, Caleb Ewan [Lotto-Soudal] appeared to catch his back wheel, going flying at 80kph and bringing down Peter Sagan [Bora-Hansgrohe] in the process. Ewan reportedly fractured a collarbone. Sagan looked okay. It was shocking stuff.
Mark Cavendish [Deceuninck-QuickStep], whose bike was damaged in one of the earlier incidents, will probably be thanking his lucky stars he did not make this sprint. The 36-year-old could get another chance on Tuesday into Fougeres, where he won in 2015.
But whether there will be some form of protest first remains to be seen. Riders appeared furious on Monday night, insisting organizers ignored their requests to move the GC cutoff point back to 8km so it would not be so crowded on the run-in. “[We] requested before the stage to take GC times at 8km to go as the final was very technical,” Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Tim Declerq told Sporza. “Unfortunately, there was no response.”
Andre Greipel of Israel’s Start-Up Nation went further, saying that organizers “refused” to listen to riders about the dangerous finish. “Whoever designed today’s stage @LeTour should try to ride with 180 riders on a twisty 5m wide road next to each other and pushing to the limits,” he added.
A pro rider with Cofidis, Simon Geschke, took aim at the UCI, cycling’s governing body. “Funny how the Supertuck and forearm positions got banned for ‘safety reasons’ while at the same time we have finished like today in #letour”.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) have not yet finished the stage. Without wanting to speculate, it looks like the pair’s Tours may be over, so if true not a great day for Australian riders. Thomas De Gendt, a teammate of Ewan’s, told television reports that he believes the sprinter broke his collarbone.
My colleague Tom Cary will be filing his complete post-race analysis, in which he will, hopefully, be able to update you with any news on Ewan and Haig.
Watch: The final kilometer of today’s stage
General classification update
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) keeps hold of the leader’s yellow jersey, while Julian Alaphillipe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) keeps hold of his second spot. At the same time, Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) has moved up to third after having managed to avoid the chaos that has, yet again, overshadowed a stage at the Tour.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) moves up to fourth at 31sec, Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) stays at fifth (+38sec), and Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) has dropped down to sixth (+39sec).
Despite crashing earlier in the day, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) moves up two spots. Still, he is now 1min 7sec down on general classification, while Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) dropped 16 places to 20th and is now 1min 35sec off the pace.
Ewan is being attended to
I cannot say what state Caleb Ewan is in, but the Aussie is lying on the road receiving treatment. Riders are crossing the line in dribs and drabs after yet another terrifyingly frenetic finale. There are pictures of Ewan lying in the street with teammates standing over him.
Merlier wins stage three at the Tour!
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) wins the stage, his first at the Tour de France, but that, sadly, is only half of the story here today.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) crashed heavily in the finale. This may take some time to pick over. I fear that many riders will not continue tomorrow, while there will be some significant changes in the general classification.
1.5km to go
Mathieu van der Poel is leading out for Alpecin-Fenix team-mate Tim Merlier, who won a stage at the recent Giro d’Italia.
2.5km to go
Lotto-Soudal is drilling the pace on the front of the race while a trail of destruction and chaos is behind them.
4km to go – another crash
Carnage. A handful of Bahrain Victorious riders have gone down quite heavily, with one looking to be in quite a wrong way. Not sure, but that may be their general classification rider, Jack Haig.
7.5km to go
Primoz Roglic is around a minute down on the bunch. He has battered and bruised teammate Tony Martin pulling for him. The former world time trial champion will need to do the race of his life to ensure Roglic does not lose time on general classification.
Disaster for Jumbo-Visma, who earlier today lost Robert Gesink. Their team leader Primoz Roglic has gone down quite heavily in a crash. The Slovenian did not get back to his feet too quickly but now has two teammates helping him chase around on. With racing going at full gas, Roglic could lose time here and with it any hope of winning the Tour. What drama, the type of drama that nobody wants to see.
Crash in the peloton!
Valentin Madouas has gone down and has a Groupama-FDJ team-mate Bruno Armirail for company. A Movistar rider was also caught up in the incident.
12.5km to go
Hello, here comes DSM, who last year, as Sunweb, had one of the best lead-outs at the Tour, though frustratingly for them, they were unable to finish it off. Cees Bol is their sprinter here again this year.
14km to go
Maxime Chevalier is dropped by the breakaway, whose lead drops to 40sec.
15km to go
Wout van Aert has been working on the front, suggesting the Belgian champion will not be challenging today. Julian Alaphilippe, meanwhile, was spotted a few minutes ago practicing his cyclo-cross as he went off-road to move up a few places in the bunch.
20km to go
The breakaway’s lead has dropped to below a minute for the first time in a few hours as the peloton winds the pace up in anticipation for the fast and frenetic finale to today’s stage. The teams and riders will have been briefed about the tight and twisty approach to Pontivy.
Remember, folks, the 3km rule is in place today
25km to go
Philippe Gilbert of Lotto-Soudal and Tim Declercq appear to be working together; the two sprinters’ team have perhaps formed an alliance to ensure the pace is high. Ineos Grenadiers has Tao Geoghegan Hart drilling it on the front as they do their best to stay on the show and out of harm’s way. The British team has had a few setbacks since the Tour got underway in Brest on Saturday and will not want more misfortune flying in their direction.
27km to go
34km to go
Though barely contested, Jelle Wallays takes a single point atop the côte de Pluméliau. As it stands, that has no impact on the top six of the mountains classification. Each rider appears more concerned at holding on for as long as possible – no doubt about the day’s combativity prize, which earns the winner a visit to the podium.
35km to go
The breakaway is onto the second and final climb of the day, the category four côte de Pluméliau which is just 2.2-kilometers long with an average gradient of 3.1% where just one point is up for grabs.
38km to go
By his standards, Tim Declercq has had a relatively quiet day thus far has shunted towards the front for Deceuninck-Quick Step. The diesel, who may spend more time on the front of the bunch than any other rider, is grimacing as he winds the pace up on the show. Bora-Hansgrohe, Lotto-Soudal, Groupama-FDJ, BikeExchange and Jumbo-Visma are all up near the front.Today, one of the big questions is: will Wout van Aert be going for personal glory, or will he be asked to protect his Jumbo-Visma teammate Primoz Roglic?
45km to go
Both the four-man breakaway and the peloton are under 45km from the finish now, where it is expected this stage will conclude in a sprint finish. Although there is a straight run-in to the line along the final 1,500 meters, there are a couple of tight turns in the last 3km where the road practically doubles back on itself. There is a slight cross-headwind in the final straight, which, ordinarily, would favor a smaller sprinter – somebody that can get low down on their handlebars, reducing that frontal drag as much as possible. In other words, a rider like Caleb Ewan and a certain Mark Cavendish.
Intermediate sprint details in full . . .
Cavendish shows himself
It was a fiercely contested intermediate sprint from the peloton, with Caleb Ewan taking the honours ahead of Mark Cavendish. It Bodes well for the 26-year-old Briton who will be hoping to contest for the stage win in an hour or so. Can he do the improbable and add a 31st Tour stage to win his glistening palmarès? Full details to follow . . .
64km to go
Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels) wins the intermediate sprint to open his account in the points classification. Teammate Maxime Chevalier is second ahead of Michael Schär, and Jelle Wallays takes the fourth spot. Peloton follows in 1min 20sec.
67.5km to go
The breakaway’s lead drops slightly to 1min 30sec, no doubt a result of the increase in the peloton’s pace as it nears the intermediate.
75km to go
Not too much to report other than Deceuninck-Quick Step have shifted themselves towards the front of the peloton as it nears the intermediates sprint. Is Mark Cavendish really going to put in a significant effort at the intermediate on a day when he could win his first Tour de France stage since 2016? We will find out in around 10km.
The four-man breakaway of Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels), Maxime Chevalier (B&B Hotels), Michael Schär (Ag2r-Citroën), and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) are holding on to their lead of 2min 5sec.
85km to go: Schelling, shelled . . .
The Dutchman’s day is done. After securing the polka dot jersey by rights, Ide Schelling sits up and will wait to be reunited with his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates back in the peloton. The 23-year-old, no doubt, planning on saving a bit of energy for battles ahead. There is not one categorized climb in Tuesday’s stage for those interested in these things, and Wednesday is a time trial, while Thursday features just one category four climb. So, in theory, Schelling will most likely be wearing the jersey until Saturday or Sunday.
Schelling takes the lead in the mountains classification.
The Dutchman born one meter above sea level takes the lead in the mountains classification after rolling off the front of the breakaway, uncontested, to take the single point available atop the côte de Cadoudal. Providing Ide Schelling completes the stage within the time limit and Mathieu van der Poel does not take the only other issue on offer today, then the Bora-Hansgrohe will wear the maillot à pois, or polka dot jersey, by rights on Tuesday.
92km to go
The breakaway is the first of two categorized climbs in today’s stage, the category four côte de Cadoudal. Fully expect Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) to be going for the single point at the summit, but I would not be surprised if Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) tries to deny him.
The immediate aftermath of Thomas’s crash
103km to go
Following the two falls that led to Robert Gesink’s abandonment meant and sent shockwaves through the peloton after Geraint Thomas also crashed, there is thankfully a little bit of calm after the early storm in today’s stage. Incidentally, it was raining quite heavily just before I clocked on for duty, but the roads are now dry. Rain is forecast for the finale to the stage, and so, on these rugged and twisty Breton roads, the peloton will be on high alert. After Saturday’s brutal opening stage, nobody will want a repeat of the shocking scenes when around 40 riders went down in a mass pile-up. The five-man breakaway, by the way, leads by just over two minutes.
119.5km to go
Geraint Thomas has dropped back to an Ineos Grenadiers support car to get a bike change and pick up a fresh pair of sunglasses.
A five-man breakaway comprising Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels), Maxime Chevalier (B&B Hotels), Michael Schär (Ag2r-Citroën), Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) lead the stage. Today’s breakaway was formed within the opening 500 meters of the stage. At the same time, Lotto-Soudal took control on the front of the peloton from the very start of the scene on behalf of their sprinter Caleb Ewan, while Groupama-FDJ (Arnaud Démare) have been helping out with the heavy lifting and Deceuninck-Quick Step have, thus far, been getting a day off from riding on the front.
125km to go: Back in the pack
Geraint Thomas and his teammates have regained contact with the peloton that contains all of the main protagonists for the general classification at this year’s Tour de France and the sprinters hoping to challenge for today’s stage.
Thomas suffers suspected dislocated shoulder
Reports are coming in saying that Geraint Thomas dislocated his shoulder, which may mean he escaped any serious injury, although painful. Thomas currently has three teammates – Dylan van Baarle, Jonathan Castroviejo, and Luke Rowe – helping him chase back. This quartet trails the peloton by around 1min 30sec.
Primoz Roglic has just been dealt a massive blow after Jumbo-Visma teammate Robert Gesink abandoned the Tour de France. The Dutchman will have been a critical helper in the mountains.
The talented mountain domestique crashed in the same incident in which Geraint Thomas went down heavily.
Bernhard Eisel, who is working for Eurosport reporting from the back of a motorcycle in the middle of the peloton, has just said Luke Rowe had intimated to him that he thought Geraint Thomas would not be continuing today. We will have to wait to see how this story develops. Thomas, however, is currently riding along with Rowe after a few moments ago receiving some attention from a doctor.
Thomas back in the saddle
After being attended to, Geraint Thomas, the 2018 Tour de France winner, managed to remount and is riding again, though he does not appear to be too comfortable. The Welshman’s bib shorts have a few rips in them, and the mind is cast back to last year’s Giro d’Italia when misfortune came Thomas’s way on the road to Mount Etna.
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) has crashed, and it does not look suitable for the Welshman. He is sitting on the floor, holding his shoulder.
Following two challenging stages perfectly suited to the puncheurs, today should provide the sprinters an opportunity to come to the fore. Featuring just two category four climbs – the côtes de Cadoudal and Pluméliau – and a series of little kickers, the route includes 1,524 meters of vertical elevation before dropping down into Pontivy.
With just two points up for grabs in the mountains classification, you would imagine Ide Schelling will be keen, once again, on getting into the breakaway. If the Dutchman takes one point and Mathieu van der Poel takes none, Schelling will control the polka dot jersey by rights. However, as we witnessed during Sunday’s breakaway, a friendly little rivalry with Anthony Perez (Cofidis), who trails Schelling by a single point, has developed. So we may see round three of that particular battle on the road to Pontivy.
As fun as it is watching riders scrap over single points in the mountains classification competition, today, in theory, is all about the sprinters. So we can expect a new leader in the points classification later this afternoon. With a maximum of 70 points available for anyone rider – 20 at the intermediate sprint in La Fourchette and another 50 at the finish line – I think we can expect a significant reshuffling of the order in the points classification.
So, who can take the stage win? Challenging to see beyond Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), who has been contesting the intermediate sprints on the opening two stages which may mean the Australian is targeting the green jersey this year, or alternatively, he was just testing his legs. Either way, Ewan must be regarded as one of the day’s favorites.
Ewan is not the only sprinter able to take the victory, though. Arnaud Démare arrived as the leading man for Groupama-FDJ, and much will be expected of the Frenchman. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious), and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) may fancy their chances, as will a certain Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step). Now wouldn’t that be a story!
Catch-up: Highlights of yesterday’s stage . . .
. . . can be watched here . . .
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage two at the Tour de France, the 182.9-kilometer stage from Lorient to Pontivy.
Well, what an emotional stage win it was for Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) on Sunday, who emulated his father Adrie by taking the Maillot Jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey, in emphatic style in Mûr-de-Bretagne. It was Van der Poel’s grandfather, though, who was on most people’s minds when he crossed the line following a trademark display of power and punch. Raymond Poulidor, who died in November 2019 just after his grandson’s breakthrough season on the road – Van der Poel had already won Dutch national, European, and world cyclo-cross championships – famously never wore the yellow jersey despite winning seven Tour stages and finishing second three times, a feat that earned him the nickname the ‘Eternal Second’. Poulidor was a hugely popular rider in France and was very close to Van der Poel, who, understandably, allowed himself to drop that steely guard of his in an emotional post-race interview.
Much has been said and written about Van der Poel over the past 18 months; his tactics have been criticized, his riding style likened to a threshing machine, he has been accused of arrogance and of being a bit of a cold fish. All fair points to a certain degree. However, when Van der Poel let that guard down in Mûr-de-Bretagne on Sunday afternoon, I think we all saw something quite extraordinary: the human side to this quite supreme athlete. It would take a man or woman with a heart chiselled out of the pink granite local to Brittany to not have been moved by Van der Poel’s post-race tears.
Van der Poel will wear his first maillot jaune at the Tour during today’s stage. The Dutchman leading the general classification by 8sec with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) in the second spot, while defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) is third another 5sec back. If you are looking for Geraint Thomas’s name, you will not see it in the top 10 after the Welshman dropped 10 places down to 20th. Sunday was not the most incredible day for Ineos Grenadiers, who did a lot of work on the front on the approach to Mûr-de-Bretagne with very little to show for it.
Alaphilippe may have lost the Maillot Jaune to Van der Poel, but the Frenchman did keep hold of the maillot vert, green jersey, as the overall leader in the points classification. Incidentally, Alaphilippe, who actually took the lead in the points classification on Saturday after winning stage one, has led the four Tour classifications at some point in their career – overall, headlands, mountains, and youth – an achievement that has only ever been done by five others.
Van der Poel also leads the mountains classification ahead of Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe) despite the Dutch compatriots being on the same number of points. Van der Poel edges his compatriot because he was the first over the category three Mûr-de-Bretagne twice, while Schelling led the way over just one climb of the same ranking once during Saturday’s stage. It will be Schelling, however, who will wear the maillot à pois, or polka dot jersey, today. Defending champion Pogacar is the highest placed young rider on the general classification and so will once again wear the white jersey.