29km to go: Excellent work from the irrepressible Cecilie Ludwig, making up that lost ground and getting to within under 20 seconds of the pack. Misfortune for Niewiadoma, though, who suffers a puncture. The gravel sections are taking out of the riders just as predicted. But it’s set up a potential pulsating finish. There are about 20 in the lead group.
33km to go: Right, so Grace Brown comes to the front, but seeks to steady the pace down to aid her FDJ Suez Futuroscope teammates. Then Van Dijk and Vollering hit the front. And Vos is still among the lead group too. Margarita Garcia meanwhile also has to replace a wheel and strives furiously to rejoin the pack. This is a hell of a shakeout.
35km to go: Into the gravel dustbowl we go again, a headwind of 13km/h not helping, and SD Worx attack, led by Lotte Kopecky, as Demay is caught. Yesterday’s winner, Cecilie Ludwig, meanwhile has to replace a wheel. Vittoria Guazzini comes to her assistance.
39km to go: The peloton regroups with Damay’s lead now around 45 seconds as the third gravel section – one of 4.4km no less – looms as they ride into Essoyes.
44km to go: On to the next gravel sector, and visibility as well as mobility is impeded by the clouds of dust kicked up off the surface – and there looks to be a coming together, rather than a crash, of four bikes including Van Vleuten’s but they manage to a clip. The peloton’s fragmented considerably, with Ellen van Dijk out front. Demay is still out alone at the head of the course.
48km to go: Demey was dropped on the first climb, and Asencio can’t keep up with Demay on this one, and she takes the full QOM points and accelerates away on the downhill, establish an advantage of around 20 seconds. Behind them the South African Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio climbs strongly towards the front on what looks a devilish ascent.
50km to go: Back on to smoother roads for a bit, before another big climb, on the Cote de Val des Clos, and the lead group’s gap on the yellow jersey group in the peloton stabilizes at around 1:05. That group of three is now two, of Asencio and Demay with Demey having been dropped.
The Côte de Celles-sur-Ource points
56km to go: Demey is losing ground on the other two breakaway riders, as Coralie Demay forges ahead and hits the summit first with Ascencio on her tail as they hit the first gravel phase. It’s dusty and bumpy alright. It’s a challenge to balance caution and aggression here.
The gap from leaders to peloton falls, as might be expected, to just over a minute. All sorts of battles going on there as Vollering accelerates at the front of the pack. Kasia Niewiadoma is also prominent.
59km to go: The leading group of Asencio, Demay and Demay go into the riders start their first climb with a lead whittled down to around 1:50 as the road narrows a touch and the peloton begins to get strung out; racing is beginning to look a lot more arduous. And look out or Elisa Longo Borghini, who has positioned herself well towards the front of the peloton
Valerie Demey takes the first intermediate sprint
64km to go: Demey, as part of the breakaway trio positioning themselves for the impending twisty gravel section, takes the full points in the sprint ahead of Asencio. That leading three have a gap of around 2:20 from the peloton. Your picked up a handy nine points there.
Here’s the full details:
1. Demey, 25 points
2. Asencio, 20 pts
3. Demay, 17 pts
4. Wiebes, 15 pts
5. Confalonieri, 13 pts
6. Kopecky, 11 pts
7. Georgi, 10 pts
8. Your, 9 pts
9. Swinkels, 8 pts
10. Paladin, 7 pts
11. Korevaar, 6 pts
12. Amialiusik, 5 pts
13. Balsamo, 4 pts
14. Vollering, 3 pts
15. Van Dijk, 2 points
73km to go: That three-rider breakaway now has more than two minutes on the peloton but it’s still very early days. Riders in the peloton bide their time for now, Vos just tucked in on its right-hand side towards the front with her Jumbo-Visma teammates.
82km to go: A more sustained break this time from Coralie Demay, Laura Asencio and Valerie Demey and they romp into a lead of 1:12. Vos had been in a brief group breakaway attempt behind them but she’s heavily marked and they’re reeled in. We’re about 11km from the first intermediate sprint and 20km from the first gravel section – prepare for mayhem.
89km to go: Fortin is still out in front riding towards the town of Vendeuvre-sur-Barse, but the peloton are only 12-15 seconds behind.
Some broadcasting discussion: “Regarding the coverage from Eurosport,” writes Alan Amos, “is it not that ASO are only sending from the middle of the race onwards and nothing to do with Eurosport, who are only doing a lousy job of communicating? Other channels, such as France 2 were reported on this site, to be in the same situation.”
Paul Griffin, meanwhile, just wants to let rip: “Be grateful Eurosport is showing any cycling at all. It’s not impossible to tune in for the climax of the Tour of Flanders or Milan-San Remo and be confronted by The World 12-Ball Theoretical Billiards Mega Open from Phoenix; the quarter finals of the prestigious Uruguayan Meta-Badminton Open elimination round from Montevideo, or worse, one of those compilations of ski jumpers crashing to a soundtrack of what appears to be Can playing the Benny Hill theme on a kazoo. Upside: no one in the European landmass that has a better grasp the tactics of Meta-Badminton than I.” Gauntlet laid down there.
95km to go: And no sooner do I bash out that list than the attackers are caught before the French rider Valentin Fortin of Cofidis goes it alone out front, with a gap of around 15 seconds.
That early breakaway in full: Balsamo; Majerus, Reusser, Le Net, Henderson, Markus; Georgi, Koch Cromwell, Boogaard, Manly, Lach, Gasparrini, Alzini, Korevaar, Cant, Schweinberger, Vandenbulck, Bredewold, Borgstrom, Allin, Leth, Buijsman. None of the leading GC contenders have gone with them
104km to go: A first flurry of movement sees a brief breakaway of three riders – Martina Alzini (Cofidis), Thalita De Jong (Liv Racing Xstra) and Marta Lach – but the peloton caught them within a few km. Before a more meaningful move from a group of 23 riders, who’ve opened up a gap of around 10-15 seconds.
118km to go: Nothing major to report so far – eight km and no breaks yet; the peloton is altogether still. Eurosport, meanwhile, is currently doing that slightly maddening thing of still chewing over yesterday’s highlights rather than showing today’s early live stuff. It does though give us a chance to enjoy Ludwig’s happy-sweary emotional interview after her stage win yesterday.
Some more detail on today’s much-discussed gravel sections – the first greets the riders at 68.1km, the second at 77.4, then one at 89 and the fourth at 106km. And racing is under way.
A bit of good news: all 131 of yesterday’s participants are good to go again today. There have been no withdrawals
It’s a manageably warm 25 degrees in the attractive town center of Troyes as the riders begin on their way – they’ll be doing a 6.9km parade through Troyes to get us going. A mere 126.8km to go …
How they stand:
A reminder of the GC standings after stage three
1 Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) 08h 30′ 36”
2 Silvia Persico (Valcar -Travel & Service) + 00h 00′ 16”
3 Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon/Sram Racing) + 00h 00′ 16”
4 Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek – Segafredo) + 00:00 21”
5 Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio (SD Worx) + 00h 00′ 51”
6 Margarita Victo Garcia Canellas (UAE Team ADQ) + 00h 00′ 55”
7 Half Vollering (SD Worx) + 00h 00′ 57”
8 Juliette Labous (Team DSM) + 00h 01′ 05”
9 Annemiek Van Vleuten (Movistar Team Women) + 00h 01′ 14”
10 Cecilie Ludwig (FDJ Suez Futuroscope) + 00h 01′ 48”
Here’s yesterday’s report from our man in Epernay, Jeremy Whittle:
Afternoon everyone, and welcome to what could be a pivotal, and will certainly be a challenging, stage of the Tour de France Women. It’s been a pretty compelling race so far and though we may not be that surprised to find Marianne Vos in the yellow jersey, she’s had to work hard for it, and she was thrillingly overhauled yesterday by Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, the Danish rider recovering brilliantly from her stage two horror show.
Ludwig should be reasonably well suited to today’s stage too, which is a demanding one, featuring gravel sectors and five categorized climbs before a fast descent into the winding streets of Bar-sur-Aube at the finish. Vos will be expected to hold on to her overall lead but Canyon-SRAM’s Kasia Niewiadoma, who’s third in the GC standings, and the Paris-Roubaix winner Elisa Longo Borghini might also be in the mix.
The riders roll off around 12pm BST/1pm CET. Stay tuned.