07/06 - Stage 3 - Cambridge to London - 155 km

This is the last one of the three opening stages in the UK. It’s another day for the sprinters and we should be in for a great showdown in London this afternoon.

The route
Compared to the last two days, this stage is as flat as a pancake. There are no categorized climbs today and anything but a bunch sprint would be a huge surprise. It’s a short stage, only 155 km, meaning it will be a very fast day in the saddle.

The intermediate sprint is located in Epping Forest with 47 km to go. A breakaway will most likely still be up front at this point, but it won’t keep the riders targeting the green jersey from sprinting for the remaining points. It will be interesting to see which sprinters decide not to contest, betting everything on the stage win.

The peloton enters London after 118 km. After riding past the Olympic City and the airport, the riders continue alongside the Thames for most of the remaining 15 km. The run-in is pretty straightforward. However, there are a few corners close to the finishing line on The Mall, which will stretch out the peloton significantly. The last 450 meters are straight-out.

The favorites
As mentioned in the overall preview, Marcel Kittel is my number one favorite for all the bunch sprints in this year’s Tour de France. Despite a finish not perfectly suited for him, Kittel had no problems winning stage 1 in Harrogate. Giant-Shimano has the best leadout train in the peloton and they almost always time their efforts to perfection. We can expect John Degenkolb, Koen de Kort and Tom Veelers to take over in front of the peloton just before la flamme rouge. If everything goes according to plan, Marcel Kittel just has to open up with about 200 meters to go. Even if he isn’t in a great position, Kittel proved in the Giro d’Italia that he’s still capable of winning. Without any incidents, I can’t see him lose this one.

Andre Greipel is most likely the biggest threat to Marcel Kittel today. Lotto-Belisol brings a strong team to support their German champion and they will be battling with Giant-Shimano to take the front on the final kilometers. Personally, I don’t think Greipel can outsprint Kittel but I do see him as the fastest of the rest in this kind of high speed sprint.

For Peter Sagan the main goal is to keep the green jersey. He doesn’t have the same kind of top speed as many of the other sprinters but he’s strong enough to make top3 or top5 in all the bunch sprints in this race. After winning the green jersey the last two years, Sagan now aims to complete the hattrick in 2014. He’s already off to a great start and I would be very surprised not to see him wearing the green jersey in Paris in three weeks’ time. Vincenzo Nibali is wearing the yellow jersey with a two-second margin after his win on stage 2. This means that Peter Sagan won’t be able to take the overall lead despite another top place today.

The outsiders
Even though Mark Cavendish and Sacha Modolo is out of the race, we aren’t exactly lacking sprinters in this year’s Tour de France. The list is still long, including riders like Alexandre Kristoff and the French champion Arnaud Démare who just managed to avoid the big crash on stage 1. Both Kristoff and Démare would have liked an a bit more demanding stage, but I’m sure they will be near the front fighting for the win today.

My personal outsider today is Bryan Coquard. Coming from the track, Coquard has an extremely powerful kick on the final meters. Much like Mark Cavendish. He finished 4th on stage 1 and has shown to be very eager to do well in the fight for the green jersey. Europcar won’t be able to take the front and make a leadout like Giant-Shimano or Lotto-Belisol. Kevin Reza is the only designated leadout rider and his main job is to make sure Coquard is well-placed on the wheel of one of the top sprinters. Bryan Coquard was disappointed only to finish 4th on the opening stage. Let’s see if the young Frenchman can do one better today.

For other fast riders look to Samuel Dumoulin, Ramunas Navardauskas, Danny Van Poppel, Adrian Petit (and teammate Julien Simon), Jens Keukeleire, Heinrich Haussler, Zak Dempster and Romain Feillu. OPQS will have to change strategy without Cavendish. It will be interesting to see who they chose to go with in the sprints. Mark Renshaw, Alessandro Petacchi and Matteo Trentin are all very fast on the line. Personally, I’d like to see them give Trentin a chance.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.