Tour de France 2021: Stage 3 – Merlier debuts victorious in a crash-marred stage

This is a hard stage to write about. What should have been a joyous stage review discussing the boringness of the first sprint stage of the Tour de France, the lovely chateaux of Brittany, and fitted-sheet videos turned into a nightmarish finish filled with one horrendous crash after another. Before we get into that discussion, allow us to celebrate Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) for winning his first-ever Tour de France stage in his debut at the event! Mathieu van der Poel keeps yellow for another day.

With all the focus on Mark Cavendish, Caleb Ewan, and Arnaud Demare, Merlier was largely left out of the conversation as a stage win contender, despite him arguably having a better season than any of the others. Rounding out the stage podium, Alpecin-Fenix teammate Jasper Philipsen nabbed second on the stage, while sprinter puncheur Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa–Samsic) claimed his best-ever Tour de France result with third.

It’s time to neutralise

It is only day three of the race and we have witnessed more crashes than anyone would have preferred. Unfortunately, today’s stage was no different, with three significant crashes occurring within the final 15km. Now, I will not include any of the crash replays in this review because. . . well, nobody needs to see that. I am also not a fan of the “hard man’s” attitude where some celebrate a rider’s grit and determination to continue on while having an arm hanging out of their shoulder socket, so none of that will be happening either. Thus, this will largely be a medical summary with words of good healing towards all involved.

The nastiness started early on with the tumbler of cycling, Geraint Thomas. (Is that mean? I’m sorry if it’s mean). Whereas a traditional tumbler signifies the goodness of an alcoholic beverage, it signifies bad luck for Thomas. The Welshman went down hard early in the stage, reportedly dislocating his shoulder in doing so, had the medic pop his shoulder back in, and continued on. I hope you’ll be alright, Geraint. Maybe keep those blue shades on more often though.

Quite a bit later down the road, inside the final 10km, Jumbo Visma’s Primoz Roglic hit the deck after what appeared to be a touch of wheels involving Bahrain’s Sonny Colbrelli. Roglic looked fairly bad off once he got to his feet, but remounted his steed soon thereafter. Unfortunately, the pace at the front was already sky-high, and even with a near-full JumboBees team time trial at his behest, the Slovenian was unable to regain contact with the front peloton.

“I’m open all-around” sounds like a horrible way to describe one’s body at the end of the day, but thankfully his medical condition looks like it will allow him to start tomorrow’s stage 4.

Just a few kilometers down the road, another nasty crash happened in a corner that (amongst others) took down Bahrain’s Jack Haig. The images of this one were perhaps the worst of the day as the helicopter remained focused on a motionless Haig for far too long. The Aussie is off to hospital for checks, but we wish him our safest wishes for good health and a speedy recovery!

The last crash of the day was one that is all too terrible to see: a high-speed sprint crash. In an overlapping of wheels, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) both hit the deck HARD. In yet another scary sight, Ewan laid motionless on the asphalt as riders came across the line in dribs and drabs. Ultimately, he abandoned the stage with a broken collarbone. This brings an unfortunate end to his season-long goal of taking a victory in each grand tour stage. Heal up quick, Caleb, the Vuelta is still there for you!

As a final note for this section, this opening weekend has reignited discussions of how to keep riders safe and at least reduce some of these horrendous crashes that occur in the first week all too often. There’s no easy solution to the problem at hand, but it’s hard to make an argument that the race should not have been neutralised in today’s final 10km, particularly after the crash involving Jack Haig.

Schelling’s Smile

Let’s be real, we need some smiles in our lives after reading about all those injuries. Ide Schelling, enter stage left.

I could wax lyrics about the loveliness of Schelling, but really, I think the tweets and his smile do a far better job than I ever could!

Wait, who won again?

Unfortunately, I fear Tim Merlier‘s win will be little more than a footnote on an otherwise horrendous day, and for that, we should celebrate him even more! Despite being left out of the top sprinters conversation thus far, the young Belgian has had a phenomenal year to date. A brief selection of his results thus far this year:

  • 1st Le Samyn
  • 1st Ronde van Limburg
  • 1st Elfstedenronde
  • 1st Stage 2 Giro d’Italia

I love this quote from him. The man is living his dream and it’s been great to see first hand:

“I’m living a dream, I think. After the Giro, I was already very happy, but now to win a stage at the Tour, the biggest race in the world. I can’t believe it. Mathieu said he was going to do the lead-out, and I said, ‘you are crazy’ but he loves to do it, so then Jasper Philipsen took over for the last 700 metres. It was a great lead-out and I just needed to go the last 150 metres. I looked back and I couldn’t believe it, there was nobody else on my wheel. There was a crash, and so that would be the reason, I think. I can’t believe this, it’s a dream.”

The Final Word


Stage 3 Top 5

1 Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:01:28

2 Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) s.t

3 Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic) s.t

4 Davide Ballerini (Deceuninck-QuickStep) s.t

5 Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) s.t

General Classification Top 10

1 Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 12:58:53

2 Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) +0:08

3 Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +0:31

4 Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) same time

5 Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +0:38

6 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) +0:39

7 Enric Mas Nicolau (Movistar Team) +0:40

8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic

9 Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) +0:45

10 Sergio Higuita Garcia (EF Education-Nippo)

All the Jerseys

Leaders jersey : Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix)

Points jersey : Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)

KOM jersey : Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgroghe)

Best young rider jersey : Tadej Pogacar (UAE Emirates)

For full stage review, go to cyclingnews

Official Tour de France website is here

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