Le Tour 2019 - Stage 3
With a 215 km long stage going from Belgium to France, it was fitting that a Frenchman took the stage win, and moved into the maillot jaune. It’s also fitting that I title the blog after him, as it was a great stage victory. Personally, when I’m watching Le Tour, I prefer the GC stages, which are generally about the TTs and the mountains, but today’s stage was executed beautifully by Alaphilippe and his Belgium Deceuninck team helped him achieve that.
But, let’s start closer to the beginning. Tim Wellens was in an almost day long break along with Stephane Rossetto (who was in a solo break on stage 1), Yoann Offredo, Anthony Delaplace, and Paul Ourselin. The stage was mostly flat until the finale, when the classified climbs started approximately 50 km from the end. Here Wellens attacked solo and rode, at what looked like his limit on the climbs until he was passed by Alaphilippe on the final climb.
However, after a long softening up process, where the five breakaway riders would have been riding at around their tempo power output, they’d have gradually been fatiguing throughout the day. With the team time trial having been only yesterday, there would have been some soreness in their legs from it, but with it being so short (30ish race minutes) no glycogen depletion (well there would have and also because of their recon, but it wouldn’t have been difficult to replenish afterwards).
This long break would have significantly chipped away at the breakaway’s reserves. When Wellens went solo he’ll have been at functional threshold power (FTP) on the flats and on the climbs, which looked reminiscent of a Belgian Classic, or the Amstel Gold race, he’d have been significantly over FTP and approaching his VO2max and MAP. Potentially, he may have even gone harder than this.
A couple of minutes behind Deceuninck and some of the other teams were putting their foot down. Mike Teunissen was struggling on the climbs and eventually slipped off the back unable to match the brutal sustained power outputs that were being put down. Eventually, Deceuninck rode ‘full-gas’ as well as Astana and some other teams. On the final climb of the day Alaphilippe attacked hard, caught Wellens at the summit (who seemed to have some sort of issue with his pedal?) and quickly went past him. From there to the finish was about 15 km, and Alaphilippe powered his way solo to the win.
What I like about Alaphilippe is that he’s a great all-round rider, sprints well, climbs well, and has great skills. Was amazing seeing hime descend today at over 80 km/hr down some narrow roads while looking very comfortable. He’s a great punchy rider, but I also wonder whether he’s considered trying to develop as a GC rider. It’s a thought for the future.
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