Will this Tour produce the anticipated fireworks? Can Jumbo-Visma really challenge the unstoppable Ineos express for GC honours? And, most importantly, will the race even reach Paris before Covid-19 intervenes?
The Rouleur panel will be taking it one day at a time, making sometimes sensible – and often well wide of the mark – punts on stage winners, which top tipster Cycling Mole will mercilessly dissect before offering his own thoughts on the day’s likely victor.
Eyes down for three weeks of tense action with the Mole in control.
Stage 3: Nice - Sisteron (198km)
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) A stage of two halves – low-key, deceptively brutal for the first 110km, then it settles down. My hunch is the bunch sprinters will still have the energy, desire and manpower to want to shut down any break. Sam Bennett for a long-awaited debut Tour win; he's got arguably the best-drilled leadout in the bunch.
Giacomo Nizzolo (Team NTT) This one does look like a surefire sprint stage. Even before the break, the now Italian and European champ was looking hot. Since the restart he's been in the form of his life. Long may his run continue.
Cees Bol (Team Sunweb) I seem to have found my predicting niche this Tour de France - picking unlikely sprinters. I'm going to gamble (not with money, obviously) on the forgotten Team Sunweb (what even are they these days?) to reel in the break and the big Dutchman to get an unexpected win on the second longest stage of the Tour.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) As the road rises a touch before the finish, my money is on the Classics types for this one. Can I look past Sagan for this one? No I cannot. Green machine all the way.
Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) A sprint for sure, but again a day of ups and downs before we reach the nitty gritty. Pure sprinters are at a premium in these eight-man team days, so it’s Caleb for me.
Cycling Mole says...
Stage 3 is one for the fast men, even though there is a fair bit of climbing in the opening 120km of the stage. The sprinter teams will take control early, ensuring a manageable break gets up the road. Once into the closing kilometres, I expect another dangerous sprint as the road is only 6 metres wide.
All the boys got the memo, we don’t have anyone going with a ridiculous breakaway pick. Miles might well have picked a breakaway rider; Peter Sagan doesn’t have a hope in hell of winning this one. Miles must be looking at a different profile, the end of this stage only contains a very short section at low gradient, a wasted pick. The rest of the picks are riders who could win, but obviously only one will win. I don’t think Nizzolo has the speed to win, sorry Nick. Ben is on my big mate Cees Bol (yes, I know him too) and this is a pick I can’t argue with. The same can be said of Bennett and Ewan, as they start as the two big favourites for the stage. Ewan is now without Gilbert and Degenkolb, but the Quick Step sprint train doesn’t look at it’s very best. The pressure is on both sprinters to deliver, but will we get another shock?
I think we’ll see Lotto Soudal hold back a bit, which will actually play into their hands. A late dash to the front of the bunch and a win for Caleb Ewan.