Start location: Collonges-la-Rouge
Finish location: Montignac-Lascaux
Stage type: Flat
Start time: 13:30 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:20 CEST
Collonges-la-Rouge proudly claims the title of on of France’s most beautiful villages, probably due to every building in the village being made entirely from red sandstone, looking like something from a French fairytale. And it is a fairytale for cyclists as between May and September, the streets of the village are reserved solely for cyclists and pedestrians. Despite its love for those on two wheels, the red village has never hosted a Tour de France stage, but will take inspiration from its bigger neighbour, Brive-la-Gaillarde, 18 kilometres away, that has hosted the men’s Tour 10 times, crowning some of the peloton’s most famous sprinters including Mark Cavendish and Mario Cipollini.
Stage three profile sourced via ASO
Rolling out from Collonges-la-Rouge, the peloton heads north for the first half of the day, taking in three categorised climbs – Côte du Peyroux, Côte du Pératel and Côte de L’Escurotte – however, none of the climbs are particularly brutal in their gradients, compared to what the riders have faced in previous stages. As they head south again towards the finish in Montignac-Lascaux, two more categorised climbs hit the peloton. From there, the remaining 50 kilometres is rolling and puts nothing in the way for the sprinters hunting stage wins. The finish line is after a 650 metre straight flat, so it will be an opportunity for the sprinters to really put on a show.
However, this is the Tour and nothing in guaranteed. A breakaway could have an opportunity to succeed if they manage to keep enough distance between themselves and the chasing peloton after the final categorised climb. At the Giro Donne, raced earlier this month, no break had a chance of success, but the Tour could be a different story with everyone desperate to win a stage in the world's biggest race. Whether it is a sprinter or someone from the breakaway who is successful, one rider will be writing their own French fairytale on this stage of the Tour de France Femmes.
While there are numerous opportunities for sprints in this Tour de France Femmes, each is far from straightforward and presents its own respective complications. Stage three is no different with its numerous climbs offering opportunity for riders to attack, but coming early in the race and with a flat finale of more than 10km, on paper it looks like the easiest one for sprint teams to control.
European champion Lorena Wiebes (SD Worx) has to be the favourite considering her prolific record as well as boasting the strongest team in the race. SD Worx have already won a stage and hold the yellow jersey with Lotte Kopecky, and Wiebes was able to take second place from the sprint behind her teammate after conquering a climb tougher and closer to the finish than anything that appears on stage three.
Wiebes' main rival will be Charlotte Kool (DSM-Firmenich), who enters the Tour in stellar form with four victories at the Baloise Ladies Tour earlier this month. Kool finished third on stage one (behind Wiebes) and has not beaten her compatriot in a sprint since the UAE Tour in February, when she accomplished the feat twice. Albeit, the Dutch pair have mostly met in Classics since then, suiting the strengths of Wiebes much more. Statistically speaking, Kool has struggled to match Wiebes but has nonetheless proven she can beat her head-to-head.
Away from the two pure sprinters, Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) is more than capable of winning here (after all, she's won 248 times already in her storied career). The Dutch legend would prefer a harder sprint from a more reduced bunch, but there would be no surprise if she added a third career Tour stage win to her long palmarès if she gets a jump on Wiebes and Kool.
One rider who knows how to beat Vos is Chiara Consonni (UAE Team ADQ) having done so in the bunch sprint on the final stage of the Giro Donne earlier this month. The field was not quite as stacked as it is here at the Tour, but Consonni can take confidence from having beaten everyone mentioned above in a sprint at some point in her short career so far.
Former world champion Elisa Balsamo (Lidl-Trek) would normally be one of the favourites in a sprint finish such as this, but hasn't looked in her best form this year, with her last win in February.
Emma Norsgaard boasts a fast finish, but perhaps not quite as well suited to a full bunch finish and would stand a greater chance should a reduced group arrive to the line.
We think Lorena Wiebes will secure SD Worx's second stage win of the race in a sprint finish.