Tour de France Femmes 2022 stage three preview - a taste of the hills

Stage three is the toughest stage of the race so far

Tour de France Femmes 2022, stage three
Distance: 133.6km
Start location: Reims
Finish location: Épernay
Start time: 11:50 BST
Finish time (approx): 15.15 BST

Although similar in distance to stage two, stage three of the Tour de France Femmes 2022 provides a much sterner challenge for the riders. The race begins in the capital of the Champagne region, Reims. With its grand cathedral and its blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the city marks a departure from the more rural communes of stage two, before it heads out through the stunning vineyards of the region.

The stage is reminiscent of the equivalent stage on the men’s 2019 Tour de France and holds a special place in French cycling history as it was the location where Julian Alaphilippe won his first ever yellow jersey, after a stage win into finish location Épernay. With a number of short categorised climbs, there’s ample opportunity for a strong breakaway to stay away and for one rider to take a surprise win in the first ever women's Tour de France.

Tour de France Femmes 2022 stage three route

Travelling south out of Reims, the first test of the day comes after just 20km. The category four Côte de Trepali is a short climb at just one kilometre but once again an explosive start could be on the cards as the QOM contenders go in search of points, while breakaway hopefuls take their chances to try and escape the bunch. 

It’s relatively flat for a while after that as the peloton winds its way through the quaint Champagne region. Expect a lull in the action as the stage reaches its southernmost point for the day, before two short climbs in quick succession will ramp up the tension in the bunch. The Côte de Vertus and Côte de Mesnil-sur-Oger, both fourth category, are separated by just over 10km. Each is a short ramp and could split the bunch if it’s been a tough day in the saddle.

From there, the route turns north and the riders gear up for a circuit of Épernay, beginning with a first crossing of the finish line, before they head off to complete a loop of the town. Here the decisive moves will be made, as two climbs in the final 15km bring the climbers to the fore. The first of the two – the Côte de Mutigny – is likely to thin the bunch as the pure climbers shed the rest. Rated category three, it’s a steep slope of just 900m, but at an average pitch of 12.1% it will almost certainly cause splits. 

Once the leaders have crested that climb, they have a descent to contend with, before the final punchy ascent of Mont Bernon. At one kilometre long, and with an average gradient of 4.6%, the final climb isn’t the greatest challenge of the day, but with the finish line just 4km away it doesn’t allow much time for any GC riders who’ve been caught out to close the gap.

Tour de France Femmes 2022 stage three contenders and prediction

Expect climbers and puncheurs to triumph on the stage, and keep an eye out for gaps between the GC hopefuls, as the race begins to separate the serious contenders from the rest.

Cover image: ASO/Romain Laurent

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