The peloton can’t wait until the 2021 Tour de France leaves Brittany because of the weather, bumpy roads, and the numerous crashes that plagued the start of this year’s Le Tour. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) evaded a crash in the final sprint on Stage 3, Lorient > Pontivy, and secured his first stage victory in the Tour de France. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), two of the premier sprinters on Le Tour, crashed less than 150 meters from the finish line.

Tour de France Stage 3 Pontivy Caleb Ewan Tim Merlier
Caleb Ewan from Lotto Soudal crashes in the final sprint at the finish line at Pontivy in Stage 3 of the Tour de France. (Image: Reuters)

Sagan and Ewan, the co-favorites to win Stage 3, touched wheels and both ate pavement with the downhill finish line within sight. Ewan skidded for several meters and suffered an ugly batch of road rash and a fractured collarbone.

A trio of GC contenders — defending champion Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic, and Geraint Thomas — all crashed in other incidents due to slick road conditions along the route from Lorient to Pontivy.

Tour de France – Stage 3 Results
  1. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 4:01:28
  2. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix)
  3. Nacer Bouhanni (Team Arkea-Samsic)

Mathieu van der Poel, the winner of Stage 2 and teammate of Merlier at Alpecin-Fenix, continues to retain the yellow jersey. He holds an eight-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in second place.

Pogacar and Roglic, favorites to win the 2021 Tour de France, both lost significant amounts of time due to their crashes. Roglic tumbled to 20th place, while Pogacar trails the leader by 39 seconds and fell to sixth place.

Stage 3: Lorient > Pontivy

This flat stage with a 183 km route from Lorient to Pontivy was difficult due to the narrow and twisty cobblestone roads heading into the Stage 3 finish at Pontivy. Add inclement weather and rainfall to these tight roads at the end of the stage, and it was a recipe for another disaster for the peloton.

Merlier avoided a crash on the final stretch as he edged out teammate Jasper Philipsen to secure the Stage 3 victory. Alpecin-Fenix won two stages in a row.

“I’m living a dream,” said Merlier at the Stage 3 finish line. “For sure, the best moment of my career.”

Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, crashed 37 km into Stage 3 and dislocated his shoulder. Ineos’ medical staff popped the sucker back in and he continued to finish Stage 3. Thomas lost significant time on the GC leaders and dropped out of the race due to the injury.

Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma), who was involved in the crash and somersaulted over Thomas, had to drop out as well. Gesink was a trusted domestique for Roglic, so his loss could negatively impact Roglic’s pursuit of the yellow jersey.

Roglic also survived a crash less than 10 km from the finish line in Pontivy. He finished Stage 3 with his shredded jersey flapping in the wind. The severity of his injuries are yet to be determined. Pogacar crashed with less than 4 km to go. The minor crash didn’t faze the defending champ, who finished Stage 3 while losing precious time to the leaders; he finished 26 seconds behind the sprinters.

On Deck Stage 4: Redon > Fougeres

On Tuesday, the peloton will gladly finish off the last of four stages in Brittany with Stage 4: Redon > Fougeres. The riders will pass Redon Abbey at the start of Stage 4. The short route is just 150 km and ends in the medieval town of Fougeres, which also includes the well-known tourist attraction Fougeres Castle.

The sprinters will have another opportunity to shine in Stage 4, so long as there are no more crashes in the final stretch. There are rumblings that the riders will issue a formal protest before the start of Stage 4 due to the dangerous route conditions in the first three stages.

2021 Tour de France – Overall GC Standings
  1. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) 12:58:53
  2. Julian Alaphilippe (D-QS) +00:08
  3. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) +00:31
  4. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) +00:31
  5. Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) +00:38

Van der Poel holds onto the yellow jersey for one more stage, with Alaphilippe trailing by eight seconds in second place.

Carapaz moved into third overall, and after Thomas’ crash, Ineos looks like they’re down to just Carapaz as a contender. Ineos came into Le Tour with four superstar riders, but they lost one in each stage due to crashes. Carapaz and Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) are both 31 seconds behind van der Poel. Wilco Kelderman sits in fifth place and is 38 seconds off the lead.

Despite the late crash, Pogacar is still the favorite to win the 2021 Tour de France at -167 odds. Roglic dipped to +450 odds, while Carapaz bumped slightly to +600. Alaphilippe, the best shot at a French rider to win Le Tour, is currently +1200 odds.

Check out more of OG’s coverage of the 2021 Tour de France.