DIRECT. Third stage of the 54th Tour of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var, Quintana in the lead

Last route of the Riviera cycling tour this Sunday, February 20. Between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Blausasc, 113 km of mountain will seal the fate of the successor of Gianluca Brambilla, the winner of the 2021 edition.

New mountain stage this Sunday February 20 for the peloton which has a new yellow jersey since yesterday.

Commenting on this third stage, journalist Laurent Verdi and the winner of the race in 2011, Thomas Voeckler.

Live on France 3 Côte d’Azur

The sporting director of the Nairo Quintana team, Arkéa-Samsic, is satisfied with the attitude of the Colombian. At 32, he “did his number” he laughs, without much surprise.

With more than a minute and a half in advance, Quintana is heading for a stage victory, and why not, a first place in the general classification.

Less than 10 kilometers before the finish, he tackles the last difficulty of the day: the Col de Nice. With its 2.6 km long, at nearly 5% average, the Condor is well ahead of Guillaume Martin, and Tim Wellens, who evolves alongside Thibaut Pinot, Michael Storer and Alexis Vuillermoz.

It was the winner of the second stage, the Belgian Tim Wellens, who, after descending the Col Saint-Roch at full speed, caught up with the leading men.

At 18 km from the finish, Quintana regained the lead. A few seconds behind the Colombian we still find Thibaut Pinot, followed by a group of 4 riders led by Tim Wellens.

Fewer hairpins, more curves that are easy to take… the course stabilizes a little at 15 km from the finish. Quintana is 34 seconds ahead.

Pinot ends up dropping out.

It is the Frenchman from Groupama-FDJ who best masters this Col Saint-Roch event. A “condition that will crescendo” comments Thomas Voeckler when it comes to addressing the form of the 31-year-old runner.

It is Pinot who leads the race in first place. He will not be able to win the Tour, but a third stage seems to be within his reach, about thirty kilometers from the finish.

Nairo Quintana is in pursuit of the Frenchman in the descent of the pass. The Condor ends up taking the advantage over Pinot, which yields first place to it. It only lasts hundreds of meters.

The French took the lead less than 25 km from the finish. The two runners are running neck and neck.

Just before 3 p.m., it was the breakaways – who kept less than a minute ahead of the peloton – qwho started the ascent of the Saint-Roch pass which exceeds 1000 meters in altitude.

It is a 6500 meter long slope, with an average drop of 6.5%. Clearly one of the strategic places of this third stage where the first places could be decided.

At kilometer 52, Michael Storer (Groupama-FDJ) comes out first on the Côte de Berre. Roger Adria (Kern Pharma), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Mikaël Cherel (AG2R Citroën Team) are following him closely.

About fifteen runners operate at the head of the race now, 60 km from the finish in Blausasc. They are about thirty seconds ahead of the peloton at 2:45 p.m.

It was on departmental road 2204 that the intermediate sprint, once the first 42 kilometers had been covered, was contested at the entrance to La Pointe.

It was François Bidard who won (Cofidis), followed by Cyril Gautier (B&B Hôtels-KTM) and Pau Miquel Delgado (Kern Pharma).

After about ten minutes of racing, as the Col d’Eze begins to pass under the wheels, a group of eight riders attempt a breakaway, quickly caught up by the peloton.

Ten minutes later, another attempt in which appears in particular Thibaut Pinot, the rider of Groupama-FDJ.

Lotto-Soudal does not hear it that way and catches up with everyonethe peloton regains a united and compact form after half an hour of racing, after crossing the Col d’Eze. Alexis Renard (Cofidis) gives up.

Third offensive episode after 25 kilometers, more than ten riders took the breakaway, including Thibaut Pinot, who joined the group now made up of 13 cyclists in the lead, who entered Peille. The peloton is only 10 seconds away.

The actual start was given at 1:13 p.m., for a shorter stage than the previous ones, but just as dense. Runners can count on mild sunshine bringing the air temperature to 17 degrees.

Two non-runners however, the Frenchman Thibault Ferasse (B&B Hotels – KTM) and the Dane Mattias Skjelmose Jensen (Trek – Segafredo).

Sergio Araiz Michel (Kern Parma) abandoned after 5 kilometers.

It was the sprint between Nairo Quintana and Tim Wellens, at the end of the Col d’Eze, which pinned the Condor to the ground.

The 30-year-old Belgian, who started his year with a victory at the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana 2022, in Spain, is continuing this momentum on the Côte d’Azur.

Repeat again. At the end of January, he had won the Andalusian race in the same way, beating in the last meters another cycling legendAlejandro Valverde.

The Lotto-Soudal runner welcomed this scenario from which he knew how to draw the best part. “It attacked very fast, and it went very fast at the beginning for me, I waited a little bit before doing my maximum effort […] I played with Quintana” he sketched with a smile, at the microphone of France 3 Côte d’Azur.

Nairo Quintana admitted that the Belgian had “more power” than him during this sprint. The Condor is also two years older than Tim Wellens.

Unsurprisingly at the sight of the profile of the stage, it’s good a new day in the mountains awaiting the runners. A deceptive start by the sea, at an altitude of 69 meters, will lead them very quickly to regain the heights.

First difficulty on the course, at the 12th kilometer: the Col d’Eze, category 3, and its 489 meters of altitude.

video length: 08sec

Stage 3 Profile

©Tour of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var

An intermediate sprint follows at the 43rd kilometer before launching an assault on two passes – that of Berre-les-Alpes and Saint-Roch, category 2. It will be necessary to pass the 592m of altitude for the first, and to more than 1000 meters for the second.

Beaten yesterday Saturday, during the sprint of the second stage, the winner of the Tour des Alpes-Maritimes, Nairo Quintana, appears to be one of the big favorites of this stage between Villefranche-sur-Mer and Blausasc.

Sunday azure skies, ideal temperatures and wind conditions like the first stage in Var… Enough to offer entertainment to spectators on the edge of these 113 km.

The peloton set off at 1 p.m. for a fictitious start before starting the race at 1:15 p.m., in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

video length: 30sec

Round stage 3

©Tour of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var

Direction Beaulieu-sur-Mer, the middle and the big corniche, then Saint-Michel, La Turbie, and the Paillon valley and its villages such as Saint-Martin-de-Peille or La Grave.

Halfway through the course, the runners will cross the roads leading to Contes, Bendejun, Coaraze and Lucéram, alternating elevations.

The arrival of the Tour of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var is scheduled before 5 p.m. in Blausasc.