After a crash on stage 1 and the last place in stage 2, Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) bounced back to win stage 3 in a highly contested bunch gallop in Sisteron, beating Irish champion Sam Bennett of Deceuninck-Quick Step and European champion Giacomo Nizzolo of NTT Pro Cycling. Julian Alaphilippe retained the yellow jersey.
Four in the lead with the KOM in mind
173 riders took the start of stage 3 near the Allianz Stadium in Nice. Jérôme Cousin (Total Direct Energie) was the first attacker right after flag off. Anthony Perez (Cofidis) went across to him, marked by Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale) who was riding in protection of Benoît Cosnefroy, the leader of the KOM competition. After only 7km of racing, Naesen sat up and waited for the peloton as his job was done with his team-mate in the right place to fight for the defence of the polka dot jersey. The leading trio formed of Cousin, Perez and Cosnefroy reached a maximum advantage of three minutes at km 11.
Jerome Cousin by himself
Perez outsprinted Cosnefroy at the first two cat. 3 climbs of the day: col de Pilon (km 55) and col de La Faye (km 63.5). With an advantage of two points, Perez was mathematically assured of taking the polka dot jersey. Therefore, they both sat up at km 71 and waited for the peloton, leaving Cousin alone in the lead. It gave a respite to Deceuninck-Quick Step, the only team pacing the peloton, mostly with Tim Declercq and Rémi Cavagna. At km 78, Cousin recorded his maximum advance of 4 minutes. Cosnefroy sprinted from the peloton to get one KOM point atop the col des Lèques (km 117.5). He forged on the downhill with his team-mate Nans Peters while Perez punctured and eventually crashed out. The Cofidis rider was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone.
Sagan launches the sprint; Ewan concludes
Cousin got reined in with 16km to go. All sprinters’ teams fought for positioning in the last ten kilometres. Peter Sagan launched the sprint from far out but Bennett passed him on the right side of the road and Ewan jumped out of the wheel of the Irish champion to score his fourth Tour de France stage victory after the three he got for himself in his first participation last year.