After enjoying an evening of recovery in Bagnères-de-Luchon, riders took to the start line for Stage 3 today. This time, riders would be taking on the Port de Balès in reverse, with this creating both a wave of anticipation and excitement on the start line as they knew exactly what was coming.
“I have tired legs after yesterday, the summit finish in the heat was difficult. Today is going to be quite a challenge but I am going to go steady and complete it in a reasonable time, it is just a race against myself,” said Julian Darwell-Stoner from Scotland who is competing in his fourth Haute Route.
“I am sure we will be talking the miles away again today though. You generally end up with the same people each day as you are riding at the same pace. It is great because you get to know them and have a chat, it is great camaraderie.”
Knowing that the timing had now been paused, riders took their time descending the Port de Balès, seeing it in totally different conditions than yesterday’s blue skies and scorching temperatures. The foggy conditions did not dampen the mood however, with riders quick to get back into formation and work as a group, before taking on the climbs of Col des Ares and Col de Menté.
Viktor Taranenko, from Russia and now living in Scotland, commented on how much he was enjoying today’s stage and the whole experience: “Road racing is new to me as I come from a time trial and triathlon background, but I have loved it so far. Today was steadier, I got into a good rhythm going up the hills and also enjoyed the advantages of working in a group for some sections.”
“Being from Scotland, this weather is pretty normal for me so it feels like home and I probably enjoyed a bit of advantage because of that. However, we don’t have mountains like this in Scotland and I need to make sure I recover well tonight ahead of Col du Tourmalet,” he added.
Completing the Col de Menté climb, which rounded off with some steeper hair-pin bends, riders were greeted with applause from friends and family at the top before stocking up on food at the feed station and heading down the other side of the col.
After two stages already under their belts and a long stage today, the upcoming summit finish at Hospice de France was going to be testing. Whilst the steepest gradient was at the end of the climb, the start of the climb was still challenging, with various plateaus amongst sudden sharp rises to throw riders off their rhythm.
Kicking up above 12% on several occasions, the final few kilometres of the climb were particularly testing for the riders but as they rounded the final corner to see the Tag Heuer timing flashing up above the finish line, this gave riders the extra push they needed to give all their effort to finish strong atop the summit.
In the Men’s category, the Italian Carlo Fino keeps his first place in the general classification with a third consecutive stage victory. In the women’s category, the victory comes to Georgia Taylor ahead of Alisha Myers and Lina-kristin Schink. In the Duo category, teams Carina Brao Caffe and BWCC Venom remain unbeaten.
After a good meal and a well-deserved massage, participants attended the traditional safety briefing. They will then enjoy a good night’s sleep to prepare for the queen stage with a summit finish atop Col du Tourmalet tomorrow.