Biniam Girmay makes history with stage 3 sprint victory – Tour de France

Tour de France 2024

Stage 3

A powerful late surge and crafty positioning netted Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) a bunch sprint win stage 3 of the Tour de France ahead of Fernando Gaviria (Movistar) and Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny).

At the end of a 230.9-kilometre stage from Piacenza to Turin, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) made his move early in the dash for the line.

However, after Girmay then blasted up close to the barriers on the right-hand side to take Eritrea’s first-ever stage win in the Tour de France.

“Ever since I started cycling, I’ve always been dreaming to be part of the Tour de France – but now, I can’t believe it, to win the Tour de France in my second year in a big bunch sprint, for me it is unbelievable,” Girmay said after the finish.

“I just want to thank my family, my wife, all the Eritreans, and Africans, we must be proud, now we are really part of the big races, now it’s our moment, our time. I just want to say congrats to all my whole team, because we didn’t have a victory yet [in the Tour de France]. But now is our moment, I’m super-happy. This win is for all Africans, congrats, I’m just super happy today.”

A major, late mass crash with three kilometres to go split the peloton, but around 40 riders could still dispute the sprint.

Girmay edges out the competition to claim an historic win.

Top Tour GC favourites Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-Lease a Bike) and race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) were both uninjured but delayed by the crash, which happened well within the newly-expanded five-kilometre safety zone used for this stage, meaning they did not lose time.

Pogačar, though, did lose the leader’s jersey to former Giro d’Italia winner Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost), partly as an indirect result of the pile-up. Currently tied on time with the Slovenian, Carapaz’s considerably better placing on stage 3’s fraught finale into Turin enabled him to move ahead overall and add a Tour de France leader’s jersey to those he already has for the Giro and Vuelta a España, which he led in 2020.

After three stages in Italy, the race now heads into the mountains and back into France for its first major Alpine stage, including the daunting ascent of the Galibier.

After a gentle day’s start to the longest stage of this year’s Tour route, only five kilometres were needed before the first attack of the day materialized, courtesy of Uno-X Mobility duo Jonas Abrahamsen, currently leading the mountains and points ranking, and Johannes Kulset, the youngest rider in the race.

However, Abrahamsen and Kulset were both quickly sucked in again having failed to tempt anybody else into an ultra-long distance attack, as Lidl-Trek maintained a watching brief at the front of the pack and things settled down into a much more humdrum format.

The first hour was covered in a steady but not remarkable average speed of 37.4 kph and nearly 150 kilometres came and went with no sign of any real action barring brief skirmishes for the secondary classifications.

Alpecin-Deceuninck kept nominal control on affairs, leading the pack onto the first of three category 4 climbs, the Cote de Tortone-Fausto Coppi, where Abrahamsen briefly emerged to claim the one point on offer.

The peloton climbs the hills passing vineyards around Cuneo.

On a day of much cooler weather and far fewer hilly challenges than in the previous two stages, the good humour in the peloton was evident, with Jonas Rickaert (Alpecin-Deceuninck) jokingly ‘sprinting’ for the summit, before Abrahamsen could move ahead and buttress his mountains lead. Then in the rather more intensely disputed, single intermediate sprint a little further on at Alexandria, Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) outpowered Philipsen for the top points on offer.

The race then subsided into its rather tedious holding pattern again, with no furher action after the early Uno-X Mobility double move until deep into the last 100 kilometres. Lidl-Trek, largely powered by Tim ‘El Tractor’ Declercq, Alpecin-Deceuninck with Silvain Dillier and Jayco-AlUIa all contributed, but the race was still running at its slowest anticipated average pace as the afternoon wore on and when Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) stopped for a double wheel change, he had no problems getting back on.

Matteo Sobrero (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) darted away to crown the second cat 4 climb, the Cote de Barbaresco, then the generalised lethargy returned until on a short downhill before the village of Alba, when TotalEnergies racer Fabien Grellier finally opened up a lone move.

The Frenchman faced a total of 65 kilometres left to race as he powered away alone, but he showed no sign of taking it steadily. After quickly opening up a gap of almost a minute, he took the final ascent of the day, the grinding Cote de Sommariva Perna, at full bore, and maintained the high pace on the much gentler descent that followed.

On a series of interminable, exposed straightaways, Grellier’s courageous effort was snuffed out by Lidl-Trek and a much more fast-moving pack with 28 kilometres to go. The broad highways were anything but encouraging for another breakaway to go clear, particularly as it was announced a few minutes after he was caught he would be winning the Combativity Prize for the day.

Pogačar could be seen staying resolutely close to the front in third place as the pace picked up notably in the last 15 kilometres, although the succession of wide roads helped the bunch maintain a solid formation despite the series of roundabouts.

Dane Casper Pedersen (Soudal-QuickStep) was an unlucky early casualty from a fall in the closing kilometres. Subsequent medical examinations revealed that although able to finish, he had a broken collarbone and he was set to be a DNS for stage 4.

Pogačar lost his hold on the yellow jersey but won’t be too worried.

Lidl-Trek, Cofidis and Alpecin were all pushing hard as they hit the suburbs of Turin, with GC teams like UAE, Ineos Grenadiers and Visma-Lease a Bike trying to stay ahead but out of trouble the edges on the bunch and speeds touching 55 to 60 kph.

On an individual level, Mathieu Van der Poel’s mechanical with six kilometres to go represented a major setback for Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Philipsen’s chances. But the huge crash that then split the peloton into two very different-sized chunks – some 40 riders ahead, the rest of the bunch blocked and caught behind – delivered a major twist in the plot for all the sprinters.

While Philipsen and Cavendish were just two of the top names to be trapped behind, Team dsm-firmenich-PostNL still had their sprinter Fabio Jakobsen ahead and ready to sprint in one small string of riders, while Lotto-Dstny remained in the game with De Lie.

The broad, flat, boulevards made for a rapid return to ultra-high speeds and Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale were the first to make a concerted acceleration in the final kilometre. They were almost immediately swamped by Lidl-Trek, however, and for long seconds,Pedersen’s sustained move at the front of the pack looked to be set to capture him an easy win.

Instead, however, a perfectly-timed late surge by Girmay to Pedersen’s right gave the Eritrean just the margin he needed to come by and take the victory by nearly a bike length. As Pedersen faded, De Lie and Gaviria were also able to get past the Dane, but by then Girmay was already across the line.

It so happened, too, that he claimed the biggest win of his career to date, just an hour’s drive away from the road where a double crash in six kilometres saw him forced to quit the Giro on stage 4 in May.

Two months later, things could hardly have changed more for the better for Girmay, in what is, as he said, a huge triumph for both himself, his team, and Eritrea and Africa in general.

Carapaz beams as he dons the maillot jeune.

Girmay explained that under normal circumstance in such flat terrain, Intermarché would have worked for fellow sprinter Gerben Thijssen, with the hillier sprint days reserved for him. However, “if the circumstances were difficult,” he added – as they certainly became in a sprint where there was no real control in the final kilometres and then the huge crash further disrupted proceedings – “I needed to try for myself”.

“So in the end our team did a really good job, but in the last kilometre I lost Gerben’s wheel so I went for it myself. For me to win against the fastest in the world is unbelievable – and massively motivating.”

Tomorrow’s 4th stage sees the Tour’s sojourn in Italy end as they depart from Pinerolo to finish in the French Alps. The finish is situated in Valloire after the descent from the Col du Galibier. The race is 139.6 kilometres long and the elevation gain adds up to 3,600 metres.

Before crossing the Italian-French border the riders climb to Sestriere. It’s a 7 kilometres toil with an average gradient of 7.2%, but if you start your mathematics at the start the ascent is 39.9 kilometres long and sloping at 3.7%.

The Tour descends into France and continues north towards the Col de Montgenèvre. This 8.3 kilometres climb at 5.9% is crested around the midway marker. Following a relatively short descent the riders follow a false flat towards the Col du Galibier. Which is a beast – 23 kilometres long and averaging 5.1%. The last kilometre goes up at 9% before a 19 kilometres descent leads to the line in Valloire.

Valloire saw only one Tour de France stage finish until now. In 2019, Nairo Quintana soloed to victory from the breakaway in the village that’s nestled between the Col du Télégraphe and Col du Galibier. The 2019 stage also came down the latter pass.

The first three riders across the line gain time bonuses of 10, 6, and 4 seconds; the first three riders across the Galibier gain 8, 6 and 4 seconds.

Stage 3 result:

1. Biniam Girmay (Eri) Intermarché-Wanty, in 5:25:48
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Movistar
3. Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto-Dstny
4. Mads Pedersen (Den) Lidl-Trek
5. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Jayco-AlUla
6. Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Bahrain Victorious
7. Fabio Jakobsen (Ned) dsm-firmenich PostNL
8. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan
9. Sam Bennett (Irl) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale
10. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Cofidis, all at same time

General Classification:

1. Richard Carapaz (ECU) EF Education-EasyPost, in 15:20:18
2. Tadej Pogačar (SLO) UAE Team Emirates
3. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step
4. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN) Visma-Lease a Bike, all same time
5. Romain Bardet (FRA) DSM-Firmenich-PostNL +6sec
6. Pello Bilbao (ESP) Bahrain Victorious, +21sec
7. Guillaume Martin (FRA) Cofidis
8. Egan Bernal (COL) INEOS Grenadiers
9. Jai Hindley (AUS) Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Alexandr Vlasov (RUS) Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time.

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