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Stage 3: Contres - Limoges
Terrain: Flat, then a bumpy ride to the finish.
GC Importance: Probably not, as the climbs near the finish are not difficult enough to separate the general classification contenders.

The Race to the Sun continues its journey south through the center of France. The stage runs between Contres and Limoges over mostly flat terrain. The course passes through Vienne and Paris-Nice makes its second ever visit to Limoges for the finish. In 2007, Franco Pellizotti celebrated victory on the boulevard Beaublanc. This year’s finish repeats the scene of Pellizotti’s triumph.

Three is the number of the day, and the course includes three categorized climbs and three intermediate sprints. The first 100 or so kilometers cover mostly flat terrain before the second half of the stage turns bumpy before a ten kilometer descent to the finish. Though a breakaway could survive to the finish, the gradual descent to the finish and offer the sprinters’ teams a chance to organize a determined chase. The finish is flat.

The first categorized climb arrives at kilometer 15 and could provide an invitation for a breakaway to speed up the road, though in truth, it isn’t much of a climb. The Côte de Saint-Aignan carries a category 3 rating and climbs 2 kilometers at a gentle 3% gradient. From the Côte de Saint-Aignan, the stage bumps along uneven, though not especially difficult terrain until it reaches the first intermediate sprint in Le Blanc at kilometer 92.5. As the stage passes through La Trimouille at kilometer 113, the terrain becomes considerably more uneven. The second intermediate sprint appears at Le Dorat at kilometer 143.5.

Just over ten kilometers later comes the second categorized climb of the day, the Côte de Maison Neuve. It covers 1.1 kilometers and rises at an average gradient of 6.1%, and isn’t likely enough to force a selection. The final sprint of the day follows shortly after the Côte de Maison Neuve in Roussac at kilometer 164. The course bumps along a series of uncategorized climbs until it reaches the final climb of the day, the Côte de Nieul. A category 3 climb, the Côte de Nieul climbs 2.8 kilometers at an average gradient of 3.9%. Though the climb is not severe enough to separate the main field, it could create the winning move if a breakaway survives. The descent to the finish offers a good chance for the chasers to bring it all back together, and while this stage may see a few heroic efforts to escape, it looks likely to end with a sprint in Limoges.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->