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July 2 update: Stage 3 is the first stage back in France where we'll start from Orchies, famous for its association with the cycling monument, Paris-Roubaix (see photo right).
Heading west in the very northern part of France towards the coast, the first half of the stage is uneventful, but that all changes as we enter the coastal Boulonnais region. There are six category 3 or 4 climbs in the final 70 km of stage 3, four in the final 16 km. The twisty, narrow climbs will make for a nervous stage especially for the GC contenders who will simply want to finish the day in one piece. In previous years, stages like this in the first week have ended the hopes of many riders. And to make matters worse, it looks like there is a good chance of rain for Tuesday's stage.
The final 700m through residential streets of Boulogne-sur-Mer (photo above) average 7.4% which is harder than the stage 1 finish so if a break doesn't succeed, look for a power sprint finish among a small group of puncheurs such as Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and if the wonder kids survive the chaotic run to the finish, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Procycling), who may claim the White Jersey after this stage. Orica-GreenEdge is predicting this will be the stage for Matt Goss.
Sylvain Chavanel won the 2011 French Championships in Boulogne-sur-Mer so he'll know this area well and he won a Tour finish similar to this stage in Spa in 2010. Expect him to try and break clear on one of four hills in the final 16 km. — Steve