Honestly, this the sparsest Grand Tour I can remember as far as the sprinters are concerned. The amount of stages where they have the remotest chance can be counted on the fingers of one hand so this stage, still including some reasonably difficult climbing, has to look like a gilt-edged chance to the race’s poor, poor sprinters. While stage two was harder than I (and indeed most people, Nairo Quintana was not short odds, let alone Nicolas Roche, who I am delighted and shocked to see get into the red jersey) expected, stage three doesn’t have the profile to allow such fireworks. Hence, it really should be a sprinters’ day if they have the will to avoid letting it slip.
Pretty innocuous, but still rolling, to the extent that you could call it ambush country. There will be a considerable crosswind of over twenty kilometres per hour for the final phase of the race, after passing the intermediate sprint but it’s noticeable that the will to force echelons is a little weaker in the Vuelta than the Tour and the wind is only moderate so I feel any chance of the race breaking up is fairly minimal.
A battle of the sprinters it will be then and there are only three real contenders. Fabio Jakobsen of Deceuninck, Fernando Gaviria of UAE-Emirates and the favourite, Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe. Bennett is in sterling form, having won three stages in three days at the recent BinckBank Tour. He has progressed in recent years, from middle of the pack to one of the best sprinters in the world: he would have won stages at the Tour had he been allowed to go and he will have a point to prove here. Jakobsen and Gaviria will provide stiff competition however. Former team mates, they provide interesting contrasts: Gaviria has been on the wane while Jakobsen is still growing as a sprinter. It’s hard to say how both will go, with my guess being that neither will quite be on Bennett’s level at this point. Time for an Irishman to win the stage and another in the leader’s jersey. I’m in heaven.