July 4 Stage 3: Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon, 198km (123 miles)
This is a stage that should end up favoring the sprinters, like the Manxman Mark Cavendish, American Tyler Farrar or Italian Alessandro Petacchi. The course is the flattest of the Tour, heading north from the Vendée region into Brittany, paralleling the Atlantic coast before crossing the Loire River estuary on the 216-foot high St. Nazaire Bridge — which is the day’s only climb, given the lowest, category 4 designation. If there are strong crosswinds the race could break up in the remaining 55km (34 miles) that the peloton will probably cover in one hour. The race passes through the town of Pontchâteau on its way to a flat finish in Redon.
THE SCOOP: Everyone will need to be wary of two tricky turns, a right uphill 270-degree loop from a highway with 6km to go and a sharp right just outside 3km; if there is a crash on either turn riders could lose a bunch of time because time lost from crashes or mechanical problems are only cancelled out for incidents inside the final 3km.
OVERALL RATING: *