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“It’s still a long way to the Tour, especially to the third week,” said Pavel Sivakov, the team’s lead finisher on stage three. “We’ve got time, we don’t need to stress or worry.”
The Russian climber secured a ninth-place finish on the Saint-Martin-de-Belleville summit finish. Despite his attempts to usher teammate Egan Bernal toward the front of the group in the final kilometers, Bernal dropped off the back with 100 meters to go.
Sivakov claimed that Bernal’s showing today is a result of the cumulative effects of two days of racing preceded by an intense block of training at altitude prior to the start of the Dauphiné.
“Egan told me that he was not feeling super today,” Sivakov said. “So I stayed with him and tried to bring him to the final. In the finish the sprint started. I carried on and maybe with 100 meters to go I saw that he was dropped.”
Nevertheless, Sivakov didn’t have much help with Bernal at the end of the day. Thus far, teammates Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas have been unable to deliver the kind of support that Jumbo-Visma has been giving Roglič on the steep climbs. Today, Froome eased up with 12km to go on the initial slopes of the climb, with Thomas falling off with 3.7km to go.
Today’s images of the burgundy-clad climbers were a departure from what the team looked like during Thursday’s stage. During the final climb yesterday, it appeared that Ineos appeared to be back to full strength. The entire team took turns pulling on the front, and their relentless pace-setting crushed the main group, leaving the strongest contenders left to fight for the stage win. Today, the riders pushing the pace in front of the group were all clad in yellow.
Is Ineos sticking to its plan to “top up the shape at these races” as Sivakov says, or is the team’s performance a harbinger of things to come?
There are two more days of racing to find out.