Short third stage brings down Corsican curtain

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(AFP) – The Tour de France completes its historic passage through Corsica later with a short 145-kilometre third stage from Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthplace in Ajaccio up the island’s west coast to Calvi, where the explorer Christopher Columbus is said to have been born.

To celebrate the 100th staging of the sport’s most famous race, the Tour has come to the Mediterranean island – known as the Island of Beauty – for the first time ever this year.

And so far there has been a controversial opening stage into Bastia followed by a surprise win, and the prize of the yellow jersey, for Belgian Jan Bakelants in Ajaccio on Sunday.

Monday’s stage route features practically no flat sections, with four climbs altogether, including the second-category ascent of the Col de Marsolino 13 kilometres from the finish.

That, and the perenially winding roads up the rugged coastline will focus the attention of the peloton throughout a stage that will start at 1055 GMT.

Just like on Saturday and Sunday, the stage will take place under blazing sunshine, with temperatures potentially rising to 27 centigrade.

Organisers will be hoping for another troublefree day, and will have been relieved to hear that Corsican nationalists lifted their threat to block the starting line in Ajaccio in protest at the arrest of four militants on Saturday night for graffiti-ing parts of the second stage route with anti-French slogans.

The Corsica Libera (Free Corsica) party ended their threat after two of the quartet were released by police on Sunday.

The nature of the route means this is a difficult stage to predict, with the lack of any flat sections potentially opening it up to a puncher, although last year’s green jersey winner Peter Sagan will hope to go one better than Sunday, when he just failed to catch Bakelants on the line.

The French will be hoping for a success for one of their own, perhaps Thomas Voeckler or Sylvain Chavanel, who turned 34 on Sunday, and the overall race leader’s yellow jersey could have a third different wearer in three days.

Preparations were not ideal for all members of the peloton though – Alberto Contador may be feeling a little sluggish after staying up until almost 2am local time to watch his native Spain go down 3-0 to Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Voeckler’s Europcar team and the Spanish Euskaltel team endured an uncomfortable night when the power went out in their hotel in Ajaccio.

After arriving in Calvi, the Tour will move to mainland France for the first time, with the fourth stage, a team time-trial, taking place in Nice on Tuesday.

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