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Ben Healy faces the first real test of his condition in today’s final TT at Etoile de Bessèges (Photo: Fabio Ferrari)

Ben Healy faces the first real test of his 2024 early season condition in today’s final TT at Etoile de Bessèges after yesterday’s uphill finish disappointed when it failed to split the field.

While the final push to the line at Méjannes-le-Clap was a 4km ascent followed by 1km on the flat, it was a cagey affair as the breakaway men dangled in front of the bunch. The sprinters and their teams were judging their efforts in the bunch rather than the race exploding due to a GC battle.

When the breakaway men hung on, by just two seconds, it meant no gaps emerged between those vying for overall victory.

And that left Healy (EF Education-EasyPost) where he was at the start of the day; no closer to the race lead but close enough to do some damage in today’s TT, which looks like a good one for him.

Today’s final 10.645km test in Alès includes a 2.8km climb to the line, which is a course that could see Healy make more gains if he has the legs on the 5.6 per cent gradient.

Mads Pedersen (Lidl Trek) continues to lead overall, by six seconds from stage 2 winner Axel Laurance (Alpecin-Deceuninck), with Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) 3rd at 12 seconds.

Healy may be back in 17th overall but he is just 31 seconds off the race lead and could move up onto the final podium today if he could pull a good performance out of the bag.

Today’s TT will also offer the first opportunity for Healy’s team mate and compatriot, 20-year-old neo pro Darren Rafferty, to test himself in a pro field against the watch.

Yesterday’s stage – some 158.48km starting and finishing in Méjannes-le-Clap – was won by Samuel Leroux of UCI Continental team Van Rysel-Roubaix.

He took that big victory from Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-EasyPost) and Dries De Bondt (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale) after those three breakaway men finished on the same time just two seconds ahead of the remains of the bunch.

Healy finished in the bunch in 43rd place, with Rafferty, who was on team duties again as he has been all week, in 101st at 3:20. Dillon Corkery, the new St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 man who has ridden very well this week, was 118th in a large group at 6:17.

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