A good day for a breakaway with a hilly course around Provence and the Alpine foothills.
Stage 4 Wrap: a win for Wout Poels ahead of Marc Soler and Julian Alaphilippe. It rained during the race which made the course sketchy for some but the late finishers still set the fastest times and Luis-Leon Sanchez kept his yellow jersey and got another lion. Felix Großschartner confirmed his good riding with a top-10 and Esteban Chaves was an impressive tenth. The likes of Tony Gallopin, Ilnur Zakarin and Bauke Mollema rode themselves out of contention.
The Route: 165km and north for a change, the race starts in Provence and heads into the Alps. The Col du Pointu (“Pointy pass”) isn’t as steep as it sounds, 4km at 5% and no surprises. The Col de Lagarde d’Apt might be a finish line for a few riders because it’s a first category climb and a “win” at the top should bring them the mountains jersey. It’s a long climb of 11km at a steady 7% and leads to the Albion plateau. The Col du Négron is listed at 5.9km at 3% in the roadbook but the climb is longer and there’s a brief 10% section before the “official” climb starts. From here there’s 60km to go via Montfroc down the Jabron valley, or at least mainly down, the road rises and falls on the way to Sisteron.
The Finish: they ride into Sisteron – a habitual scenic stop for this race – and then head out for the small climb of the Côte de la Marquise which is 1.3km at 6.7%. It should be familiar to some as it was climbed in the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné and proved to be a hectic finale when Tim Wellens attacked but it came back together for a bunch sprint won by Nacer Bouhanni in his pomp. The descent is gentler than the climb and on wider roads but still fast as it heads out of town for a loop before turning back up the valley road for 3km and a flat finish.
The Contenders: breakaway or sprint? There are almost 100 riders four minutes or more down on GC meaning they’ve got room to manoeuvre, a breakaway seems most likely. However several teams have sprinters in the race and no stage win and the finish is not too hard they have an incentive to set up their sprinter for the finish.
For the breakaway will we see any of the classics contenders test themselves? One school of thought says having a go is part of the preparation, another is you sit tight all week and just bank the distance. Picks include Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale), Yves Lampaert (Quick Step), Edward Theuns (Sunweb), Jürgen Roelandts (BMC Racing) and Ivan Garcia Cortina (Bahrain-Merida) while Ian Stannard and Michael Valgren are likely to be retained on team duties.
For the sprinters the final climb is hard work and if Nacer Bouhanni won in 2015 this was in the summer when many more riders have their climbing legs. Still a test for
Dylan Groenwegen, Arnaud Démare is in good shape and the likes of Matteo Trentin and Magnus Cort Nielsen get the nod again.
|Trentin, Cort Nielsen, Naesen, Theuns, Garcia Cortina|
Weather: cloudy and a top temperature of 13°C. We’re in mistral country, the area is blasted by this wind for over one hundred days a year but calm conditions are forecast.
TV: You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams. The finish is later than usual, a predicted 5.10pm.