The first of two days in the Vosges mountain range, today’s course should see a good battle between what’s left of the bunch and a late breakaway.
Stage 4 Review: a breakaway, a bunch sprint and Elia Viviani. The Italian had the speed in the final metres and, crucially, the leadout too which gave him an unimpeded run to the line, something both Caleb Ewan and Dylan Groenewegen didn’t enjoy. Ewan’s train doesn’t look as strong while Groenewegen says he’s “not yet 100%”. Viviani’s could be leaving for Cofidis and the sprint wins probably won’t be as easy although it’s reported he’s taking Fabio Sabatini; while veteran lead out Max Richeze is also said to be leaving, this time for UAE Emirates too. Viviani’s a versatile rider with a track background and not the usual swagger of a sprinter, you won’t find incendiary quotes and even a sharp elbow under the flamme rouge seems rare.
The Route: 175km and no mountain stage but still over 2,200m of vertical gain, most of which comes late in the race. The climb to Haut-Kœnigsbourg is 5.9km at 5.9% and all on a steady wide road with engineered bends and scenic, expect big aerial shots of the spectacular castle at the top of the climb. It’s followed by a quick descent on a smaller road and then 20km to the next climb which mitigates the effect any any attack on the climb but it’ll start to sap the riders.
There’s Côte des Trois-Épis is 5km at 6.7% and new in the Tour but used locally for motorsport where cars drift round the hairpins but here it’s a main road and the descent is quick and despite the profile there is a small breather on the valley floor before the next climb. The last climb of the day is the Côte des Cinq Châteaux is the easiest in terms of stats with 4.1km at 6.1% but it’s on a smaller backroad and more like 7% and the descent doesn’t come until after 6.5km, then chased by a fast descent through woodland where visibility’s limited but once the descent is done there’s 14km to the finish through the vineyards, scenic but also easy for chasers to see a move up ahead.
The Finish: ah, Colmar, the scenic canals, the fairy tale Rhenish timber frame houses… no sorry, it’s a flat finish on the edge of town, presumably there’s no room for the race in the small streets so it’s out of town next to some warehouses and big boulevards.
The Contenders: there’s a chance the early breakaway sticks, over 100 riders are now at least five minutes down and have a bit of space today, think Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal),
Magnus Cort (Astana) has broken his finger, or Simon Clarke (EF Education First) although he might be saving himself for Urán duty tomorrow and Alessandro de Marchi (CCC) is another specialist raider.
The most probable scenario is a sprint among a reduced group so Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) are the obvious picks, but not strong ones as they’ll sweat to make the finish. Sagan can win, and if he doesn’t he’ll rack up points on a day when the pure sprinters should be out of the picture. Matthews might cope better with the climbs and have fresher legs for the finish. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) will be thinking of tomorrow’s summit finish at the Planche des Belles Filles but today can follow the moves and try to win the sprint. Sonny Colbrelli and Ivan Garcia Cortina could strike for Bahrain-Merida.
Among the others Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) could have his chance or is he working for Sagan and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) can be a force of nature on his day and Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) can win stages like this. Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) had a great sprint in Epernay and didn’t seem fazed by the climbs but they were much shorter, today’s much harder, of the Flandriens, maybe Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) could be there and we’ll see if Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) can haul himself to Colmar.
|Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews, Julian Alaphilippe|
|Schachmann, Lutsenko, van Aert, GVA, Colbrelli|
Yellow story: Julian Alaphilippe is in yellow and it’s the first time a Frenchman’s worn the jersey since Tony Gallopin’s brief spell in 2014. If that sounds like a long time, it is because it marks the longest spell the French have had without the maillot jaune.
Weather: sunshine and 26°C.
TV: the stage starts at 1.15pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.35pm CEST / Euro time. The Trois Epis climb begins around 4.45pm.