Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

Another day for the sprinters. Is a Marcel Kittel win inevitable?

Stage 3 Wrap
The certainty, the inevitability. Everything we could have expected happened: a doomed breakaway, an Andy Schleck crash, London rain, famous landmarks and a Marcel Kittel triumph. The German is looking unbeatable. Visually it’s like watching a race for 14 year olds where one participant hit puberty two years ahead of the rest. Talking of advances, Kittel won by a bike length from Peter Sagan who seemed resigned to second place, sat in Kittel’s slipstream.

Is Kittel beatable? Maybe. We’ve seen several of his rivals flop in the finish, denying the drag race. Yesterday André Greipel lost contact with his sprint train and Arnaud Démare’s had problems with his FDJ train, they’ve been struggling to get and hold him near the front. But this is testimony to Giant-Shimano’s power and composure and if Fernando Alonso isn’t buying the team they could try pitching to UPS because they deliver on time. We’ll also see Giant-Shimano left to do more work earlier on the sprint stages, other teams will look to them to control the breakaways.

One last word on the visit to Britain: it will be the standard by which crowds are measured.

The Route

  • Km 34.0 – Côte de Campagnette, 1 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 4
  • Km 117.5 – Mont Noir, 1.3 kilometre-long climb at 5.7% – category 4

Two climbs are listed but as you can see from the profile there’s more along the way including the intermediate sprint on Mont Cassel. The course is straight out of the Four Days of Dunkerque race scaling the Monts and riding past the terrils, the large spoil tips that resemble black pyramids, a reminder of the region’s mining past.

The Mont Cassel intermediate sprint sees the road twist and turn but this isn’t the cobbled climb used in Gent-Wevelgem. The last climb of the day is the Mont Noir, the Black Mountain, known for its dark pine trees rather than mining waste. But it won’t trouble the sprinters and it’s 46km from the finish. Then the roads flatten out for the finish and heads through Lille and its suburbs.

The Finish
Back to France and back to drab roads of the edge of town. That said Sheffield wasn’t picture-postcard stuff either. The greatest dangers come after the 5km to go sign, urban roads with some street furniture but these are passed and the race take a large road to head out of town to finish outside the large sports stadium. It’s flat and fast with a sweeping left hand bend in the finish, not a tight turn but one where the inside line is worth a bike length or two.

The Scenario
It’s worth watching to see who tries to go up the road because Cyril “The Monk” Lemoine leads the mountains competition but if Jens Voigt, Blel Kadri or team mate Nicolas Edet go up the road they could collect points to equal his haul. Otherwise it’s another futile grab for airtime for everyone else as this stage is another day for the sprinters. The weather could be a factor with a promised crosswind but it’s not forecast to be angry enough to split things up.

The Contenders

Marcel Kittel is the prime pick. He’s got the form, he’s got the team, he’s got the confidence and he’s so far ahead of everyone else. But again sprinting’s a risky business and therefore there’s no such thing as a certainty.

André Greipel is the next pick. The stage includes a brief detour into Belgium although neither Lotto-Belisol nor anyone else need any extra incentives or pressure.

Arnaud Démare is the third pick. FDJ have been making a mess of their sprints with Marc Madiot saying they’re still learning, we’ll see what they’ve learned. Démare was sensational in the Four Days of Dunkirk but the level of competition was much lower, still these are familiar roads. Bryan Coquard continues to impress.

Alexander Kristoff was fifth yesterday despite a mechanical as the race sped through London so with fresher legs he could do better.

Peter Sagan will contest the sprint and we’ve seen Viviani is purely on lead-out duty. OPQS settled on Mark Renshaw yesterday and he got third.

Adrien Petit (Cofidis) is the local today, apparently the race almost passes his flat. Watch for Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Séché).

Marcel Kittel
André Greipel
Peter Sagan, Arnaud Démare, Bryan Coquard, Alexander Kristoff
Mark Renshaw

TV: live from start to finish. Be sure to tune in for the sprint but the rest of the stage might be worth dipping in and out of, check if there’s any crosswind action.

The race is now back on French time and the finish expected for 5.30pm Euro time.

Weather: a mix of sunshine and clouds with the chance of rain. A top temperature 18°C and the forecast says a 15-20km/h breeze from the northwest meaning a tailwind for the latter part of the stage.

32 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 4 Preview”

  1. The Coquard learning curve just might level out on this one. He’s showing an opportunistic turn that I like. Go Bryan,hit the line ahead.

    • He’s quick but his speciality is the surging acceleration, what he’d like his a sharp hill 200m to the line or a tight corner but his team are finding it hard to place him in the finish. They didn’t take lead out man Jimmy Engoulvent, preferring Perrig Quémeneur, a climber, to support Pierre Rolland.

      • The sweeping left at the end could be the bee’s knees for him. I agree about the team support and lack of same. Another reason to appreciate his initiative (and track savvy) if he can pull it off at this level. Hey,I’m hoping for an early breakthrough to confirm his obvious talent and courage.

    • Yes, I was suprised how Giant Shimano seem to have been allowed to get away with doing very little work on stages 1 and 3. I think Giant Shimano can expect to be treated like HTC in their pomp from now on.

    • This

      Back when Cav was this dominant HTC were left to control the peleton all day (with some help from the team in yellow) and to chase breakaways from 30-40km out once yellow was safe, if not further with no assistance. But they had the team for this and would do a huge lead out as well.

      Giant Shimano might be unrivaled in their brilliance from 2km out but can they control an entire stage or will we see more breakaways succeeding? FdJ, OPQS, Europcar and Lotto might be well advised to send a man up the road to find out.

      • It’s interesting because other teams might look to Giant-Shimano to do the work but they can just sit up and say “we’ve won two stages and worn the yellow jersey so far. And you?” and so the pressure is back on the others to deliver something. We’re seeing the GC teams contribute to the effort as they try to put their lead riders out of danger which helps too.

        • I think Kittel has looked so dominant (not just in the Tour, but also the Giro) that the other team’s confidence of beating him in a straight sprint will be rock bottom. It is certainly a problem for OPQS, who don’t seem to have many cards to play other than aim for sprint finishes.

          But I was surprised that Giant Shimano weren’t made to work harder on the first and third stages, BEFORE they had won! Lotto Belisol seem to riding themselves into the ground but Greipel hasn’t been at the races.

    • The team said he was caught out by the cornering and the wet weather. But look at the video and he seemed to be riding with his mouth wide open, as if he was on the limit effort-wise too.

      As for Slipstream you’ve probably seen the news on cyclingnews? Tuttobici reported yesterday the team will ride Cannondale bikes and this suits the US market. The Italian site also said Cervélo will take over as the bike sponsor for MTN-Qhubeka. Nothing’s announced yet but it seems Garmin-Sharp or whatever the team is called has a safe future.

    • Lotto-Belisol told Sporza that the German rider was anxious because of the wet roads.

      Maybe broken collarbone at crash at Gent-Wevelgem is playing on his mind?

  2. They did seem to pick some of the ugliest parts of Sheffield to go to – the city does have some very leafy suburbs. Partially this would be the old issue about having the space to park the travelling army that is the Tour de France caravan – and there’s plenty of space where the forges used to be in. But this does mean aerial shots of the leader racing past land where the demolished factories used to stand and have either shopping centre car parks or nothing built there yet. However, it did also mean the finish was on a wide straight near the Meadowhall shopping centre and the arena, so a transport interchange and lots of car parking for the fans (of whom there were so many the transport infrastructure still struggled). Plus it meant they got to go up Jenkin Road – which was fantastic.

    • As a (west) Yorkshireman I’m quite pleased that they showed the non postcard side of the county too. Life is not all hills and dales, there’s a lot of history there in terms of industrial power and decline. Parts of south and west yorkshire might not be the prettiest but they have an interesting story to tell. I hope the new 3 day event manages to take this into account too.

      • Quite exactly. The bicycle was part of the industrial revolution and it will always remain linked to it. And there’s also one very special feature of cycling (already touched upon by Inrng), to embellish or at least give a special flavour or perspective to places some people wouldn’t care to look at.

    • To be honest, I thought the aerial photos of East London looked even more of a dump / building site than the Meadowhall / Don Valley area of Sheffield.

      I guess the leafy bits of Sheffield were represented by Bradfield and Oughtibridge.

      • Too right !

        “Back to France and back to drab roads of the edge of town. That said Sheffield wasn’t picture-postcard stuff either. ”

        Yeah, London might have had the Mall and the Embankment, but before that how long did they ride through streets full of kebab shops and betting shops, and the shots of the much-vaunted Olympic Park made it look like a building site cum shopping mall surrounded by Eastern European housing developments

        • With the poor resolution that people on pirate feeds get, there was no sightseeing involved. So as far as we are concerned, we think all the buildings look like palaces or medieval castles.

  3. I thought lotto went too hard too early last night. They were on the front for most of the last 30-40km and shouldve left some of the other teams to work. other teams need to try and get giant-shimano to send more than one rider up for the chase although now that theyve already won 2 stages, thats gonna be hard. i just thought giant’s train were awesome last night and they must have been fresh. didnt see them until there was just a couple of km’s to go.

  4. Crowds were amazing in Britain, just as they were in the Olympics a few years back. Does professional cycling afford not to have a WT event in such a big market with such support on all levels? UCI stated that they wish the Germans get more involved but should concentrate on UK as well…

    • It’s coming, the tour of Britain is stepping up to 2.HC and there will be the Tour of Yorkshire next year, the Ride London classic will also be in it’s second year this time. But too much too soon with a WT event might not be of any benefit in growing the sport here.

      Britain has only 1 WT team in Sky and doesn’t have a large base of Pro-Conti teams either. Most of the British teams are only continetal level so can’t race in a WT event. What Britain needs is a wider base of top level races, one day and stage to increase the number of teams at Pro-Conti and WT level, not a single WT race parachuted into the calendar Tour of Beijing style.

      As for the crowds they are still very uneducated, as long as a race in the UK can attract a few big names and Team Sky turn up the crowds will come. It doesn’t matter to them if the rest of the field is made up of FdJ, Europcar and Lampre Merida or Madison Genessis, Rapha Condor Sharp and Team Raleigh.

      • I think Fletch is right. In addition, I wouldn’t want cycling to stretch the nation’s patience too much in terms of closed roads. There are grumblings in my county, Surrey, about the RideLondon event with. Whatever level of events we have, I hope we can try and have interesting races that can move some fans from watching the stage fly past to actually being interested in the wider race and cycling in general.

        In addition – I’m very grateful that the British public got behind the Tour – we cycling fans would happily watch but the turnout is what will ensure a return sooner rather than later.

  5. Love ‘im or loathe ‘im the fact that Cavendish has gone out has deprived us of an interesting battle for the sprint stages, especially as the OPQS team had been put together specifically for the purpose of beating Kittel. Good as Renshaw is, even he (almost) admitted via interview that he knew they had no chance now.

    I will be interested in seeing how Coquard improves during this tour. If nothing else he seems up for it.

    • If i were opqs, i’d plant renshaw on kittel’s behind. Then at 600m to go, launch alejet on the other side. He always liked jumping early and holds his top speed longer than most. If anything, atleast theyll get a second behind kittel instead of sagan being there

  6. Great writing and this is my fave quote of the tour so far. “…….if Fernando Alonso isn’t buying the team they could try pitching to UPS because they deliver on time.”

    Thanks for the detailed daily write-ups!

Comments are closed.