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Tour de France Stage 4 Preview

Yesterday felt like the longest day but today’s stage is the longest when measured by distance. The race heads south, the weather gets warmer and there’s an uphill finish. A sprint finish is still likely but the tactics will vary.

Stage 3 Wrap: a lethargic peloton let Armindo Fonseca go solo, the sole Breton on the Breton team Fortuneo-Vital Concept on the sole stage in Brittany. Fonseca was barely any more energetic and never got a big lead, he just wanted to ride past his friends. The rest of the peloton barely wanted to ride as they averaged 33km/h for hours leaving television viewers in torpor and TV commentators dredging up anecdotes. It was dull and surprising that the other wildcard invitees didn’t bother doing anything.

Finally the speed picked up and we got a sprint in Angers. Mark Cavendish won, popping out from André Greipel’s slipstream and just pipping him on the line. The pair were the most convincing in the sprint but Greipel seemed to lead for two long while Marcel Kittel’s leadout didn’t work and Bryan Coquard was third.

The Route: the longest stage of the race with 237.5km (but yesterday’s stage took more time and tomorrow’s 216km route will take as long and features more climbing). They pass through Châtellerault at 75km, birthplace of Sylvain Chavanel but his chances of going in a move are slim as he’s needed on team duty later.

Once they get past the intermediate sprint at Le Dorat the roads get hillier and rougher as they reach the start of the Massif Central’s hills but there are few surprises.

The Finish: another city finish to cheer, previous arrivals in Limoges have been outside town/ But before the city comes into sight there’s a climb at the 8km to go point. 1.5km at 5% sounds like nothing but remember after 230km it’s a touch more but it’s no Poggio either, just a small drag. There’s a fast descent between 3km and 2km to go then the road flattens out briefly. It drops again, 500m at 4% and a crash risk given the speed but the road is very wide. With 1km to go they cross the Vienne river on a wide bridge and from here there’s 750m to the finish, the road rises at 5-6% all the way to the line.

The Scenario: with each passing day the chances of a breakaway sticking rise but it’s still another likely sprint finish. Many strong teams still have an interest in setting up a bunch sprint rather than gambling on a breakaway. The hilly terrain later on does rise and fall a lot but it features large roads and so gives little advantage to any fugitives.

The Contenders: an uphill sprint, just. It’s not long enough nor steep enough to make it a certainty for Peter Sagan but he’s an obvious pick given his power and consistency.

Among Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Marcel Kittel all have won uphill sprints on a similar finish to this over the years. Kittel struggled a bit yesterday with a gentler uphill finish and so he’s downgraded today while Cavendish looked explosive which won’t be so easy to repeat after such a long stage. So André Greipel is the deductive second pick.

Now or never for Bryan Coquard, third yesterday and now with a finish to suit yet it’s hard to imagine him getting the better of everyone.

Peter Sagan, André Greipel
Bryan Coquard, Mark Cavendish
Boasson Hagen*, Matthews, Theuns

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 28°C at the finish. A 15km/h tailwind will try to help keep the speed up

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.20pm Euro time. No other race attracts as much TV coverage but if you can’t find it on TV at home cyclinghub serves up a pirate feed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anthony Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 6:21 am

    After such a long and dull Stage 3, one of the riders was quoted as saying 200km stages should be left to the dustbin of grand tour history. Whether a flat stage is 200km or 140km, it can be argued the result today would be the same. Perhaps the organizers will rethink the length of flat stages in the same way they have done so with mountain stages?

    • MD Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:26 am

      Either that or massive transfers in a bus…the riders still have to get to the Pyrenees.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:21 am

        So if it had been the fastest stage in tour history, should we be calling for more drug testing as soon as they cross the line. Just because a stage is run in a particular fashion should NOT mean the stage/race/profile or whatever needs changing. Or that the race needs another new “rule” to eliminate this outcome. Or is it all a sympton of the “instant gratification” generation. Think yourselves lucky you were able to sofa surf the whole thing, many others would have been at their daily toil, unable to view.

        • frood Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:24 am

          I really hope they don’t change the stage lengths – a good variety is essential to grand tours. the same people whingeing about yesterday’s stage will start moaning if all the stages are 90 miles long.

          It’s like this now in other sports, probably all other forms of entertainment. People demand instant gratification so the organisers make all sorts of reactive, snap decisions with little thought for the future. look at the mess F1 is in, purely because the short-termist whims of its organisers.

    • Jack Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:35 am

      So many people forget that the Tour de France is much, much more than an event staged purely for slightly bored and impatient TV viewers sitting on their couch. It’s a major cultural event for France, and the longer stages – irritating as they are for TV viewers – give tens of thousands of people a chance to have the Tour traverse through their Department, through their villages, and the businesses within them to reap the benefits of a travelling cycling crowd. Local areas bid millions for the right to have the event travel through their area, to have TV cameras show off the are for tourism purposes, and those monies are part of what keeps the event profitable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stages that are ‘flat’ or ‘boring’.

      • Jorge Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:00 am

        Thumbs up!!!

      • Nick Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 12:41 pm

        And if the riders are taking it easy, then all those villages get to see them for longer, so win win!

    • Ferdi Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:44 am

      Whoever that irresponsible guy was, he should get those 300km stages back, which should be a perfectly normal standard given today’s racing conditions.

      • dave Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:59 am

        Just to double check on this – I was under the impression that this years Paris – Roubaix was the first to be televised from start to finish? Is that around the world or did that include France? Either way I heard it was a trial for the Tdf?

        I’m just trying to work out whether a 200km + stage in the past would have been televised from the start in France or whether they would also just have joined at 150km max? (So the early towns would get no tele coverage)

        Also on the above Jack point – when you say reap the benefits, isn’t it just the towns who start and finish the stage that really reap benefits? Does anyone travel to a town on a flat stage route (excluding starts in other countries or unless it has a specific feature like a hill, which I guess would always feature in a shorter stage?) to watch the tour just whip through? Do those towns actually even bid? I know the start and finish towns do, but surely a town at 210km out doesn’t? And do they really get that many benefits, other than a nice few mins out for the inhabitants? Especially if it’s not televised?

        I’m wondering if you have shorter stages with better racing you’ll get bigger audiences and the two seconds a village gets to promote itself will be more valuable anyway?

        I know I’m missing the point of your argument saying it has cultural value – and there’s no much really to go against this, aside from a more consistently interesting TdF making itself even more famous and becoming an even more potent cultural marketing tool. (even though again that misses your point really).

        I’m just on the side of shorter stages better racing and looking for more arguments to support this. I just want cycling to grow and rival the world’s biggest sports, as obviously by reading a niche cycling blog I love cycling and think it’s better than every sport and want more people to see this!

        Yesterday’s stage was a bit of joke, and cycling really needs to move with the times and seek to better itself rather than getting stuck in a nostalgic past that probably didn’t exist anyway! 200+km flat stages are rubbish, everyone knows, and in all honesty I feel like the above (Jack) is scrambling round for a slightly desperate argument to stem the tide of a opinion to the contrary – even the cyclists themselves!

        D

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:01 am

          Live TV is being considered for next year
          https://inrng.com/2016/04/live-tv-start-to-finish/

        • L'Islandais Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 4:54 pm

          I can only speak for myself but last year I travelled overnight on a boat (ok, ferry), rode with a nice group of people I met on the boat ~30k inland to a restaurant with excellent omelettes, rode back to ride a few kilometres of closed roads to see the peloton whizz past on a largely flat early tour stage, before catching the afternoon ferry back.
          The town was full of people enjoying the brief pass of the Tour, children were there en masse (on a weekday) and the group I was in contributed a fair bit to the local economy through refreshments and souvenirs.
          So I would suggest that they do have a purpose from a hard economic view. Plus, I agree with the notion that variety is key in a grand tour. It’s all about the wider narrative of the eventual victory three weeks from the start.

          (Having said that, I didn’t watch yesterday’s stage but did listen to two podcasts and watch at least two summary videos as well as reading about the results).

          • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:00 pm

            You’re right, it’s easy to see the Tour on TV and see it only through the camera lens but the huge crowds and activity around it are big. Even in terms of income for ASO TV is important but hosting fees and the publicity caravan are very valuable too.

        • Jack Thursday, 7 July 2016, 4:22 am

          Have you been to the TDF? Do you realise that millions line the roads – the majority of which are not hardcore cycling fans? The reality is that millions of people who are casual fans of cycling get involved in the TDF. Start and Finish towns/villages/cities get a large share of crowds, but these towns are geographically separated by some distance on a map. Riders have to get from A to B. I just find arguments that a GT must be shortened because of TV is to throw out a tradition that is over 100 years old. What makes a GT a GT is that it is supposed to be the hardest cycling event in the world to compete in – why make it easier? It’s about endurance, longevity and attrition.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:12 am

      Total garbage. Putting km in the legs is what a GT is all about, and the decline in the difficulty of Mountain stages creates worse stages, not better. Furthermore it’s better from a traditional point of view to cover as much ground on the bike as possible, as opposed to relying on transfers.

    • Lanterne Verte Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:36 pm

      Maybe they should have done two 110km stages in one day? Twice the fun and all the distance covered without having to ride on the team bus….

  • John Liu Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:02 am

    I know they are sometimes called transfer stages but it seems that an hour in the luxury team bus would be preferable to an hour of a spiritless training ride.

    • RonDe Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:25 am

      I disagree. The Tour, like any stage race, is about the total distance covered, and surviving it, as much as anything else. Sure, that can sometimes be “boring” but, for me at least, it adds to the spectacle as well. Only the strongest survive. Making it a succession of showpiece “made for TV” stages would be like the dumb steps F1 has taken to induce artificial excitement in its races.

      • Bilmo Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:15 am

        Totally agree. Grand Tours need to include some long flat stages.
        Perhaps a few extra sprint points or railway bridges passing for 4th Cats may help.
        My other thought is that if the stage had only been 150km it doesn’t mean the peloton wouldn’t have decided to ride it like a Sunfay club run

  • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:21 am

    Interesting that Tommy V asked for permission from the peloton leaders (was it Movistar at that point?) to bridge over to the solo breakaway.
    Were the riders on some kind of pre-agreed tempo, a be-kind-to-Contador-day (which would be fair enough) or what?
    Good sprint finishes so far, but this first week to date is not a patch on last year’s or 2014.

    • RonDe Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:26 am

      A “be kind to Contador day” would not be “fair enough”.

  • Dan Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:31 am

    ^^Sorry guys but I disagree with shortening the stages. If we knocked 60+km off all of the 6 200km(ish) stages, then thats at least 240km less racing this year. Yesterday being 140km instead of 220km would have been 80km less towns to pass through, 80km less supporters to pass by, most importantly 80km less riding in the legs. Even if the peloton elected to take it as an unofficial rest day, we still watched. Im sure the sponsors that all got an extra hour or two on the TV weren’t complaining, so I doubt anything will change.

    I disagree the result would have been the same, I believe the sprint trains would have been far more organised with more energy in their legs and the result could have been a lot different. If we make all the stages 120-140km long then all of a sudden it stops being a ‘Grand’ Tour, moreover it stops becoming ‘The’ Grand Tour.

    I do agree though that it was a bit boring, maybe more intermediate sprint points, time bonus’ or prize money would have got a bigger breakaway and a more interested(faster) chase?

    • IanP Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:46 am

      Agree, sometimes the KM’s are a necessity, and they do have a place in a Grand Tour, just like the newly popular short, sharp mountain stages do.

      $$$ all the way, in a woefully under prized event (compared to other major sporting events) would make the riders give a bit more on the longer stages.

      • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:57 am

        It was boring but we knew it was going to be boring. It pays to check what’s happening and if nothing is going on, to do something else until the sprint finish happens. A shorter flat stage would still be a sprint finish given the terrain.

        • bumpby Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:07 am

          If you’re sat in the house with the TV on in the background, by all means go and put the washing out. A slightly different matter if you’re on the Boulevard Foch for 3 or 4 hours with two small children, the council have closed the only nearby park and the peloton is nearly an hour behind schedule. The (on schedule) caravan could only give so much succour and saucisson sec before the inevitable “papa, why are there no bicycles?”

      • Ferdi Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:46 am

        The “newly popular” short sharp mountain stages were already there and popular during Merckx’ time. Of course they belong in the mix, just like the 300km stages.

    • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:38 am

      Clearly, shortening the route is not the answer.
      An interesting parcours is the answer. And I’m sure this is possible with all of France to play with.
      Contrast this race with the Giro.
      It’s only Day 4 and they’ve already managed to suck a lot of the excitement out of the race. People on this site are pretty committed fans and even we sound weary.

      • Gabriel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:08 am

        We also got a little bored with your Giro praises, but still read your comments.

        • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:10 am

          The royal ‘we’?

      • Ecky Thump Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:23 am

        I guess the fact that the wind was pretty benign has not helped the race, given the route so far.
        There was a brief, fleeting period in stage 1 when the crosswind acted like a bolt of electricity to the race and it split open and into echelons in an instant. Then the route changed direction and the moment was gone.
        ASO put their money on black and it came out on red?

        • Dodge2000 Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:47 pm

          Agree. Last year it was these early flat stages that had wind causing havoc. Quintana losing time and all bets off

  • Joe K. Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:38 am

    Would love to see a breakaway stay out all day, and hold on to take it at the end. If the peloton is as lax as yesterday, a small group of three of so determined riders could accomplish such a feat, . . ., or Steve Cummings can do it on his own! Go, go , Steve-o! [But most likely he will not be given the green light because of Cavendish’s excellent chances for another stage win.]

    • Mayhem Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:59 am

      Cummings so far hasn’t pulled a single meter for Cavendish, I doubt today will be any different. That being said he’d probably still be better off saving himself for a hillier breakaway later in the race to increase his chances of success.

      • noel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:09 am

        errr, didn’t I see Cummings leading the peleton for a couple of hours on stage 2, honouring Cav’s yellow jersey?

        • Dan Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:13 am

          at least 2 hours yes

      • Dd Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:13 am

        Steve C pulled for almost the whole of stage 2

      • StevhanTI Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:39 am

        That would be tomorrow I guess, but it will be brutal to get in the break and Sagan’s team will be chasing whatsoever, unless Alberto is still feeling bad of course…
        Gonna be a very interesting stage tomorrow. Today, not so much before the final 10k, c’est le tour…

    • ArgyllFlyer Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:01 am

      Thing is, as soon as the constantly updated gap becomes a worry, the sprinters’ teams just wake up. Very rare a break will survive on a profile that is basically ______________.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:39 am

    Long, boring, flat stages in LeTour’s first week. ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz. Same as it ever was, though it does seem less are interested in even having a go these days. As you pointed out, why wouldn’t the wild-card teams take a chance? How tired can the riders be? They’d raced only two stages prior to this episode of “Insomniac Theater”. 2016 Giro d’Italia seems so long ago now.

    • RonDe Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:30 am

      The 2016 Giro d’Italia was boring and had boring stages. This race features every top GC rider in the world.

      • Richard S Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:12 am

        ‘the 2016 Giro was boring’.. yeah ok

      • Jan Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:50 am

        Huh? The Giro was phenomenal this year. Which race were you watching?

        • RonDe Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:56 am

          The one where barely a credible GC contender took part and cycling’s biggest GT winning fraud (not in the cheating sense) Vincenzo Nibali pulled back 5 minutes to win it. In fact, it wasn’t merely boring, it was comically bad.

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:56 am

          There were boring stages too, think Nijmegen or Bibione etc. Nobody should expect 21 days of action.

          • dave Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:34 pm

            but isn’t there a difference between knowing 95% it’ll be boring before a pedal stroke has been made and at least having the expectation it might be interesting but it turns out boring?

        • Vitus Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:54 pm

          There were a lot f boring days in first 2 weeks this year. People tend to forget that after a thrilling last week.

    • Gabriel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:10 am

      Wait, is’t your constant praises of the Giro that we got a little bored with…

      • Vitus Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:56 pm

        Nope, we are only bored about your sneaky “Giro praiser” comments. Who are these “we” anyway, are you the inofficial commentators spokesman?

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:10 pm

          +1

    • MD Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:57 am

      Might as well go into hibernation until the 2017 classics.

      • MD Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:58 am

        **You might

  • piwakawaka Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:57 am

    I wonder if it was a nod to Sagan’s call for everyone to pull their heads in and stop riding like lunatics, every bunch ride needs a grumpy old bastard too keep everyone behaving as they should.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:52 am

    It looked like a bunch of giys striking (we go as fast as we want and you can do not a thing about it) without daring to say they strike. It was ridiculous, this was in no way the usual “boring sprint stage”

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:00 am

      It seemed more like a stalemate, nobody wanted to pick up the chase and there was no need with one rider up the road who is not noted for being able to turn on the power for hours. The oddity was that nobody else went with Fonseca.

      • Vedrafjord Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:30 pm

        The problem was pretty much every team either had a GC guy still in contention, or a sprinter. The GC teams wanted to keep their guy safe and expend 0% energy, and the sprint teams wanted to save all their men for the finale. Normally you’d expect Bora-Argon to do something as their team is stacked with breakaway guys, but as Bennett is pretty banged up, it was in their interest to keep the pace as slow as possible as well.

        So Fortuneo-Vital Concept were the only team with nothing to lose. This problem will take care of itself as the race goes on as many of the GC hopes fall out of contention, and more teams will throw men up the road in an attempt to salvage something from the race. Maybe that’s the moral of the story – you can have a long, pan-flat, featureless stage, but not too early.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:53 am

    Coquard will be extra motivated as it’s in his home town

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:04 am

      He’s not a local, he’s from the Nantes area, near the Atlantic coast while today’s stage is in central France.

  • noel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:08 am

    where on earth were Cofidis, IAM, Lampre, Cannodale etc etc… I thought this race was the big sponsor pay-off and here was an easy chance for hours of ‘jersey-time’…?? at least Tommy V had the gumption to do something. I don’t blame the peleton for taking it easy when they only had a lone rabbit to chase.

  • Eric Elbert Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:08 am

    Does anyone know where the feedzone on stage 4 is?

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:09 am

      Paizay-le-Sec

    • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:54 am

      Is that going to be the highlight?

      • Gabriel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:12 am

        Good one!

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:22 am

    Great stage today.

  • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:26 am

    I resorted to watching the highlights yesterday, something I almost never do.
    Why would ASO start its race in this fashion? It must cost them viewers.

    • RonDe Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:33 am

      How else are you going to get from northern France to southern France? Its a bike race so they have to ride there. And why blame the ASO? As too many fans forget, the riders make the race not the terrain.

      • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:40 am

        It’s ASO’s fault for not building mountains in northern France and for not forcing the riders to attack? The Tour is a long procession, it’s unrealistic to expect 21 days of non-stop action. Slow stages are part of the race and a dull Monday won’t worry ASO too much, they’ll celebrate the huge crowds that lined the route.

        • Ferdi Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:09 pm

          How about using the flatter part of France for long ITTs and TTTs? Is this a revolutionary idea?

          • Christian Prudhomme Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 3:36 pm

            Good job I’ve got Thierry as my course designer and not you, Ferdi 🙂
            The sponsors, the viewers, the TV execs, the riders, the teams, the fans – they’d all be on my back in no time flat.

          • Ferdi Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:20 pm

            Some people don’t understand the crucial function of flat TTs in GTs, do they? Hint: it’s basically not there to entertain TV viewers (although they are obviously superior to “sprint” stages in that regard).

      • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:41 am

        Via the odd hill?

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:43 am

          Don’t sit watching it then, go do something else!

          • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:53 am

            As I say above ‘I resorted to watching the highlights yesterday’.
            With all the drivelling on about Christian Dior, I must have seen about half an hour of cycling. If that’s what ASO wants…

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:26 am

            That’s not ASO though, but ITV.
            It seems you just don’t get watching Grand Tours, they are never 21 days of action packed stages, there are always a handful of dull days.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:24 am

        RonDe – now THERE is something we can agree on!

    • Vitus Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:00 pm

      It starts like most first weeks of any TdF. Except this time not in another country with boring flat stages in Denmark/NL or wherever. Pretty normal until we reach the first mountains. So I don’t get the point

      • Vitus Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:09 pm

        and I can’t wait for the Vuelta’s regular “the stages are to hilly, why always hard uphill finishes” whining when the Vuelta starts, There are things where some just should copy&paste their comments from the year before. 🙂

      • J Evans Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:13 pm

        TdF from about a decade ago, yes. But in recent years we have had more classics-style races and fewer pure sprinter stages.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:57 am

    As Jack said above, the Tour is not just “made for tv”.

  • ocaz Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:45 am

    Picking up on Ecky Thump point when Vockler asked for permission to join solo break, I’m assuming the peloton were taking it easy for Contador? Was he asking for permission to avoid peloton pace picking up to close down his move?

    It is the sort of thing I love about cycling, similar to when Cancellara rode to the front of the peloton the day before after Contador crashed again on stage 2 asking to slow speed down so he and the other riders involved could catch back on.

    It would have been quite easy for say team sky to get on the front and set a high pace to string out the peloton and turn screw on Contador to eliminate him completely as a GC contender.

    It was a slow uneventful day apart from photo finish but it is natural to have days like this other a 3 week grueling race, I watched the highlights so it was no problem for me and a lot of times even when I watch race live, I dip in and out of coverage similar to when I watch test cricket. Paying more attention when things look like they’re picking up.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 10:54 am

      You do know you are inventing a whole scenario you place your love on? That is fine, we all do. I too. It’s just important to be aware, that it is invented (at least for yesterday) and most likely not so noble reasons were behind it. A tv break wouldn’t have hurt Contador anyway.

      • gabriele Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 12:28 pm

        +1
        Obviously so. The more probable thing is that it was sort of a “strike” by the riders with other aims in mind. Probably in order to claim shortes stages. Which would be utterly sad – I’m hoping I’m inventing this myself, too.
        If it was something on that line, it would be another example of how the peloton can show a supernatural ability to find unity and protest for whatever “wrong” reason, while at the same time failing to do so when the struggle would make more sense 😛
        I’m half-joking – if it wasn’t clear – and I actually tend to support self-organisation and protesting, yet I’d rather see less ambiguity and more courage from that POV, that is, say it loud what you’re doing and why. I just hope that the riders aren’t scared of some institutional threat as it was in the good ol’ days.
        Slow days happen without specific reasons from time to time, but it tends to be more common just after or just before hard days, not in the first week. And the nature of the show (solo local rider on the front, Voeckler asking for permission) makes me think it was pretty much staged, not a case of “things went this way”.

    • Vitus Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 9:04 pm

      Voeckler wanted to win the stage in Angers for a killed young rider of their youth team, who came from this town. Maybe that was was what he told the peloton…

  • Cilmeri Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:45 am

    To change tack completely, rather than criticise the length of the stage, why not celebrate Cavendish? Joint second in the all time stage wins now, and because the mountains usually affect kittel more, then Cavendish should be good for at least one more win.

    I can’t see him surpassing mercxk, and it’s rumoured that he might drop out of this tour with one eye on the Olympics, but he should get to the 30s in terms of stage wins before hanging up his cleats. Phenomenal achievement.

    • noel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 12:30 pm

      despite all his victories, jerseys, road and track world champs, monuments, etc etc I still think his best moment was when some jouno in a big press conference demanded that he guarantee 100% that all the riders in the peleton were clean …’can you guarantee to me 100% that none of the men in this room are f*****g your wife?’…

  • Steppings Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 11:45 am

    As a certain Scottish great once said, “If you think its boring to watch, try riding it”.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 12:33 pm

      This one would have bored most of the riding fans even if they were right there in the peloton (which most of trained amateurs would have accomplished without utter effort).
      Well, having several hours to spend trying to enter a relaxed talk-ride with a bunch of pros would hace been fun, actually.
      Or trying to go for a break from the pelonton and being punched by Sagan and Cancellara, that sort of things ^__^

  • Ian Anderson Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 12:59 pm

    It’s not about the length or geographical make up of the stage but about the way it was ridden yesterday. Long flat stages for the sprint teams at the head of the race are as much a part of Le Tour as mountains are for the GC, each type of rider gets his chance to shine and the ‘Cavendish wins a stage’ headline will be ubiquitous across news out lets.

    I was actually missing Velon’s power data feed yesterday to see just how lightly the guys were pedalling.

    Is there a danger that this will affect folks appetite to view the tour? Or discourage sponsors and broadcasters from the sport? I’m not sure it will but a stalemate may not be exciting to watch, but remember most viewers tune for the scenery. We got our action in the last 10km or so anyway and I am sure the tour may be all the more interesting later for allowing Alberto to heal a wee bit now, perhaps sky were licking wounds too. There will be a lively breakaway today no doubt

  • JEB Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:12 pm

    I thought it was great to see a return of ‘2012 Cav’ – when he was on team Sky and forced to freelance for himself and still picked up a few stage wins. In 2013 (out the tour) and 2014 when he had a whole lead out team built around him he seemed to deliver far less wins. It seemed as though it was too complicated trying to keep the whole lead out train together and position for the win. It was also less interesting to watch, I prefer trying to spot his super low profile darting between riders, a bit like Sagen does.

    Funny how the two most successful teams so far in the tour are not ‘sprint’ teams but teams with sprinters who have to ‘freelance’ for themselves (with only a couple of domestics for help).

    • Cilmeri Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:36 pm

      I disagree with that analysis. He had EBH, then Renshaw leading him out, and presumably had Eisel just before to drop EBH in the right place. Much more support than his Sky days.

      Although, I take your point that he launched his sprint from Greipel’s wheel rather than being towed to the perfect spot by Renshaw.

      • Canocola Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:56 pm

        But Greipel’s wheel *was* the perfect spot!

        Rewatching it, Renshaw seems to accelerate slightly to bring Greipel in and leave Cavendish on his wheel. I might be interpreting that from the inevitable chaos of a sprint, but given the almost uncanny synchronicity between Renshaw and Cavendish I really struggle not to see it as a minor moment of genius…

  • gabriele Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:13 pm

    Wow, after the Astana vs. Sky fan war, now we’ve got the Giro vs. Tour. It’s a side-effect of an overdose of football or what?

    It’s stage *three* of the Tour, what are we speaking about?
    Maybe it would be interesting to wait for a broader picture of the race before complaining.
    And, as many have said above, cycling isn’t all about having TV fun, it’s not just a show but also a sport, and you need the riders to have kms in the legs before the stages dedicated to the key-performances, if you want the sport to highlight some of its core values (recovery, resilience, endurance).

    OTOH, people having any sort of crazy criticism about this year’s Giro could probably have their TVs switched to some teleshopping program without noticing the difference, still being convinced they’re watching cycling and duly commenting what they think they’re watching as if it was a race (like “Froome had a mechanical in Romandie and from then on he thought it wasn’t worth chasing”).

    The Tour generally tends to be more “blocked”, sure, and usually its course isn’t as good as the Giro’s, but the excitement produced by the bigger ante and an usually deeper field makes up for that.
    And, yeah, 2010 and 2015 were two Giros which were exciting day by day for the whole 21 stages, or for at least 18 stages or so, really impressive, but, dunno, 2012 and 2014 were quite boring all the way to stage 5 or 6.
    This year the Giro has been more “normal”, just a couple of flat stages one after the other, like… let’s get excited about having a sprint, let’s have a re-match, and… ok, stop it, we can go back to the real fun with stage 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11… It was a very balanced course, indeed – I don’t think we should kick the sprints out of the game, either.

    On the contrary, the 2016 Tour looks like they have put in a little too much sprints (be they pure sprints or slightly uphill sprints like Sunday’s) and have not cared much about those fine Classics-like stages. Ok. Maybe they decided to change the format from last year. Maybe they thought they wanted to focus the spotlight on sprinters, with the Worlds we’re going to have this year. I really don’t know, but I think we should wait some more stages before judging. And, anyway, a botched first week doesn’t make the Tour boring as such. That was the Leblanc Tour, perhaps. In the last ten years, I can recall just two or three editions which had a consistently boring first week – that’s a progress we must acknowledge. *If* this edition’s first week should prove to be among the more boring ones, the most important thing is really that it doesn’t become a set piece executed year after year as it was in the past…

    • noel Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:40 pm

      nicely put.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 1:41 pm

      Thank you, Gabriele for this comment. A few weeks ago I was trying to “warn” about that Giro vs Tour – thing, which is also driven by a few teams/riders, journalists, that have an interest in pushing it. I too think yesterday was a signal, a strike, in the ongoing fight over power and I too think it was about the length. The narrative that the Giro is soandso and the Tour is soandso is also part of that struggle. I find it hard to believe that everybody plays along and acts as if all this would not happen and would not erode cycling day by day. I am truely woried about cycling – and my worries have nothing to do with the businessmodel!

      I bet money, that in 5 or 10 years we sit here, talking about “it is time to expand the 5km rule to 10km”. The reason for that is, that the rule isn’t the problem, neither are the kms.

  • gabriele Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:11 pm

    Just to foster this new funny Giro-Tour rivalry… are the Tour’s (and the Vuelta’s) elevation profiles deliberately bad or what? Why is that? To generate a surprise effect among the riders and teams? To favour those who make the effort of checking the ground in person beforehand? That’s becoming so blatant that it starts to be interesting 🙂

  • stuie Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:20 pm

    From what I have seen of the finish I doubt Cav, Greipel and Kittel will even be able to contest it. Sagan, Van Avermaet, Kristoff ect.

  • cherrypicked Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:26 pm

    I watched a little last night but then went to bed, as I was pretty tired anyway (WA). I watched the one hour highlights on SBS this morning, and they had done a great job of putting interesting commentary from McEwen and Keenan, together with the key points (ok there weren’t that many), but it was good to watch. I’m looking forward to when they go through to the end, although 50km of Paul & Phil is much easier to tolerate than 100km.

    • cherrypicked Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 2:29 pm

      Oops. The main thing I was going to include in that comment was that I enjoyed the champs élysées feel, slow and chatting. It was interesting to see who was talking to who etc. Wouldn’t it be fun to have rider audio on the dull days!

  • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 3:15 pm

    * Just realised Edvald Boasson Hagen was left out so he’s being added in as he’s worth watching if Dimension Data decide he’s the better bet.

    • Tyler Ramer Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 4:40 pm

      Incidentally, thought late I know, why not tag Kristoff as well? A very long stage with a slight uphill rise at the finish seems to suit him

      • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 7:01 pm

        He just hasn’t seemed the part yet. I think he’ll get better as others fade, maybe in time for Thurday’s stage.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 5:23 pm

    All that hair Energiser has gone to someones legs!

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 5 July 2016, 8:40 pm

    Funny how all those little villages the race passes through have such lovely tarmac roads. Such skillfull route planning!!!